Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thoughts on being a stay at home mom

I quit my job as an education attorney in September because my boss had twisted my career into a dead-end job. The economy sucked. I felt burnt out. I had finished a novel. I figured I'd take some time off. Jack and I had saved enough and refrained from buying enough to make this a possibility. My family thought I was insane. Only Jack supported me, which is really the only one that matters since he is supporting me. In the meantime I got pregnant and as I recovered from burn out and felt able to consider going back to work I grew a belly that made it complicated to attend interviews and logistically, was I planning to start a job and then stop a few months later?

I've been home since September and there are benefits to being home. I'm pursuing my writing. The house is spotless, dinner is not store-bought pizza. I am less stressed out. But- being home all the time isn't easy either. Writing is solitary business and financially, it is still uncertain. I'm in the middle of my 5th rewrite for a publisher considering buying my book- but the rewrites are done for free, and they still have the option at the end to say no. It very well could be that despite my and my agent's best efforts, this book will not be published.

If I didn't have a baby on the way, I'd likely be applying for jobs. But because I do, my plan was to be a SAHM for at least the first year of his life. Yesterday we were taking an evening walk and he asked me when I was planning to start applying for jobs again. I felt stunned. I thought we agreed on the SAHM thing? He said that was fine but he worried that I seemed a bit stifled lately and that I would get too claustrophobic home cooped up all day at home with a baby and maybe it would be too much. Maybe I'm living in a bubble but though I know raising a baby is not going to be kisses and giggles all the time, I do think I will find it rewarding and meaningful. There will likely be days I will question why I do this, but that is the same of any job anyone has. He went on to point out that he thinks I'm too educated to be sitting around at home, baking and changing diapers.

I have a masters in education and a law degree. Sometimes instead of assets these feel like chains because they engender guilt in me. I am capable of making a lot of money. And yet I'm bringing in nothing right now. Since I was 16 I have made money and while I've never been rich (public school teacher, public interest lawyer) I have always contributed. It feels weird to have done all that schooling and sit at home.

In an ideal world my book will sell, and be successful enough that I can work as an author while raising a family. But that's ideal and there are no guarantees. I told Jack that if this didn't work out I'd likely return to the working world once my youngest was nursery school age because I wanted there to be a primary caregiver at home watching them. Then- he suggested his mom could come and watch our son. Needless to say the conversation did not end well.

And as an aside, we haven't seen Jack's family since Thanksgiving because of how they acted, but I guess time heals all wounds because now he thinks that this baby will be some kind of salve, and that we will gather around him and all our issues will be solved. He's going to a conference two weeks after the baby is born and suggested his mother come to help me out. When I stared at him incredulously he said what? you'll have the baby to bond over. Or kill each other over? I'm concerned about this since a baby does not heal marriages nor in-law issues.

The truth is, I want to stay home with my son. I know being a SAHM isn't an option or even desired by every mother and I respect that completely. For me, its been something I always planned to do and because there is no job I'm leaving right now to do this, the transition is seamless. I just wish I could rid the guilt I feel when I consider my earning potential and the college fund that won't be growing while I stay at home.


  1. I would LOVE to be a stay at home mom, at least for one year. Unfortunately I'm a middle school teacher and my attorney husband left his big firm job to work for a non-profit and now makes less than me (and has for the last two years). We're barely going to make ends meet with me taking three months next school year and then having to pay full time childcare (though we're paying his sister which is AWESOME). My big plan is to wait until I have two kids who aren't in school full time (if I can actually get pregnant quickly enough for that to happen) and stay at home that year, as it is the most financially feasible. Needless to say, I'm very jealous that you have that opportunity and you should not feel at all guilty to take advantage of it.

    As for the MIL thing? I've read in more places than not that MIL relationships are usually somewhat strained over grandchildren, as both people have their own ideas about what is best for the baby. I think your DH might not realize what that situation can be like. Not everyone experiences that, obviously, but if you're already on not great terms with your MIL I don't think your child will make things better, at least it's not guaranteed. I would nix a MIL-staying-for-two-weeks-without-DH-there plan because there is so much room for things to go poorly. But that is just my opinion.

    Good luck figuring all this out. And good luck on the book! That is amazing that you're doing that. I've always wanted to write a book. Maybe some day...

  2. Hey there! Couldn't help but comment on this one :) I was a lisensed daycare provider for five years and did this until my daughter was two and we moved to a new state. I now stay at home with one kiddo, soon to be two and although I do have burnout days (ugh...winter) I have more incredible days.

