When I made the decision to leave my full-time job to stay home nearly three years ago, it wasn’t something I took lightly. We’re not in the position to be a one-income family by any stretch of the imagination, but we had saved enough backup funds that we could let things slide for a few months while we figured it out. I took an extended leave from work (my union allowed up to 7 months), found a steady freelance gig, and pulled the plug.
I remember in the beginning, it was all newborn craziness. I had never experienced tiny babyhood before, and I felt overwhelmed with the new responsibilities. Diapers, breastfeeding, caring for someone besides just myself, etc. After a while, though, I had this surge of “what am I going to DO with myself?” that set in when Ada was around 3 months old. She didn’t move a lot during the day. She still spent a good chunk sleeping and then nursing, repeat.
I was used to being needed in the real world and -- though I was certainly needed at home -- it was a rough transition to find equal value. I was used to interacting with adults and now I spent my days talking a lot . . . but with little response aside from a giggle or goo-goo. I was used to my to-do lists five miles long and an inbox bursting at its virtual seams (and I didn’t miss that at all, but it helped to validate my existence). Committee work. Countless meetings. Deadlines. You know, being a legit adult who contributes to society, at least by the more traditional definition.
Had I made the right choice?
First of all, I felt fortunate to have a choice at all. But this isn’t to say that dropping out of the FT working world was easy or automatic. It took years of thinking and planning. It took creative budgeting and countless Excel spreadsheets with different scenarios. Sacrifices like not taking vacations or buying whatever we want or even need. Driving old cars. Leaning our grocery budget as much as humanly possible. Living generally with less. Over time, it's become our new normal, but I can’t say I don’t miss more mindless spending, however impulsive + irresponsible it can be.
The thing is, whether you work from home or stay at home or otherwise, I’m not convinced it’s easy to feel one hundred percent fulfilled. Not necessarily from within, because after years in this stint, I truly feel this is where I am meant to be. I’m happy. I’m finding balance. I’m doing well both professionally and personally. However, what gives fulfillment is so very personal and subjective. Yeah. It’s just the little things that pile up and bug the heck out of me. For example, I was recently chatting with a woman I’ve known for years but hadn’t seen in quite a while. She asked me what I do nowadays, and I said that I stay at home with Ada and work around 20-30 hours a week as a freelance writer.
Her response was a surprised expression and: “Oh, I didn’t realize you did anything!”
My freelance work aside, isn’t staying at home with children doing something?
I’m not trying to add another fervent piece to the flooded at-home mom versus working mom debate, but seriously. Comments like this one hurt and are honestly ignorant. They jolt that internal peace I have with my decision at its core. WAHMs don’t get a lot of support when it comes to understanding what we do either. There are all different ways to do it, but when I tell people I work at home, they don’t know what that means. Or they immediately assume I host purse parties for extra spending money on things for myself (like pedicures, and I’ve had but one of those in the last three years). Who cares if I did? I mean, I think most of us are at least doing what we feel is good in our unique situations.
I could go on about this for days, so I’ll get back to the topic at hand.
Over the years, my role as a SAHM has morphed with each new stage. Now that Ada is in preschool a couple mornings a week (and soon to be three mornings -- excited about her school’s new offering!), I have more time and have chosen to expand my workload. When I have another child to care for, I’m sure it’ll change all over again. It’s this weird amorphous way of living . . . but it’s all I know anymore. So, three years later I’m feeling more confident in my decision to stay at home and get work where I can. I can’t guarantee I’ll always do what I’m doing now, but it’s what feels best at this time.
I sort of fell off track with writing about this stuff in the last year when my life got more hospital focused. But I think I’ll begin again with some more thoughts on what it’s like to stay home, how we make it work financially, and anything else you guys are interested in.
Let me know!
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