Tuesday, March 10, 2009

SAHM I am. For now.

I've been thinking about going back to work a lot recently. In times like these, with the economy in the toilet, what stay at home mom doesn't toss around the idea? However, in my case, though money is right up there as a motivating factor, financial security is not the number one reason why I'm considering maybe not giving up the S in SAHM completely but certainly adding a W in there somewhere. I've got young girls to think about, minds to inspire and all that jazz.

Let me back up.

I wasn't supposed to be a full-time mom; after Chicky was born I was supposed to go back to work part-time when my maternity leave ran out. When that plan fell through, Mr. C and I decided we could make it work with the inheritance I had received after my mom died. That money was going to help us get through a year of being a single income family and after that year we were going to reassess where we were financially and decide then if a job outside the home was in my future.

It's now been almost four years. My, how time flies when you're wiping other people's butts.

I have dabbled a little with work in that time. I taught dog training classes a couple of nights a week until I was six months pregnant with CC, and those classes helped bridge a gap that was left in my life after I gave up working full time. And when I say "gap" what I really mean is a gaping black hole. I've always worked. I got my first job when I was 13 and I've been working ever since. Giving up a job, giving up being a productive member of the working class, has got to be one of the hardest things I've ever done. I honestly didn't know what to do with myself. And if Chicky hadn't been as colicky and needy as she was, if she had been one of those "easy" babies I've heard stories about, I don't know if I would have continued being a SAHM. But she was and I did and here I am. I'm a SAHM - pronounced in my head as SAM.

SAHM I am.

In mixed company, however, I never referred to myself as that. I was always a mom/dog trainer - equal in both, if not in time spent then definitely in importance. It was essential to my mental stability (as tenuous as that is most of the time) to define myself as that contributing member of society. Sure, I was a mom and being a mom is the most important job a woman can have [/singsong]. Blah, blah, blahdee, blah. We've all heard that and, for the most part, I do believe it to be true. I will never do anything as important as when I gave birth to those two babies. I will probably never be anything more important than mom to my girls. That role is, first and foremost, who I am since the day they sprung from my nethers. But I guess my problem with that is, am I doing my girls a disservice by "only" being their mom?

As they grow, I can be the best mom I can be. I can be here for them - love them fiercly; shuttle them to and from playdates, sporting events, dance rehearsals; listen to their stories; wipe away tears and kiss boo-boo's; cook healthy meals and sneak in the occasional ice cream sundae; keep a somewhat clean home and love their father. I can give them my all and make them my life. Most importantly, I can show them how to be kind and decent and make sure they are confident in the love they have received so that they can go out into the world one day and repeat that with the important people in their lives. I can be a role model in that way, I'm just not sure that's the only legacy I want to leave with my children.

As a mother to girls I want to make sure they have a strong female presence in their life. I want them to see that women can do a number of things, not just cook and clean and scale Mount St. Laundry every other day. Yes, as I mentioned before, making sure they are secure in the knowledge that their mom and dad love them very much and will slay dragons (mostly figuratively speaking) for them is paramount but I also want to give them a woman they can look up to for things non-domestic.

I may catch some flack for this post from women who believe being a mom is the only way to go and I will not dispute that. For them - for you maybe - that is their dream but is has never been mine. I day dream of running my own business (finally, after talking and talking about it, for the love of GOD), walking out the door to do important things non-child related, and maybe one day hearing my girls say "My mom is a [insert title here]" with pride in their voices over what I have accomplished. That accomplishment wouldn't just be for me, but for them too. You can do anything you want to do, I will tell them. Anything at all. And if someday that anything is being the best mom they can be, I will support them happily. Because I will have succeeded in that role as well. That's all I can ask for.

Now here's the rub - how the hell do I begin this?

Jeez, being Super Empowered Role Model Mother Woman is hard work. I think I need to go lie down.


Jess said...

I love you, Chicky. :)

My two are a little older than yours - 7 and 4 - and it took me a looooong time to realize what you have already - that it's hard, but it's doable. And that I feel better for working. It makes me proud. And I'm happier to see my kids after short separations. That my son likes being able to say 'My mom works at the hospital' just as much as he likes asking me to go on field trips. That my daughter thinks I'm a superhero because I help people as well as make her toast in the morning.

It's hard, but it's worth it. To me.

Unknown said...

Well, you've already done the 'psyche yourself up for 4 years' part.

I've loved that I've been able to stay at home for a total of two out of the last 3 years. And I love that I have a career outside of the house to go back to as well.

