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Robyn and I have been good friends since our oldest children were infants (going on 9 years this summer!). I have always been so encouraged and intrigued by her story as a working-outside-the-home mama. I’ve been a stay at home mom even before I was a mom so having a close friendship with someone who has always worked outside the home has been so neat and I love that we can share our experiences with each other.
I have been BEGGING Robyn for years now to share her story! I think her perspective on this decision is a common one and one that will help other moms who may be dealing with guilt for not staying home or even pressures regarding working or being a sahm. Be sure to visit Robyn’s blog over at The Robyn’s Nest to learn more about her and her sweet family!
If there’s one thing that you figure out pretty quickly after having your first child, it’s that motherhood can be so tricky. You *think* that you know where you stand on issues and how you want to do things, but it’s a whole other ball game to put them into action. I had my daughter 9 years ago, and I can confidently say that I am a very different mother now than I thought I would be when I got pregnant with her.
Sure – some things are exactly as I expected. I’m a very “Type A” personality, so it’s no surprise that I was (an still am to a degree) and very structured, scheduled person with my kids. But other things like grades, discipline, eating, and friendships are probably not areas that I handle exactly how I thought that I would. Before I had kids, I would tell you that we were going to be a household that was a “I make one dinner, and either you eat it or you go to bed hungry” type of household.
While this is still mostly true, I can also tell you that, in reality, I would give my child SOMETHING so that they didn’t go to bed hungry. I’m not a short order cook, and I’m not going to make several meals for everyone, but I’m also way more flexible than I probably thought that I would have been. There are so many things that you can try and plan for, but some you really just have to figure out as you go. You’ve got to “get your groove” and learn as you go.
One of the biggest areas that I’ve had to really “find my groove” in parenting? Being a working mom. I’m a teacher, so my “working year” runs from August – May. I taught for one year before I got pregnant. I got pregnant in the May of my first year teaching, and I had Lorelai in February of my second year teaching. I went back to work in April for the last 6ish weeks of school (my second year teaching).
Prior to having Lorelai, I never considered staying home. When I finished highschool and went to college, the thought of not being a working mom/wife literally never even crossed my mind. When I had Lorelai, my world literally flipped upside down. You know how everyone has their “number”? The number of kids that the transition just threw you for a loop? My number is 1. T
he transition from zero kids to one kid was waaaaaaay harder for me than the transition from 1 to 2. Some of it had to do with mild PPD, but it mostly had to do with just all the amount of life changes going on (some great and some bad). To say that having a child rocked my world is a very gross understatement!
When I had to go back to work when she was 7 weeks old, I was absolutely shocked at how hard that was. I was a mess. I was constantly worried about her and just felt like neither of us was very happy with me leaving every morning for work. For the last 7-8 weeks of that school year, Lorelai had several different people watch her. We had lots of family take vacation leave, friends who offered to help, etc.
While that was such a huge blessing to us, it also was very hard for this “scheduled” mom. When I finally got out of school for the summer, I literally spent almost every day in absolute tears trying to get her back on some semblance of a schedule after bouncing around to so many people. At the end of that summer, Emily and I met for the first time, and the thought of being a stay-at-home mom also entered my mind for the first time. Up until then, I didn’t have any friends or anyone close to us who was actually living this life.
Because leaving LL to go to work every day was so hard, because I had such a rough summer trying to get her back on a schedule, and because I was introduced to the reality that women staying home was a real thing, the pressure for me to do the same kicked in. To be fair, this pressure was never put on me by anyone else; it was self-imposed 100%. At the time though, Matt (my husband) was working a job that did not have a very great salary.
It was enough to get by on, but it wasn’t enough for me to stay home. This meant my salary was completely necessary, so all hopes of staying home quickly flew out the window. Not long after this, Matt changed jobs into a job with a commission structure, and suddenly, staying at home seemed possible.
This is really where I started to put a lot of pressure on both of us (especially Matt), and I created this “5 year plan”. I literally talked about this “plan” on a daily/weekly basis. By the end of 5 years, I wanted to be able to quit my job and stay home full time. I didn’t want to keep leaving my baby every day to go take care of other people’s children – I wanted to take care of my own.
Looking back, it’s astounding what putting this pressure on my husband and our household did to our marriage. Honestly, it wasn’t fair to him, and it wasn’t anything that we ever sat down and talked about. I just basically said, “I can’t do this anymore, you need to make this happen.” The clock was ticking, and I needed HIM to make my dreams happen!
Fast forward about 3 years. After a painful miscarriage, and a really dark time for both Matt and I, we got pregnant with our son. I got pregnant in September/October of 2011 and had a due date of July 4, 2012. This was music to my ears!!
Not only were we pregnant again, but I was due in the summer! If you know a teacher, you know this is a DREAM! Why? Because you still get maternity leave! This means that I could have the baby, be home until the end of the summer, and then take the first 6 weeks off of school for my “maternity leave”!
