Monday, February 6, 2012
My Decision to Become a SAHM (aka My Decision to Stay at Home with a SAM Full-Time)
I originally began this post as one of my favorite blogs was doing a link-up with other bloggers on the topic of choosing to become a stay-at-home mom (SAHM). Though I'm only six-plus months into the job, I've had so many thoughts swirling around in my head - both pre- and post-decision - that I thought this would be a nice way to get them organized.
Choosing to become a SAHM was perhaps the hardest - and yet easiest - decision I've ever had to make in my life thus far. It was also an incredibly personal decision and by no means is the "right" decision - in general, and / or for everyone.
Prior to having Sammy, I never ever imagined myself as a stay-at-home mom. I think I always figured that financially, it would just never work out. Also, I enjoyed working - for the most part. I had a job that I enjoyed and was quite proud of the fact that I was perhaps one of the few journalism / communications majors that actually held a job in the field in which I studied. I was moving along my career path at a nice steady pace and always saw myself getting to the point where I had a nice (corner) office to myself and managed a team of people in a corporate atmosphere.
While we were dating, James and I were both on the same page regarding having children and what sort of values would instill upon them, but never really discussed what would happen when it came to the whole "how they would be raised" thing. During one of our pre cana sessions, our priest asked us about this, and I remember being quite shocked when James answered first and confessed that he had always pictured his future wife staying home to take care of the children. But, after seeing his sister do the daycare thing with her kids, he had become receptive to that idea as well. Of course I didn't really hear the second part of that - all I could think was, he actually thought I might want to stay at home and not work? How archaic! I wasn't too bothered by it though as I knew that James just wanted me to be happy and would go along with whatever I ultimately chose to do.
Fast forward to the months leading up to Sammy's birth, it seemed that the second most popular question (after do you know what you're having?) was, are you going back to work? I was truly shocked at how often I was asked that question. (At least once per work day, for the record.) And then once I responded that yes, I was planning on going back to work, the next question was inevitably, have you found a daycare?
Though I started my pregnancy feeling 100 percent confident that I'd be returning to work, I admit that the more and more I was asked about what I was going to do, the more I started to wonder what it would be like if, for some crazy reason, I actually chose not to return to work.
During this time, I also had conversation after e-mail conversation with both my friend "K" and my cousin, who were the only stay-at-home moms I knew at the time. I specifically remember my cousin saying, "You'll never regret staying home with the kids - if you regret anything, it will be going back to work." (K said the exact same thing, I'm sure.) Those words hit me pretty hard, and to this day, I continue to think of them.
I should also note that throughout all of this, never did I think that my child might actually factor into my decision. No, it was all about what I wanted and how I would be impacted. (Ah, the me me me days....)
Anyway, I procrastinated and procrastinated when it came to finding a daycare. I knew of a few that we would eventually look at, but whenever I was questioned about it, I just brushed off the question and said, oh, I can't even think about that just yet. Which was the truth.
Also, I would be remiss to not note that during the last few months of my pregnancy, I was at a bit of a weird place with my job. I had been doing the same thing for over three years, and probably should have started looking for my next position a year back. I was becoming more and more bored with my responsibilities, but at that time, I was getting married and didn't want to start something new before I left for my honeymoon. A month (gasp) after we were married, I found out I was pregnant, so that also didn't seem to be an appropriate time to find a new position. Had this not been the case, things perhaps could have taken a different turn....
There's an episode of that new Christina Applegate / Will Arnett show, Up All Night (which I love, btw), where within five minutes of their child's birth, Will Arnett calls up his boss and quits his job so he can be a stay-at-home dad. I wish things had come to me that easily!
I had planned on taking a four-month maternity leave (thank you, State of Connecticut!), so the topic of what to do with Sammy once I returned to work did not grace anyones' lips until at least a month or two after he was born. And being the eternal procrastinator that I am, I continued to delay looking into daycares. Though that didn't mean that I wasn't thinking about it. I thought about it all the time, especially the couple hours / minutes I should have been sleeping.
Meanwhile I loved being at home with Sammy. Of course newborn babies are not the most active, and primarily just sleep and eat all day, but as it was the middle of the summer, I absolutely loved being able to take him out for walks, tinkering around the house, and generally, just not being confined to a stupid cubicle while the sun was shining. Though I definitely missed interacting with my fantastic coworkers on a daily basis, I did not miss my actual job one bit.
As soon as I was cleared to do so, I joined a mommy workout group, which enabled me to workout outside every other day and interact with other mothers. And soon after that, I began attending an informal group for moms with babies at our local library. While I enjoyed being at home, I still was in definite need of adult interaction and a little structure to my day.
