Posted by: Lisa | September 22, 2010

Trading Stilettos for Sneakers: Sacrifices of a Stay-at-Home Mom

Ok, so I didn’t really trade my stilettos for sneakers, mostly because I don’t, never have, & never will own any stilettos, nor would I have worn them to my former elementary school teaching job even if I did have some.  But I still left a job to stay home & raise my child, & there are always sacrifices with that kind of decision, just like working moms make sacrifices.

Fifty years ago this wasn’t even a topic of discussion.  Women rarely worked outside the home.  But time passed & women became more educated & confident in skills that didn’t involve making beds or frying an egg.  Divorce rates soared, forcing women into the workforce.  Americans began to want more things – fancier things – and were able to acquire those things with a second household income.  Nowadays, many people follow “Is it a boy or girl?” with “Are you going back to work?”

I have friends who gladly donned their work attire (albeit with spit-up down the front, but work attire nonetheless) & practically skipped back to the land of adults & paychecks when maternity leave was up.  I have friends who squeezed every last hour out of maternity leave & then slowly & grudgingly dragged the toes of those stilettos along the sidewalk on their way back to work.  Other friends tell me they feel guilty being at work all day when they technically could stay home with their children, but they also quickly admit they’re better moms because of their jobs.  Some opted for a part-time gig, allowing them a chance to earn some money & feel a sense of accomplishment without taking on a full 40+ hour workweek.

And then there are women who, like myself, turned in their resignations at the end of pregnancy & threw themselves into being full-time moms.  We are a group of women who accepted the fact that our brains would turn to mush & our best bottles of make-up would dry up in the back of our bathroom drawers & we would become best friends with the mailman & look forward to his arrival each day.  We knew we’d be singing “Wheels on the Bus” 728 times per day while our career mom friends were at work listening to the latest songs on Pandora at their desks.  And like other stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs, if you’re up on the cool mom lingo), I have heard a host of comments about my “career” choice.  Some of these comments were full of genuine happiness for my decision: “Oh, that’s wonderful!  You’ll never get this time back.  You’ll love it!  Jacob’s so lucky!” Other comments made me really uncomfortable because they were tinged with sarcasm & jealousy: “Wow, must be nice.  Not all of us can afford to quit our jobs.  I guess you can just sit at home & do whatever you want.  My husband doesn’t make enough to let me sit home & watch TV all day.  Some of us have to work.” Those comments stung.  How was I supposed to respond?  Should I apologize?  Um, I’m sorry we saved our money for five years so that I could do this?

Both of our mothers stayed home with us when we were growing up so there was very little discussion about whether I would go back to work.  Jon certainly would have supported me if I’d wanted to go back, but he really encouraged me to stay home & made it clear that was his preference for his son’s early years.  With the exception of a 1-year stint spraying people in the face with fancy perfumes at Belk, Jon’s mom has not worked outside the home since he was born.  My mom went back part-time when I was 16 & finally went full-time when I was a freshman in college & my sister was in 9th grade.  And despite the fact that I was old enough to drive myself home from school in my last years of high school, I honestly hated coming home when my mom was at work.  It felt weird.  I missed being able to walk in & immediately hug my mom & tell her about my day.  I dread the day Jacob goes off to school, but to prepare myself I’m already planning Milkshake Mondays – days I’ll pick him up after school & we can share our hopes & fears with one another over a perfect peanut butter milkshake.

Recently I’ve come to the realization that I do miss being challenged mentally.  I am physically exhausted at the end of each day I spend chasing my toddler around, carrying his heavy body around, hoisting him up into his car seat or high chair, etc.  I use tons of energy to excitedly sing songs, jump up & down, & read stories filled with animation.  I love it.  I absolutely love it.  But I need some mental stimulation.  Something that challenges me.  So I’m taking a photography class one night a week.  For 165 hours a week I am Mom.  But for those other 3 hours a week I am Lisa.  Hear me roar.

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Responses

  1. Lisa, fantastic post! It is a huge decision, and I think your personal experience growing up makes a big difference. And I’m so happy to see that you haven’t completely lost yourself to being a mommy. It’s so important to maintain some kind of balance. (I say this as a non-mommy watching some of my mommy friends disappear off the planet like they have a new boyfriend or something.) I know your photography class will be great, and I can’t wait to see what other things Lisa will be doing as Jacob finds his independence. It’s funny how mothers and their children kind of find their independence together. Have a great rest of the week!

    • You’re exactly right – moms & children have to learn independence from one another, often simultaneously. I’m as attached to Jacob as he is to me, possibly more, so odd as it sounds it actually takes real effort on my part to separate & just be me.

  2. sit around and watch t.v. all day?? now that’s funny. I don’t even get to watch one episode of t.v. at NIGHT!! let alone all day.


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