Our son, Cooper, was born at the end of June that year. After doing the math, I told my school I would be out until October – giving me time to stay home with Cooper until he was 12 weeks old! After leaving Lorelai to return to work when she was just 6/7 weeks old, this was a DREAM for me!
I will say, that summer with my newborn baby and knowing that I wasn’t in a rush to leave him made it sooooo enjoyable. I felt so much less pressure and so much more like I could just enjoy my time with him!
Then a funny thing happened. Not only am I a teacher, but a lot of my friends are teachers, too. When they started to post all of their “back to school” things when August rolled around, I was faced with an emotion that I wasn’t really prepared for.
I was feeling very “left out” about not starting back with them. It just didn’t feel right! At this point, I had been teaching for 5 years, so to not go back to school in August just didn’t feel right. I just wrote it off as something that would pass, and kept on with my current stay-at-home life. Eventually, when I went back to school in October, I was faced with another emotion that I wasn’t prepared for. I hate to say “relief” because I know that may come across as relief to be away from my baby. That wasn’t it at all! It was more of a relief to be back to “normal”.
Things just felt like they were back to what they should be. I still didn’t say much about this to anyone, but as the school year went on, I realized that I wasn’t unhappy at all. Sure, it was hard to say goodbye to my kids in the morning to let someone else take care of them, but it wasn’t devastating like it used to be. And all of a sudden, I stopped putting pressure on myself. I started to allow myself to consider that I could be happy and a good mom AND work at the same time. It didn’t have to be one or the other.
My son is 5 and my daughter is 9 now, so I have had quite a few years to process all of the different parts of this. I can now confidently say: I do not want to stay at home with my kids. I also came to another realization in this whole journey: I am a better mom to my kids when I work. I honestly think that all of those years ago, I wanted to stay at home more because I felt like I SHOULD want to be home more than I ACTUALLY wanted to be home.
I also think going from zero babies to one baby took a lot of adjustment for me – and leaving a 7 week old comes with still having a ton of hormones out of whack and trying to figure everything out. Now that I’ve got my groove in parenting and at working, I know how much better it is for me not to stay home. Teaching is a horse of a different color because I do get so much more time home than the average job. Once you factor in summer and all of our other breaks in the year, I average 9 months working and 3 months at home. So I spend roughly ¼ of my year as a stay-at-home mom. To me, that amount is perfect.
Let me tell you, in the summer, my kids and I SOAK IT UP! We literally have the best time from when post-planning ends until pre-planning starts. I think that I’m able to be such a better mom when I’m working because I know that my time with my kids is limited. We only have a few hours a day together, so let’s make them good. We only have x amount of weeks in the summer, so let’s make them amazing! And I think I can enjoy summer and my breaks from school so much more because I know they’re limited. I get to live that stay-at-home mom life for a while, but I know it’s not permanent.
Now don’t get my wrong, I’m not the perfect mom. I have lazy days. I have days where I get no housework done. I have days where I DON’T want to spend time with my kids (gasp) and just want some time alone. But working makes me really appreciate everything so much more.
I function better being able to leave every day, work hard at my job, get adult interaction (my fellow teachers are the best), and then come home and spend time with my kids. I do better in the summer knowing that the days are limited – we try to LIVE. IT. UP. It’s less time for me to become complacent and bored with our day-to-day like I know I would be if it were full-time.
Once I took that pressure off of myself for what I thought I should be, it opened up doors for me to find my groove and thrive in where I am. I thought before it had to be an “all or nothing” thing. I thought if I worked, I couldn’t be a great mom; I thought I had to be there 100% of the time giving everything I had to do that. But I don’t.
I can show my kids how to have a job, like it, and do well at it, AND be a hands-on mom at the same time. Are there days where it’s still hard to leave them in the morning? Absolutely. But that’s getting easier as they get older and transition into full-time school also.
Are there days where I see my SAHM friends out and about together during the day that I wish I could do the same? For sure. Are there days where I feel like I don’t have even close to the amount of hours I need to get everything done? All the time. But I don’t feel regret for what I’m doing or where I spend my days.
I finally realized I could be a working mom and LIKE IT. And it was okay. If you’re a working mom who is struggling because you don’t want to be, I feel you. I’ve been there and it’s HARD. If you’re a working mom and you LOVE it, I right there with you! If you’re a working mom and you like it, but you feel like you shouldn’t – let got of that pressure. You can absolutely be a working mom and a good mom at the same time.
And shout out to my stay-at-home-mom girls out there. You guys are the real MVP’s. I play your roll for ¼ of the year, and I can ABSOLUTELY say that you guys are rockstars to do that day in and day out. It is not an easy job and I do feel like it gets waaaay less credit all around.
So now that I’ve said all of this, let me formally introduce myself. Hi! I’m Robyn! And I love being a working mom.