During my last weeks of pregnancy my boss asked repeatedly, "Are you really coming back to work?" to which I answered an indignant, "Of course! Me - a stay at home mom?!? Never." I was an accountant at a bank. I liked my job. I had my sights set on big things. Big, successful, career-ish things. I believed with every fiber of my being that I would happily, willingly, be a working mother.
There's a reason certain sayings catch on. You know that one that goes, "Never say never"? Yeah...that. About 2 seconds after my sweet baby girl was placed into my arms post-childbirth, I realized I had been wrong. So, so wrong. A young and naive idiot that had no clue what motherhood would do to her. Or how instantaneously the change would happen.
Even though Charming and I both had professional jobs, we were young, only a few years out of college, with student loans and no nest egg to speak of. For the eight weeks I was home on maternity leave, I constructed scenarios in my head that would allow me to stay home with our new precious miracle. We could eat Hamburger Helper every night. Minus the hamburger. I would NEVER shop. Ever. I would never go anywhere that required a car or gas or...okay, I would never go anywhere. We would not go out to eat or buy things or do anything fun that required admission. At the end of the day I realized I was being ridiculous and, at that point in our lives, the only real option was for me to return to work.
For the next two years I worked full time. I wasn't miserable, but I couldn't help but be jealous of the moms I would see when I was out on my lunch break. The moms in their yoga pants and no make-up that were out having lunch with their sweet little toddlers. Chasing kids around the indoor playground. Wiping ketchup off of tiny fingers and faces. I wanted to do that, too.
As the years passed, we became better off (enough) financially that staying at home was no longer a pipe dream. I first cut back to working part-time, and when baby #2 came along, I was able to become a full-time stay-at-home mom. I remember feeling jubilant the night before my first day on the "new job". I couldn't believe the next day was Monday and I wasn't going to be getting up before 6 a.m. so I would have enough time to get myself and 2 kids ready, bags packed, dropped off at school and daycare, and to work by 8 a.m.
My kids are older now, but not so long ago they were still little and I was the mom in the yoga pants with no make-up (I still am but for different reasons that are not important to this story so we won't discuss it). I was the one cleaning up the mess left behind in the restaurant. I was the one exasperated and chasing around a toddler in the play place. There was so much I didn't see when I was on my lunch break all those years ago! I didn't see that those moms at the restaurant were likely there because they couldn't stand to be cooped up in the house another minute. That they were wearing yoga pants and no make-up because "what's the point?", and that they were repeatedly chasing their kids up and down those germ-infested indoor slides in hopes they would go home and take a long nap so mom could catch up on laundry and cleaning and sanity.
I've been a stay-at-home mom now for almost 8 years. I have had a couple of very part-time work-from-home gigs, and I "worked" at my son's preschool for a short time. I don't regret my decision to leave the "career world" in the least. I've loved being at home with my kids and I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have had such an opportunity. However, I admit that sometimes when I see women out on their lunch break, I still feel jealous. But now I'm on the other side of the window. I'm envious of lunches out with grown-ups and important business meetings and paychecks. I'm jealous that their biggest accomplishment for the day was likely more impressive than getting caught up on laundry, or finding a 2 for 1 sale on bags of frozen chicken.
I have recently seen several instances in the social media world where either a stay-at-home mom blasted a working moms' decisions to pursue a career, or a working mom minimized the relevance of a stay-at-home mom. I can't help but be annoyed at both. I've experienced each side and I wish (can't we all just get along?!) we could all come to an agreement that, truth be told, it's hard either way. You have to make sacrifices either way. At some point you will probably question your decision either way. The grass is always greener either way.
And most importantly, we're all mom's doing the best we know how...either way.
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