You are doing so right by your girls, because you are first and foremost concerned about them.

Anonymous said...

For me personally, the best thing I ever did was to go to work. I was good when I was at home with my three daughters, but I was unfulfilled. Selfish of me? I'm sure some will think so- what could possibly be more fulfilling than your family, right? But, the thing is was that I wasn't me anymore. Or at least, not relevant as me the individual. I was so and so's wife. I was so and so's mom. I couldn't remember having a conversation that wasn't about being that wife or mom. Maybe that's exactly what some women want. But, I wanted something different- something other. I'm not saying that what worked for me is right for everyone. But, it's not wrong for everyone, either. I'll admit, I feel obligated to "defend" my choice in certain circles. I do want to demonstrate to my daughters that you can still have an identity outside of home, be what you want to be, do what you want to do, have it all- whatever. But, the fact is, that I am happier and feel more fulfilled- and THAT comes through when I am home. I appreciate my family more when I've had the segment of time during the day to be me the professional who also is the wife of and mother of... Selfish? Maybe so. Is my family better for it? No doubt.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of sounding insufferably rah-rah, you can do it!

You're in the enviable position of having the freedom to pursue what strikes your fancy. It's good for you, and it's good for your girls.

Tuesday Girl said...

I don't know how you do it, but if you find out, please let me know! :)

Jennifer said...

I feel the same waaaay!!! Ugh, ugh, ugh! Say it, sister! SAY IT! I love staying home with my boy, don't get me wrong. But I miss my career. I miss working and getting dressed in something other than sweats. I feel torn most of the time. I want to have my cake and eat it, too! Literally...

kristi said...

I've never really had a choice but I do like working, all except for my crazy ass coworkers.

OHmommy said...

I was on a one year maternity leave, just had finished up my masters, and realized I was preggo with #2. Paying for daycare for 2 kids would have nearly used up my entire private school teacher salary. So. I opted to stay home for another year.

I have been at home for 7 years now. 3 kids later. And still would love to go back. I just have no clue what I want to do. My priorities have changed. I need to find something to do. I can't imagine staying home for another 7 years.

Basically. What I meant to say is, "I totally understand!"

Tania said...

Ha, I know THAT story. I'm grateful to be able to stay home with the kids, but know I'll have to work again some day. I'm probably going to have to go back to school before work due to my unwillingness to return to the cube farm. The entire scenario is freaking me out.

The_EmilyB said...

I am thinking about this already - what do I do about work? I had to give up the job I saw as a career when we moved countries so as someone who doesn't love their job I have no desire to come back to this but I think I will be a scary bad mom if I think that I will have to be home with the kids forever.

My gut tells me to find something part time and see how that goes. Is that any sort of possibility for you or do you need more than that?

Laura said...

I'm not a mother yet, but I can definitely recognize the example my mother was to us. She was a SAHM and ran a day care from home until my parents separated. When she went back to work full time, It was definitely hard for her. She initially felt like she wasn't doing her job as a mother. To make ends meet, she started a cleaning business she ran in addition to her full time job. Then she decided that finishing college was the example she wanted us to see. My sister and I totally supported her and were front row screaming for her at her graduation.

We knew the sacrifices she was making for us even at 10yrs old. Her examples have definitely shaped my life. School was very important for me and I now run my own business. Starting off is hard and even more scary. However, it's so exciting and fulfilling. I can't wait to share that withe my children one day.

Atlanta Mommy said...

It's such a tricky world. You want to be there for your children, and you want to be the best role model you can be. How to reconcile the two of them? I think the only answer is the one THAT WORKS FOR YOU.

I've struggled with my decision to stay at home with my kiddos. I struggle with it every day. It's listening to my mother tell me how lazy I must be, that she raised four kids, worked two jobs, and still had time to bake cookies. Obviously I must be sitting on my ass eating bon bons. It's feeling like I've stepped off the career track, and I'll never get back on.

But honestly, this works for me. I'm here with my kids. And I think that if they see me happy, really happy, then they will see the best role model I can be. A happy woman. What more could I want for my kids than to be happy in what they're doing? Whatever that is.

Write From Karen said...

I totally know where you're coming from.

I've been a SAHM for about five years now and I am so ready to go back to work. But the husband and I have decided that it would be best if I hold off on getting a job until the kids graduate - only four short years from now. *sigh*

We've decided that my flexibility is the most important thing to us right now so ... four years and counting.

