When I was pregnant with my first son, all I could think about was how much I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I would daydream about all the fun we would have running errands, attending play dates and just spending time together. I thought of all the milestones I’d be able to witness firsthand. To me, it was clear that being a stay-at-home mom was the ideal dream job.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t live in a fantasy world. I lived in a place called reality, and the reality was that my family needed my income in order to make ends meet. And sadly, no amount of cutting back was going to make it possible for me to quit my job. So, after 12 weeks of maternity leave, I put on a brave face and sent my infant off to daycare while I went back to work. I loved my job and the company I worked for, but I couldn’t help but resent the fact that I had to work. Every time I would hear about someone choosing to become a stay-at-home parent, I would instantly get jealous. “At least she had a choice,” I’d think. “I didn’t get a choice; the decision was made for me.”
But three years and another baby later, my dreams came true. My family was finally able to afford for me to become a stay-at-home mom! I resigned from a job I had been at for nearly a decade and jumped head first into stay-at-home mommyhood.
The first two weeks were terrible. Both of my boys had a stomach bug, so I was changing diapers and cleaning up puke nonstop. “They’re just sick,” I thought. “It’ll get better.”
Right after the boys got over their stomach bug, the holidays were upon us. And I figured that the upcoming festivities were the reason that all these play dates I had dreamed about weren’t happening. I mean, after all, isn’t this what stay-at-home moms do all day long? They get to together to have coffee and chat while their children play together peacefully, right?
I was probably a month or two into my new job as stay-at-home mom when the boredom started setting in. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, I worked in PR at a fast-paced tech company. I was used to being busy, busy, busy. But now the days just seemed so long. “Not a problem,” I thought. I scoured Pinterest for ideas of activities we could do together. We made arts and crafts. We did science experiments. Only, I seemed to be running out of ideas faster than I could find new ones.
And then there were the chores. Oh, the chores. The house cleaning. The dishes. The cleaning up a room only to have it completely trashed 15 minutes later. And the laundry. Ugh, the laundry.
Slowly, I began to realize that my dream of being a stay-at-home mom was just that – a fantasy. It’s not fun to take toddlers on errands. I don’t spend all my days at play dates with my new mom friends. And we really don’t get that much more quality time in than we did when I was working outside of the home. No, being a stay-at-home mom is a hard, thankless, round-the-clock job and you don’t even get paid to do it.
About a year after I had quit my job to stay home, I realized I had to make a change. I was unhappy, and when Mama’s unhappy, everyone in the house is unhappy, too. I wanted to work outside the home. I needed to work outside the home. But at the same time, I couldn’t imagine signing myself up for another 9 to 5. I mean, staying home wasn’t what I had dreamed it would be, but it wasn’t all bad. There were special moments in the day that I knew I would miss if I went back to work full-time.
I have been very fortunate to find a super flexible part-time job, in which I work from home while my boys are in preschool. I’ve also found some freelance work. And while I’ve only been working part-time for a few months now, it has given me the creative and intellectual outlet I was craving. I’m less bored on the days that I work. I’m happier on the days that I work. And it feels good to be contributing to the family income again.
I also feel like I’ve got a much firmer grasp on reality now. Before I was a stay-at-home mom, I completely underestimated just how hard stay-at-home moms work. Now I know whether you’re a working mom or a stay at home mom, you’ve got a hard job. Period.