    I couldn't imagine missing some of the things my daughter says and does and for me it just wouldn't be right to have someone else caring for my kids.

    I think it's everyone's right to choose to work or stay home, but our society puts too much pressure on women sometimes. Just because you won't earn an income doesn't mean you aren't technically providing for your family. You'll be supporting your hubby, saving money on childcare costs and sick days costs (because children in daycare usually have more illnesses) and you'll be doing what you truly want to do.

    One last thought. "He went on to point out that he thinks I'm too educated to be sitting around at home, baking and changing diapers."

    Ouch. For me personally, this is the most demanding job imaginable (both emotionally and physically) and while I sometimes think I should be using the degree I have or going on to pursue something different I realize that this education I've received is also a gift for my child. I can teach her important things and perspectives that others cannot. I can make sure she's learning from me and not just letting the teachers take care of that down the line in Kindergarten. I can get her the best possible start to education through the education I have. my soapbox :) Give yourself some time once sunflower is here and your new life as a SAHM is going to decide. Stick to your gut instinct and do what you think is best for your child. Oh...and yes, I agree with Kait on the MIL issue, it gets harder sometimes. And finally I'd suggest as an excellent mommy blogger who's educated and raising three girls as a SAHM while also working part time. She's a kick butt writer and someone you might relate to.

  3. Perhaps all of the above is not what he is really saying. Reading between the lines a bit, perhaps he is actually panicking about how he is going to continue to provide for you and Sunflower and is feeling the strain a bit. he may have thought this was a plan you might go along with that he'd been formulating which made him feel a bit more confident about things.

    I bet he agonised long and hard about the best way to broach the subject too. Trouble is as I know from my own experience, those kinds of conversations go wrong despite all the best of intentions.

    I'm sure you know best how to handle your fella. If it were me, I'd gently explain my concerns with what he suggests and ask if he is worried about how you'll cope financially.

    Then come to some kind of agreement to take it as it comes. See how things work out when the baby comes. Maybe there will be opps for freelance work that you can do at home. Maybe you will find after 12 months at home you are feeling differently and are keen to get a few hours out of the house doing adult things.

    I've also studied long and hard and am awaiting a graduation day for my masters. I'm burnt out with the whole thing and can't wait to leave my job, do no further study and have my life take a different path. Perhaps you've been the same.. Too much work and study and a need to balance your life out with something else - so don't feel guilty for wanting to experience something different. Your study and work experience will always be there to go back to.

    I'd love to be a stay at home mum til school age like my Mum was but we're not making any decisions, just going to see how we manage on one wage. Then cut the cloth accordingly. Either way, how wonderful for us both to finally be in a position to have to think and discuss these things, we're going to have babies soon!!! xxx

  4. I'm planning on being a SAHM too, despite my education & earning potential, and I, too, have had some eye-opening conversations with the Boy. "But I thought we AGREED on this! I thought we were on the same page!"

    For whatever reason, I think sometimes that men need to hash out 'financial plans for the future' more than women do. Maybe you could bring it up with him, more, how much you're looking forward to Sunflower being your full-time job, etc.? It's always a shock to realize that your partner is thinking something different than you - or than what you thought he was thinking, but it sounds like you and Jack are strong enough together to hash this out as many times as you have to, in order to satisfy you both.

    But it's still not fun. Thinking of you.

  5. You've had some excellent responses already. Being a SAHM is such a complicated issue -- and it can come with enough guilt (you) and pressure (on your husband) to put a strain on any family.

    My husband definitely feels stressed, knowing that he will be the sole financial support for a family of five. In this economy especially. But yet he is 100% certain that he prefers me to be home with the kids. When Bean was first born, he said he would support whatever decision I made: to continue working or stay at home. I decided to work from home part time, but we still needed day care. My husband was the one to drop Bean off on his way to the office. And he called me from the car crying. He hated the thought of our tiny little man (10 weeks old) being separated from his family all day. (Not to judge moms and dads who both want to and/or have to work, it just didn't feel good to us.) Within about two months I decided to leave my job. Of course with your MIL watching sunflower, that would be a little different. But still, I wonder how Jack's perspective will change once he meets sunflower and sees his complete attachment to his mommy.