But I'm so ready.

Write From Karen

Jenn@ The Crazies said...

I also totally know where you are coming from! I was a SAHM for a few years, and then I went back full time. Then 2 years ago I was able to scale back my hours and work part time, being home with my 3 kids in the afternoons. BUT I just went back full time again. Hubby owns his own company and though he is doing great,we cant bear the added cost of self employed health insurance in our lovely state of MA so I went back full time to pick up benefits at my company. Its a trade off but man its gonna suck come summer time!

Heather @CritterChronicles said...

I'm a SAHM to my 2 kids - ages 5 and 19 months - and there are days when I love being with them so much, I can't imagine any other life. And then there are the days that I truly wished I had something else to do - somewhere else to go - that didn't revolve around picking up toys, changing diapers, and acting as a referee. I never had a chance to begin a career after college, and so have nothing to go back to. If and when I go to work, I'll be starting fresh, and that's just as scary to me as the thought of no longer being a SAHM.

My sister is a teacher to a class of 4th grade boys, and being in a foreign country she was telling them about her home life and family. They were asking all sorts of questions, and when it came to me they asked what my job was. "She's a mommy to her two children, and she works very hard at that." The kids were not impressed. At all. Being that all their fathers are in the oil business, and they were all raised by nannies, they don't see being a SAHM as having importance. It's what women as supposed to do. So as scary as it is for me to think about joining the workforce someday... I'm glad to know that I've got so many options when I'm ready.

Ashley N said...

I work full time outside the home, take my daughter to childcare 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and i would trade places with you any day. I struggle so much with all manner of mommmy guilt, yet my job is a neccesity at this point. I think I would be happy with doing something part-time outside the home, something low stress, less corporate, etc.

I think it's a to each his own kind of thing...you obviously have a desire to do something other than full time SAHM, so until you do that, you're going to feel unfulfilled in a way. Wish I had better advice, but I just wanted to share my perspective. Good luck to you.

SciFi Dad said...

Is there really that much of a difference between raising kids and training dogs?

- picking up someone else's poop
- cleaning up someone else's vomit when they eat something they shouldn't
- teaching someone else where to pee
- picking up someone else's toys
- talking to someone and believing they understand you when their actions obviously show they don't

Sounds to me like you've got one job with two names.

(Hey ladies... take it easy... I'm kidding.)

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

SciFi Dad - Shhh, raising three year old's is exactly like training dogs, but don't tell anyone else that or they'll all want my job.

Heather said...

I have been a SAHM for the past 14 years. My girls are 14 and 11. I have had stints here and there where I would work a bit, but nothing more than part time and not for longer than 6 months. The longest thing I did was home day care, but once hubby was out of the service we decided that it wasn't the best option for our family (i.e. parents taking advantage of us and leaving their kids here for 90 hours a week) For the past 2.5 years I have been doing photography. I had been thinking of going back to school, or working as a receptionist somewhere (what I have lots of experience at) was "discovered" by a local photographer and my business just blossomed. While it isn't bringing in the big bucks-it is steady work and helps me to pay for my equipment and to have the extra for the girls activities and other extras. Do I feel more fulfilled working, I guess I do-I never really thought about it. Through working I have found the real me-I think. And I really like her. Would I trade the time I have been at home with the girls-absolutely not. And just FYI-when all the other moms were working my girls were always very proud to tell people that I got to be a mom and I was (and still am) very involved with school stuff)

sorry this got long winded.


Gini said...

I think that just the simple fact that you ponder this often, is a sure sign that your strong values are surely coming across to your girls. Everyone situation is so different (why no one has the right to judge, in my opinion) and most people truly make their own unique family dynamic work - whether you are a SAHM, a full-time working mom, a part-time working mom, and even a traveling mom. Good parents just make it work - period. Good kids get what they need out of each situation.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I so hear you. I'm only 6 months into my SAHM-ness and while I love it, I feel like I need something else to define me. To keep me from being just Mom and nobody else. I haven't figured it out yet.

Kimberly said...

I think the most important thing is the stuff you're already doing: caring for those girls and loving them unconditionally, giving them security and values and all that good stuff.

That said, I work part-time and I love it. I truly believe I have the best of both worlds. I am in my office 2 days a week and with my family the rest of the time. I love getting out of the house and wearing grown-up clothes and I love that they see me in both roles, because they are both valuable and important.

Sarahviz said...

