not going to work is harder than it looks
I wrote this blog post about four months ago - struggling with my new identity as 'stay-at-home mom', and mourning the loss of the one thing I had identified myself as, for the past 10+ years: hard working go-getter -- great at my job with endless career aspirations. Four months later, back home in Southern California, and still enjoying every moment of my time with Ava (that part has never changed), I now feel so at peace with my decision to be home full-time with her during these precious months. I have created new creative outlets for myself that have left me feeling so fulfilled and energized. I truly feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be, at this special time in my life. But the feelings I talked about in this blog post, in what feels like centuries ago, are still very real and I think parents who feel torn between work and staying home might be able to relate. So I've decided to share this deeply personal blog post today.
We’ve heard it all before. You never get a break. It’s thankless work. The hardest job I’ve ever had. And that is all SO true. But it is also so wonderful, in every sense of that exact word. Watching a little human discover the world for the first time… and then to watch them rediscover it, with that same sense of wonder. It’s priceless. And one of the greatest joys in this world.
But this is not what I’m talking about. Ironically enough, staying at home with a young child comes at a price. A deep-rooted, internal, gotta-dig-a-little-to-get-at-it price. And maybe I didn’t realize it until this morning. After spending a little over 8 months at home with our sweet little girl.
And maybe it’s not so much about staying home, as it is not ‘going to work’. Although your hours are longer than most anyone in the corporate world, and even with a very supportive partner who would never mutter a word about it, you still get this nagging feeling like you aren’t contributing. To the income that helps keep your household afloat. And to society as a whole.
This is the very reason why I was hell-bent on being a working mom. I wanted to CONTRIBUTE. To feel justified in managing my money any way I want to manage it – save it, spend it, invest it. And no one could comment. And if they did, I could shoot back that I work hard for my money.
But now... now there is no price attached to what I do. I’m still working hard. Hands down harder than before. But no raises are handed out. There is no yearly employee review, pats on the back, or bonus checks to cash. There is no gorgeous leather purse purchased after said bonus, to remind me of how damn hard I work and how damn good I am at my job.
With these lack of reminders comes a creeping insecurity. Am I doing enough? I shouldn’t watch TV during the day… 9am TV OFF! I won’t be one of THOSE stay-at-home-moms. I’ll only be home until she’s a year old. THEN I will get back into the work force because there is NO WAY I’m going to be out of the marketing-game for more than a year. Am I still relevant? I need to stay relevant! Professional development! That’s it… I’ll take a couple courses in my ‘spare’ time.
It’s hard. And I struggle. As a girl who has worked since the day I turned 16. As a young adult who held down three concurrent jobs after I moved away from home. And as a woman who is still paying off student loans after working hard to put myself though college. Bringing in a paycheck and being GOOD at what I do – and getting praise for how I do it. It’s important to me. And still a big part of my identity.
So how do I come to terms with the fact that my baby-boss can’t verbalize how much she loves and appreciates me? Or the reality that I no longer get paid in US currency, but in the currency of baby coos and giggles? Or the new lunch break, that comes at unpredictable times, with a full hour nap that isn't a guarantee? Or the feeling that you’re not doing a good job, delivered not in a yearly review with your manager, but rather by a fussy baby reminding you that you COMPLETELY FORGOT her afternoon feeding.
Well, eager reader… I’m sorry to admit that I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out. And I don’t know if I ever will. And that’s okay. Because I’m taking each day as it comes, and finding joy in the mundane and happiness in the extraordinary. I don’t know where I’ll be this time next year. But what I do know is that this experience is forcing me to grow in ways I never thought possible. I am more patient, less stressed, more creative, less rested, and fulfilled in a whole new way I never could have predicted. And those are all wonderful things to have gained during this particular season of my life.
*Photos by Carrie Vines Photography