This post was originally written as a guest post for a friend’s blog. I am sharing it here again because the blog has since been taken down and links in the original post are no longer working, but I would like for this story to still be out there.
While it no longer reflects my current situation, it is still my heart’s desire for our family when it becomes our situation again in the near future.
I am not a stay-at-home mom.
I wanted to be, once upon a time. Before I knew my kids and before I knew myself.
When I married my high school sweetheart, I had no idea what direction I was going with school, and no real inclination to finish. I was content with the simple things of life and assumed that stay-at-home mom-hood was my calling. After all, my own mother had done it for a time, complete with homeschooling and frequent family activities, and I turned out phenomenal – she wrote naively. At 20 years old, my newlywed self could not wait to start having babies and spending every waking moment with them.
My first son was born when I was 22. I was still attending community college classes, chipping away at an Associate degree that was by now 4 years in the making. When I mentioned to my husband that I planned to finish that degree, just to have it, and then I’d really just like to stay home, I was met with a discouraged look. He was not a fan of the idea. My husband has always encouraged me to follow my dreams, so I was disappointed that he was not supportive of this one.
But I think he knew me better than I knew myself back then. He knew that I would not enjoy it. His first clues were probably plain-site hidden in the terrible habits I had, even early in our marriage. I was a pretty messy person on my days off – not productive at all. I preferred couch-lounging and web-surfing to laundry-folding and floor-sweeping. If we had a kid that I stayed home with, those messes would increase and my ability to do them would decrease. And he was having none of that. I think he also recognized in me something I hadn’t yet realized about myself: I enjoyed being around people. Talking to them, helping them, working with them. I think he knew that staying at home would leave me feeling lonely and shut-out from the outside world.
And don’t you hate it when your husband’s right?
I kept going to school, even decided on a career I felt I would truly love, and continued to work part-time in the process. So I never got the real feel of SAHM-ing outside of my maternity leave, which I found to be quite enjoyable.
Then, in the middle of my first class in my chosen degree plan, we were given notice that we had to move to a new state. At the time, I was pregnant with our second son. It came as a relief that I would be taking the Fall semester off of school and work as we settled in to our new home. I also hadn’t been looking forward to delivering a baby over Thanksgiving break and going right back to classes just a few days postpartum. (Yes, that was my original plan and I realize now how crazy it was.) I was finally going to try out my mom-chops and stay home with my two babies while my husband worked. What a wonderful, meaningful, time I was going to have!
Let me add here, that my expectations where not all that high. Since having my first son, I was deep into reading the entirety of the Mom-Blogosphere, and I knew that it wouldn’t be sunshine and roses every day. I was prepared to meet the physical and emotional needs of my children with patience and lots of grace, even and especially for myself. But I knew there would be days I would want to pull my hair out. My expectations for a clean house, clean children, and a clean, set dinner table were very (very) low.
My husband, on the other hand, was not as familiar with tales of other stay-at-home moms. He was not as sympathetic to the “grace” that I had read so much about. Simply put, he fell into that delusion, that perhaps many men do at first, where me being home all day meant that I had time enough to clean and cook and look half-way decent (read: as if I hadn’t been stress-crying for a small majority of the day). He didn’t care so much about things like whether or not I wore make-up, or whether dinner was on the table by the time he got home. But he did expect a certain level of me taking initiative when it came to making sure there wasn’t jelly stuck to the counters and the table… and the walls; he did expect that I had at least THOUGHT of something for dinner and maybe gone grocery shopping, or told him to before he made it all the way home; he did expect the boys be fully clothed and if the weather was nice that they had gotten out of the house for a while. It wasn’t so much to ask.
Truth be told, his expectations were only slightly higher than my own. And he tried his best not to grimace every time he walked through the door to total chaos. Bless his heart, he TRIED to give grace.
But let me tell y’all something. It was bad. As much as I had hoped that my stay-at-home days would be full of fun and learning and crafts and cookies… I spent more time half-way reading about these things on the internet and half-way ignoring my children’s cries for more crackers than I did anything else. I hated being cooped up inside all the time, but hated more to get out. I hated that there were always dirty dishes in the sink, but hated more to clean them. I hated the thought of dinner time. I hated the thought of grocery shopping. I even hated the thought of bedtime, because even at bedtime, there was no reprieve.
It may be worth mentioning that I was dealing with a brand-new case of postpartum depression. That certainly did not help matters. But all I can remember from my time of strictly staying at home was the loneliness, the inadequacy, and the anger that I seemed to constantly feel.
That’s when I decided it was most definitely not my calling. I wanted to work.
But more than that, I wanted my kids to remember a better childhood. I wanted them to spend their days in the care of someone who was going to take the time to teach them new things and give them opportunities to grow from and experiences to share with others. I wanted them to thrive in their development, in their talents, in their interests.
To be fair, that is why many parents choose to stay home. And I applaud those parents, moms and dads alike. I envy them, even. Some parents are so, so good at it. For me, those are just some of the reasons I chose to put my kids into a wonderful daycare and go back to work and school.
I wanted them to remember a better me. Sure, my mother was a great stay-at-home-mom, with a set of systems and curriculums and disciplines and activities all ready to go when called upon. But all I could do was struggle to keep my head above water. And that is not the mother I want my boys to remember.
I want them to remember a mom who was excited to see them at day’s end and hear about all the wonderful things that they learned, the people that they met and played with, and the lessons we might expand upon together. I want them to remember a mom who knew who she was and had interests that belonged all to herself and that made her interesting and happy and approachable. I want them to remember a mom they can be proud of, who is also proud of them.
Some moms can be that mom from home.
I am not one of those moms.
I wanted to be, before I knew my kids. Before I knew myself.