This past week marks one year since I stepped away from my position at school to work for two guys who, at the time, were slightly bald, demanded grueling work hours, napped during the work day, drank their lunch, and threw the occasional tantrum (where do I file a complaint for those working conditions?). Aka: I became a full time stay at home mom (a SAHM, if you’re in the biz).
Let me give you a little back story.
Right before I got pregnant, I jumped at an opportunity to return to my previous school to work in recruitment and admission; loving my new role, I finally felt like I found my niche in the working world. So when Ryan casually mentioned the idea of me staying home with the boys, I was shocked. Was he crazy? I loved my job! I had always worked! Who would I be if I wasn’t working? I just completed my second master’s degree, how would I use THAT at home?!
Fast forward to the end of my maternity leave. I loved my two new sidekicks more than life, but I still felt strongly about returning to work. Fortunately, I was able to reduce my hours to part time and we had amazing childcare lined up for the three days a week I worked. I mean, I was crushing the whole work-life balance, people (ok, that’s not entirely true, but I hope I looked like I was).
Fast forward again to March 2020. Ya know, when the whole world shut down? While grateful to still have a job when so many others were not as fortunate, I started to feel like one of those Stretch Armstrong dolls between my roles as mom and Admissions Director. Oh, and my husband had an emergency appendectomy in the first few weeks of quarantine, but that’s a whole other story.
Looking back, it was comical — Zoom meetings with the boys sitting in their highchairs in the background (or I was changing diapers), scheduling calls to prospective families during nap time, responding to emails well before and after normal business hours, and muting myself on more than one occasion so no one was subjected to my screaming babies if meetings happened to coincide with feedings. Yikes (luckily my boss and coworkers were incredibly kind and understanding).
About two months in, I realized neither role was getting the attention it deserved (I also had a sinking feeling when there was talk of returning to work in person…that had to mean something, right?). With the boys, I was always trying to rush through the day so I could carve out pockets of time to work. On the flip side, I wasn’t able to truly dedicate the time to my professional responsibilities to be as thorough, creative, and available as I wanted to be. The last thing I wanted was for something to slip through the cracks.
I struggled BIG TIME when I considered my options. There was a big part of me that felt like I was giving up, waving the white flag, and admitting to everyone I had failed (guess I wasn’t actually crushing that work-life balance after all). Instead, I had to retrain my brain and reroute my line of thinking to: I am doing what is best for myself and my little boys. I also had to remind myself that it wasn’t permanent; I can go back to work once the boys are in school. I had to make sure those two statements were on a continuous loop in my mind so the thought of failure didn’t creep in.
Once I accepted and truly believed all of that (seriously, this took like a month of convincingly and reassuring), I felt a lot more comfortable with my decision. But I’d be lying if I said there aren’t still days when I feel self-conscious because I’m not working and cringe a little if it’s brought up in conversation. Yes, deep down, I know that I have the most important job of all, molding these two little boys into future gentlemen and productive, functioning members of society…no pressure, right? But who says all of that when someone asks what you do?
Let’s be real here though. Were my subsequent days spent blissfully basking in the love and cuddles from my two 11 month olds, and completing all of the household chores I had neglected when I worked remotely? Haha, yeah, no. Not a chance. The past year has been simultaneously challenging and rewarding. The boys and I have laughed, cried, and navigated through the ups and downs.
There is no match to spending my days with the two cutest boys out there. They keep me on my toes, make me laugh, and hopefully they’re learning something while they’re with me (although if you ask either one what color anything is, they’ll tell you yellow…so obviously my work is cut out for me).
A year later, I have finally found a schedule that works for us (aka, works for me), swapped my heels for gym shoes, and fully embraced any and all pieces of athleisure (except crop tops…I had two babies, you wanna see this in a crop top? Oh, no no no).
If I’m being totally honest, I also like the freedom (well as free as you can be when you live your life by a schedule like I do). If Ryan has a random weekday off, we’re able to do something together. We’re no longer ships passing in the night because of opposite schedules. If I want to spend a week at my parents’ house with the boys because Ryan is working a stretch of night shifts, we pack up and head down there! I don’t even have to request time off for a vacation because my bosses travel with me (I use the word “vacation” loosely here since you have to definitely readjust your expectations on that, let’s just call it an “experience”).
Some days I desperately miss going to work. I miss laughing and sharing stories with my friends, getting dressed up, and interacting with students. And let’s face it, there’s something so gratifying about writing your to do list on a personalized notepad, and then subsequently crossing out task after task.
Now my gratification comes if all of the laundry is folded by the end of the day, if the boys eat at least one piece of fruit, and if there’s only like two epic meltdowns. And if I’m crawling into bed before 10pm. It’s the little things, right?
Of course the big things too. Like being here for all of the firsts in their little lives. I just went down the rabbit hole looking at videos on my phone from last summer when they first starting standing on their own and then walking.
Then I look at the time stamp on those videos–they were all recorded in the middle of the afternoon. Even with my flexible schedule, would I have still have been the one they were walking to for the first time? Who knows. The most important thing is that I was there, and I recorded those videos, not just clicked “save” from a text message. People are right when they say, the days are long, but the years are short.
Do I have a point to this post? Yes, I think so. If you have the opportunity to spend your days with your own little people, take it. What’s the worst that can happen? You decide it’s not your cup of tea, and head back to work in some capacity. Like my mom says, as long as you didn’t kill anyone, most everything else is fixable.
Obviously I’m not an expert, but I think it’s ok to feel a little uncomfortable about leaving the professional world to stay home. You worked hard to get there! There’s a lot of emotions packed in there, and I’m still working through mine a year later (also, let’s face it, I don’t do well with change any way, and that’s a big one). But being a SAHM doesn’t mean you lose any of your professional street cred; all of your degrees and accomplishments are still there. You’re just gaining more life experience in the meantime.
If you’re wondering if my bosses got me an anniversary gift, the answer is no.