Do I really want to be a stay at home mom? This is the question that I found myself facing 5 years ago while I was pregnant with my first child. At the time, I had no choice – various factors (read: I HAD NO JOB) meant that I had no choice but to become a stay at home mom (SAHM), at least for the first year of my daughter’s life. But the question of whether it was a life that I wanted permanently, was one that I grappled with over the next two years. After living as a SAHM for a while, however, I discovered that my answer to this question was a big, fat, HELL NO.
First of all, let nobody fool you: being a SAHM is a full-time job! Anyone who disputes this has clearly never been a stay at home parent. You spend your entire day being a caregiver, teacher and sole playmate to your child, all the while ensuring that the house remains spotless, welcoming and runs with military-like precision.
If you know me, you know that I find no joy whatsoever in housekeeping. To put it more honestly, I HATE IT. Every day I would wake up to a new pile of onesies in the laundry hamper, dishes in the sink, toys on the floor and fresh grime between the shower tiles. This made me want to burst into tears quite regularly. If you ask me, all 9 circles of hell will be made up of various housekeeping duties from scrubbing toilets to cleaning rompers that bore the brunt of your newborn’s explosive poop.
My feelings on cooking are not quite as strong. I actually quite enjoy cooking. But not when it’s mandatory! I like the luxury of “deciding” to cook. You know, when you watch an episode of Top Chef and think “I can do that” and then stroll over to the kitchen, pour yourself a glass of wine and then leisurely work your way through a new recipe. What I do NOT like, is the depressing reality that you have no choice but to cook every single day or else everyone in the house will starve to death. You can see how this is a problem when one of the key job descriptions of being a full-time home maker is nourishing your family consistently.
It wasn’t all bad though. During my time as a SAHM, I had the solitude to discover myself and also, the time to do the things that I loved – I started blogging, I tried out yoga and kickboxing, I learned some French and immersed myself in African literature, I knitted my daughter’s first winter hats and leg warmers, and I talked to moms from all over the world at mommy playdates. It was like a two year self, child, home and world discovery program! Most importantly, I got to witness all of my daughter’s firsts – her first steps, her first words, her first simultaneous fart-sneeze…every single first, I was right there!
Ultimately though, after two years of doing it, I decided that being a SAHM was not right for me. I realized that I was not fulfilled in that role and found myself deeply missing the stimulation and excitement that I had in my former life of academics and business management.
I loved my daughter with my entire heart and soul. I loved being able to spend all the time that I wanted with her too! But I was denying an important part of who I was by neglecting the career oriented side of myself.
For a long time, I was embarrassed that I wasn’t one of those women that was completely fulfilled and blissful while being a stay at home mom. Over time, that shame has given way to the understanding that I am at my best as a mom when I am at peace with all of who I am, when I feel fulfilled and when I am living out the true purpose of my life.
I concluded that everyone has a calling in life and while some women find complete fulfillment spending their days debating in courtrooms or doing medical research, other women find no greater joy than in making homemaking and raising children their full-time job. Neither is better than the other – we’re all just made differently.
So what did I do? I rejoined the workforce and never looked back. Now, Ella is 4 years old and we’ve settled into a happy little routine: In the mornings, we kiss each other goodbye as she hops into the school van and I drive off to work. I get home in the evenings right after she’s woken up from her post-school nap. As soon as I drive through the front gate, even before I’ve put the car in park, she’s already in my arms, giving me a detailed account of her day.
Do I struggle with “working mommy guilt” and finding work-life balance, yes . But I make sure that the time we do spend together is filled with love and laughter – it’s quality time. And this life makes me much happier than being a stay at home mom ever did.
But that’s just me, which brings me to my point: if you’re blessed enough to have the choice (many women don’t) between being a stay at home mom or a working mom, ignore what society says about “lazy/blonde stay at home moms” or “bitchy/unloving working moms”, and make the decision based on which of the two would make you the happiest, most fulfilled and loving mom that you can be.