T - love this post for its honesty. As you know, I am at the other end of the spectrum, and everyday have to remind myself that it's "quality, not quantity." For me. (Otherwise I would cry. Lots.)

That being said, no matter how much I work, how much I'm gone, I consider myself, first and foremost, and most importantly: A MOTHER. With a side of paralegal.

Denise Thomas said...

Personally, I am looking to return to the workforce in the following positions: vodka taster, spa reviewer, book reader, or sleep professional. I am just trying to do my little part for the economic stimulus. What can I say -- I'm a giver.

Anonymous said...

I would love to be able to find a work from home job. I just found out I'm pregnant and I've been thinking about this.

Anonymous said...

I think that whatever works best for you and for your family is the right choice. It's that simple. If this is what you feel is best, then go for it!

I have no advice on where to start, though. Seriously. No clue.

Gray Matter Matters said...

Oh God is there truly a more difficult question with absolutely no right answer? There is no greener grass, but we all imagine there is. I do know that I fight every urge to use the word "just" before "a SAHM" when asked what it is I "do." So, I do what you said, run a bunch of stuff before and after "mom" to sound super productive and legit. God, we are such idiots. But like, in a totally awesome way. xo

Anonymous said...

I didn't read all of the comments (sorry, I'm so far behind in my normal reading list) - but here's one thing to start off with.

Tell everyone that you know that you're looking for a job. Someone will think, "Chicky! would be perfect! for this."

Tell them, they will call.

Anonymous said...

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Sharon said...

I think this ranks up there as one of my all-time favorite blog posts I've read. So serious here.

I've thought the same thing ever since my first was born, going on 5 years now.

I always wanted to stay home during the before-school years. I value the time, even though it makes me crazy many days.

I only have boys, so I'm not sure how'd I feel differently with a daughter. I DO think its important to teach my boys that women can do anything, too.

I never thought I'd feel threatened by NOT contributing a paycheck. Yet I do.
I've worked p/t jobs that I could blow-off if I had to, and for now, that fills my gap.

Ultimately I think if I DID go back to work (full time), it would only be after my youngest was in school full time.
Until that time I think it's also a great example to show your kids the importance of volunteer work, daily life, etc.

Good Luck with your decision! I hope you find something to do from home, if that's where your heart is leading you.

Cyber Monday Deals said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
mo-wo said...

I don't like to be a big old commiseration drag but it's true. I wish I could stop thinking about it and writing about it.

Much better to have you write about it for a change.

petite gourmand said...

Excellent post-and I feel the exact same way.

Some days I love being a sahm and try to embrace it as much as possible- and knowing that it's not forever makes it that much more enjoyable.
Other days I miss the rat race big time.
I'm pretty lucky in that I get to do some freelance work here and there, just to keep my feet wet, but the thought of going back full time at some point is pretty intimidating.
But also something I really look forward to as well.

kittenpie said...

I was all set to say that some moms re-enter the work force when their children are a bit older, so that might be a way to go, too, but I have this feeling - I'm not sure, but you would know better - that in your line, you might need to keep your name in, and be seen to be still working on a regular basis to get future work, wouldn't you? So it might be something you could do part-time or a couple of classes a year until you feel like doing more, at least to keep in practice and keep your name out there? I think it might not be an all work outside or stay at home proposition in your case, you know? I hope you find a nice balance for yourself. And ftr, I think it feels really good to have your own thing and be in a different setting to do it at least part of the time. I love going to work, and not because I don't love my children, but because I also love my job and my me time and my coworkers.


Oh, how I could have written this post. I think there are a lot of us that feel this way. In a sort of limbo between what they need from us now and the example we set for them longterm. I have girls as well, but also a boy, and it was equally important for me that he see something other than breadwinner Dad and caretaker Mom. But I still wanted to be home. So you know what - I just did it! I up and started my own business. Half on a whim, the other half on my chutzpah and intelligence and talent. And there are growing pains and lessons learned and it's certainly not about making millions, but I love it and I'm proud of the Mom I am. I can also see the pride my children have in me. They've always had that pride, but now it's for a bigger part of who I am.

Ali said...

every time i hear one of my kids boasting to their friends what their mommy does, my heart swells and i feel so much better about my (difficult) decision to be a working mom.

Ali said...

sorry. hit that too quickly.

the second half was to say that there are also day when my kids cry to me that i'm the only mom who goes to work, the only one who forgets things, the only one who doesn't volunteer in the classroom. and those days my heart does no swelling.


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