When Sammy was about two months, I finally called a daycare center that was located across the street from my work, which I had heard great things about. By this point however, I could barely think about sending Sammy to daycare. I avoided the subject at all cost, and when it was brought up - it wasn't pretty. Poor James, who is always very conscientious when broaching a sensitive subject did the best he could - and yet each time he tried to bring up me going back to work, I cried and cried and cried.
Anyway, I tried to approach our visit to the daycare center with an open mind. (Riiiight.) And while I'm sure it was a decent place, I became fixated on the crayon marks on the walls, the old rickety wooden cribs, the dingy rocking chairs, and the four babies who looked comatose as they laid on shared Boppys. I could not get out of there fast enough.
Mind you, this daycare center probably could have been the White House for all I cared. The cribs could have been brand new, the rocking chairs freshly upholstered, and the babies participating in Mandarin sign language lessons. My mind was made up. I wouldn't even bother looking at another daycare center. (Well okay - I thought about looking at one or two more. But didn't really want to.)
Of course due to a few things going on with James' job, as well as my ability to procrastinate making hard decisions until the very last second, our final decision was not made until exactly two weeks to the day that I was to go back to work. I was sick with anxiety when it came to telling my boss, but she made it super easy for me and was beyond understanding. And as soon as that phone call was complete, the relief I felt is just indescribable.
Growing up, did you ever think that there was an age range that you were just meant to be? I enjoyed being a teenager but just knew those weren't my glory years. I had a fantastic time in my 20s, but again, my old soul knew that I wasn't meant to live that way for more than a few years. For some reason, I've always felt that my 30s (and hopefully 40s, 50s, and beyond!) were meant to be my years. I've always wanted to be a mother, and - so long as the situation was right - I figured this would likely become a title of mine in my 30s.
Even though both James and I were lucky enough to be raised by stay-at-home moms, as I stated earlier, I never really pictured myself becoming one. But now, it's hard to picture myself not being a SAHM. I love being the one that Sammy is attached to. I love being the first to spot a new tooth, to see him sit up, crawl, and pick up a piece of food and feed himself. I love ending each day feeling like it could not possibly have been more full. I even love the seemingly mundane (to others) things - keeping our home clean, putting meals on the table (though I've got some work to do in this category), and doing the grocery shopping. I've always loved all things related to becoming a domestic diva of sorts, and now I get to try my hand at it. All while being accompanied by the absolute best little boy a girl can ask for.
And now here come the disclaimers....
I realize that I am incredibly lucky to be in this position. I know that there are tons of moms out there who would give their left arm to be able to quit their jobs and stay at home with their kids. Talking about money makes me uncomfortable and is not appropriate for this blog, but I will say that I feel super lucky every day that I have a husband who is very responsible / conservative / um, cheap? when it comes to our finances. (Another area in which I could / and will be forced to achieve some improvement.) I wish I could offer some advice in this area, but basically, I just try not to abuse our credit cards and do what I can to shop around for deals on diapers, etc. It will be an interesting year ahead of us in this regard, I'm sure.
By no means do I think being a SAHM is for everyone. Who knows - in a few years, I could conclude that it may not be for me! But it's funny as if I had a quarter for every working mom friend who has said to me, "I knew that being a SAHM was not for me as I was always counting down the minutes until nap time while on maternity leave," I'd never have to work again. Um, who doesn't do that?? Don't get me wrong - I love spending time with Sammy - but I also love nap times. I need those nap times.
One thought I kept coming back to when making this decision was - if I'm not working, what the heck will I have to talk to people about when in social situations?? (Yes, another me thought.) I eventually came to the realization that it was an absolutely ridiculous thought as even when I was working, when ever did I talk about my job? Pretty much never. (Unless I was complaining about my job.) (Just kidding.) (Sort of.) Of course I am still sort of getting used to not participating as much in work-in-general - related conversation, but I've also enjoyed being able to participate in a new type of conversation - "mom" conversation! And I'm sorry, but it's way more exciting than work-related conversation. (To me, anyway.)
In conclusion (it's about time, right?), and to repeat what I said earlier, this was the hardest and yet easiest decision I ever made. Throughout my maternity leave I kept a running pros and cons list in my head. While the "cons" of being a SAHM listed ridiculous things such as "what do I talk about at parties", the "pros" column only contained one single item, and it was a pictorial one at that - an image of Sammy's little round face. Even more so than hating that daycare center or enjoying being outside in the summer, that little image is what made my decision an easy and straightforward one.
Yes, the days are long, the vacation days are few and far between, and ending each day with carrot puke on my left shoulder (such as today) is anything but glamorous, in the end, the advice given to me was right on. I feel 100 percent confident that we made the right decision for our family, and for me, nothing could be more rewarding than playing such a large part in raising a happy and healthy little boy. I will never regret it.