I’m a stay-at-home-Mama (SAHM) who recently found herself a job.
Two projects, actually. They aren’t fulltime and they don’t take me out of my son’s playroom-home office very often. But for the first time since our son Will was born, I’m once again accountable to people who do not routinely throw spaghetti on the floor.
I love being home with our son. I love trips to the playground and post-nap snuggles. I love not having to schedule our daily explorations of Delhi around a 40-hour workweek. Having done two overseas moves now, I see the value in having one parent 100% available at home–at least for the first few months–to deal with all of the challenging transitions involved.
When my husband and I decided nearly 18 months ago that I would stay home to raise our son, I thought that decision hinged simply on whether I wanted to and whether we could afford it. I didn’t realize then that it was possible to be blissfully happy as a stay-at-home-Mama and yet so darn conflicted about it at the same time.
Parenthood is hard work whether you are staying home, going to an office or any combination thereof. And I’ve increasingly begun to wonder, just because I’m able to opt out of the workforce and stay home fulltime, does that really mean I should?
Will the love, attention and education my son receives from me all day make up for the fact that we’re not modeling for him the kinds of gender progressive norms we ourselves value? In this economy, is it reckless for me to assume that I can re-enter the workforce whenever I want or need to? And how much should it count that I simply feel I have more to give?
I posed this conundrum to the readers of my blog a few weeks ago and their feedback was immediate, heart-felt, and fascinating.
A commenter from Australia shared that most of her Mom friends felt ready to return to the office after their 12-month maternity leaves; whereas American moms used words like “brutal” to describe their traumatized return to the office after only 8 or 12 weeks at home with their firstborn. They lamented missed milestones and mixed feelings of reassurance and jealousy as they watched their children bond with other caregivers.
Stay-at-home-Mamas wrote that they loved their SAHM job, but still felt discomfited not contributing to family finances and worried about professional atrophy. One woman, who became a SAHM later in her children’s lives, said she and her husband missed truly co-parenting and the quality time the kids once enjoyed 1-on-1 with Dad while she was at work.
The seemingly happiest mothers reported staying home full-time but also maintaining a few job-like commitments on the side. Several of these women write for this very website, while others run modest catering operations or do pro bono work with local NGOs. Though they describe themselves as SAHMs, that identity perhaps better describes how they prioritize their workload rather than the extent of their day-to-day activities.
Women wrote that, in an ideal world, they would like to utilize their professional experiences and advanced degrees through meaningful work—but on a part-time basis. If only those sorts of jobs were the norm. As one reader wrote, “there is no such thing as a part-time diplomat.”
Reflecting on these perspectives, I feel so grateful to be living somewhere I am legally allowed to work but, thankfully, do not urgently require a fulltime paycheck. As such, I agreed recently to take on two small, mostly pro bono, projects. Both of these commitments allow me to brush up on old skills and learn some new ones while still remaining Will’s primary caregiver all day.
Now I’m juggling deadlines during naptime and writing copy and reviewing design portfolios after my son goes to sleep at night. Once every two weeks I leave my son with a babysitter to travel out to the Indian countryside where I’m working with an organization that employs former rag pickers making beautiful home goods out of factory waste.
In the brief period of calm we are currently enjoying, between international moves and growing our family again, this arrangement works for us. As long as I have the time and energy, it feels really good to be updating my resume and modeling for our son, as young as he is, the kind of co-working, co-parenting teamwork we’d always envisioned for our family.
Working from home as a SAHM isn’t always easy, but really, what version of motherhood is? For now, while I can, I’ll trade a little sleep and a fulltime paycheck for the thrill of new professional challenges and the priceless pleasure of getting to spend all of my days in the company of our son.
This post is by Danielle Dumm, a traveling, writing, shutterbug Mama for whom home is wherever her husband and son are–currently New Delhi, India. When not working from home, taking her son for early morning walks through Old Delhi, making a mess in the kitchen, or hanging out at the park, you can find her at http://hotpotdc.wordpress.com.
Photo credit to the author.
Lovely post, Danielle. I can relate much to this, as I left a 10-year career in marketing, something I loved doing and I was very good at. I traded that in to the scary and unknown world of parenting, and 3 years later, I’m still learning. I love being home with my boys but for the past year, I’ve felt the urge to do ‘more’ for myself. Writing my blog was the first step in reclaiming something for me, and with that, opportunities have come my way for which I am grateful. I now have what I consider the best of both worlds – being home with my children, and doing what I love – writing and social media.
Thank you so much Alison! I know exactly what you mean when you say do “more.” That sense that there is “more” to give. Can’t wait to check out your blog and so glad you have found your balance!
It sounds like you are finding the best of both worlds! I stay home with my kids, and during the day, they’ve got me, save for the occasional conference call with an NGO or a Skype chat with the World Moms Blog editors. Everything I do for the website is usually done after the kids go to bed.
I now have a babysitter come once a week for a morning. My initial intent was to spend that entire morning catching up on the blog, but I realized that I was so behind in life that I use the time to run errands because it’s my only time during the week without the kids. So, evenings are still World Moms Blog time.
I like being there during the day for my kids. I think it would be cool if my daughters got to spend the same quality time with their children when little, if they find themselves as mothers, too. But, I think part of survival guide to staying home is to have an outlet. For me, that’s World Moms Blog!
Thank you for guest posting from India on our site, Danielle!
Thanks Jen! Happy to contribute and I completely agree that having an outlet is crucial. Even my friends who claim they are “just” stay at home moms so often have many other commitments going on. I think most of us are happiest when we get to be with our kids but also have at least a small smidgen of time and/or brainpower set aside for some other sort of creative, professional or even social pursuit. Thanks again for the opportunity and happy holidays!
Nice post Danielle. I worked for 6 years and I quit too to be at home with my son. Now I work part time on and off and I am happy. I am really ‘happy’. Travelling in Chennai like Delhi could gobble up 2 to 4 hours everyday and what is left to give for the 8 to 9 hours a day?!! Frustrating, totally!!! I am glad I made this move. Life is so much more beautiful nowadays. I can totally relate to your post. Nice ‘meeting’ you 🙂
Nice to meet you too Purnima! Part-time really is the best of both worlds I think. And yes, I can think of few worse things than sitting alone in traffic when I could be home with Will! I used to live in Chennai after college. Would love to get back there for a visit sometime! Thank you for your comment!
Danielle, this post is very close to my heart. As a SAHM for the last 2,5 years, I recently started my business that requires meeting with REAL people, wearing nice clothes, and REAL conversations… I do enjoy being with my kids at home, but those few hours now and then, outside, with grown ups and in nice clothes make me feel better about myself.