    Sometimes I feel a TINY bit of guilt for not bringing in any money, but honestly it's rare and not overwhelming. I truly believe that I am contributing more to the benefit of my children and husband being at home than I would by simply pulling in a paycheck. I understand that many women aren't satisfied being a SAHM, but I am completely fulfilled (even on the super crappy days). I am not using my master's degree now, but I'm only 30 and I have plenty of years to build a successful career when the kids are in school. Why rush it now when we are able to pay the bills AND give our kids the same kind of childhoods that we enjoyed with our moms being home?

    And if you get involved with moms groups, you (and Jack) may be surprised with how educated many of the moms are. One of my friends has a law degree, another went to Princeton. SAHMs come from all walks of life. If someone wants to judge you for taking some time off for your kids... well, poo on them. (With all due respect, of course.) :)

  6. I commend you for wanting to be a SAHM! I think I would go crazy, but I guess time will tell when our little one gets here!

  7. I love being a SAHM. Love it. I was a librarian and writer before. I resigned the librarianship for bedrest and, honestly, havent had time to write (well, except my blog), so I havent picked that back up (although I plan on it, and thankfully, the places I write for have been very understanding). If you can do it, I say go for it. It is so rewarding.

  8. First, you have nothing to feel guilty about at all. Your earning potential isn't going to go anywhere as you have degrees in fields that will always have opportunities. I think deciding to stay home is a very personal issue and if you've got the means to do it then that's awesome! Plus you're not planning to stay home forever. It's a temporary thing and it's time you'll never get back. Enjoy it and know that work will always be there when you're ready to go back.

  9. Nothing you ever do in your life will have more value to your child than the time you give him. Personally, though I'm not criticizing the choices of others, I would feel more guilty choosing to go back to work if staying at home was an option.

    That said, I do understand the mixed feelings about education and earning potential vs. staying home. It feels such a waste. As you know, I'm going to school right now to finish a degree I don't intend to use for the next 10 or more years. After I finish that, I intend to pursue my Masters which will also not be put to use anytime in the near future. After I wrap that up, we will have student loans up the wazoo to pay because of the education that is sitting on the back burner. I should feel guilty about that but I don't. Here's why.

    For one, I don't know that we'll be having more children so I might need that degree sooner than I think. The part the pertains more to your situation is thus: you won't always be at home instead of working, and the education will come in handy then.

    Also, you don't know what the future holds. Though you don't anticipate divorce, Jack losing his job or loss of spouse, the reality is, it could happen. That education is your back up plan and security blanket. Plus, I don't happen to think getting an education is just about earning potential. It's much, much more than that. It makes you rich in a different way. And it sets the tone for your son and future children.

  10. oh honey, being a sahm is the most important job you will ever have, you should not feel guilty! i bet you are an excellent lawyer/teacher, but based on how bad you wanted it, i'd say you were BORN to be a mama. those degrees will still be there when you've had enough at home with your babies and you're ready to go back to work.
    p.s. will you be registering anywhere?

  11. i struggle with how to meld my career dreams with my motherhood dreams...not so much due to financial constraints (though we have those too) rather mainly b/c i love the world of mental health therapy and am priviledged to be a part of, my huz often reminds me that he wants 1:1 time with our baby too. in the end we'll each find what works for us!

  12. sooo many things i want to comment on here! where do i start...(1) I read your entry about telling them and I so feel your pain (and Jacks) because we have similar issues with Mims family.
    (2) the SAHM thing. I did it for a year. Then i thought I was ready to go back to work (and i had to, financially) but now, 2 months later, I am DYING to be back at home, looking after my family!
    and it is hard, being the more educated one - I would earn significantly more than Mim if I went back to work full time, but for my own sanity, I cant do that! Dont let your education be a guilt-inducing thing in your life. Being educated does not mean you cannot make your own decisions! In fact its completely the opposite. It means you can make an informed choice. And if your choice is to stay at home, then while you can, DO IT!! and savour every moment. I feel like I didnt savour my "hometime" as much as I should have!!


  13. I am staying at home with mine too. I told my husband years ago that if we have children than my one wish was to stay at home and raise my own children. I stayed home with my first son too and would never change that.

    I feel if people have children they should be the ones to raise them, not strangers. Sorry just my opinion. I can do without that fancy vehicle or that fancy house or that fancy vacation for a while.

  14. I admire you for staying at home! My mom stayed at home and started a little business at home too. I feel I was very fortunate to have a mom that stayed at home. I wish we could afford for me to stay at home.