SAHM vs. Working Mom: Pick Your Hard
The title of this article kind of gives away the ending (I'm not great at foreshadowing). I have always worked. Since when I was 12 and I would do odd jobs at a local junkyard and mowing lawns around town, to when I got my driver's license and started at a popular sliced beef sandwich shop. But when I had a baby I had to make a decision. After all the health issues (she was almost 12 weeks premature) and the time spent at the hospital; and once I was done breastfeeding as soon as she was healthy enough for a sitter; was I going to get back to work…or stay home?
The challenges of the preemie world required that I stay home with the baby. I had really never considered being a stay at home mom. The idea sounded great, everyone thinks women are lucky if that’s available to them. And for many women, it goes great. They post their “loving life” paragraphs and baby pictures on social media. People like and share their pictures while their life and families go on to do the same thing day after day. And nothing makes them happier.
Finances sometimes dictated that there really wasn’t an option, but often, throughout the years we could have survived on one income (if we had the will power to not spend every extra dime that rolled in). But when I had the option, I chose to work. There are times when I feel so stressed out that I start to get jealous of the women I meet that talk about being able to stay at home while their husbands work. But I know, I can’t do it. My husband and I have lived together for more than ten years, and while my housewife skills have gotten better, I am no June Cleaver.
A Baby Can Only Be So Much Company
Personally, I hated being a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM). I was not good at it. You could not imagine how irrefutably terrible I am at housework. Don’t get me wrong, I loved spending every day with my daughter, but I was bored. Unmotivated. I felt like I was losing a piece of myself. Yet, I felt guilty. If I didn’t want to stay home with her, I must be selfish. I must be a terrible mother. But I could sense myself slipping into a deeper depression. I didn’t want to post pictures of her and her medical equipment on Facebook. I couldn’t really have visitors until RSV season was over while she was still underweight. My husband worked a lot to try and compensate financially for me being home. It was lonely. A baby can only be so much company.
I found out after I had my daughter that a number of people did not think I would ever choose to have kids…I wasn’t sure if I should be flattered by their assumption that I wanted to work and be independent instead, or offended that I didn’t seem like the “mothering” type. It took me awhile but I’ve come to understand why they thought that. I was dynamically independent. Children made me nervous, still do really. I love my daughter, I get along with my nieces and nephews, but other kids; I could take ‘em or leave ‘em. I’m not the mom that’s volunteering to help in class. I’m happy to send the package of M&M’s to help with the project though!
Once we got to a certain level of normal, I started applying for jobs. My past employer, the local grocery store, and filled my position and didn’t have anything for me. I had been off work for almost 9 months. It was tough. I wasn’t done with school yet, I still had doctor’s appointments to run around too. My husband’s schedule was still busy and hectic. So I landed at a big department store…one of the more popular “Marts”. It was as you would imagine. The hours sucked, the job wasn’t great, easy…but mind numbingly repetitive. But still better than sitting around all day.
Some Battles Can't Be Won
I would try to make meals and do housework, but I was usually so tired, aka lazy, that none of it was accomplished. But I feel better when I work, when I am contributing financially to our family. I KNOW that stay at home moms contribute, I know it’s a job. It’s just not the career path that works for me. With that being said it took me until almost 32 to figure out what the right career was.
I have had many jobs. I have worked fast food, factories…I was even a janitor for a little bit. My schedule has changed regularly, and my family has had to adjust to that. We all struggled while I was working 3rd shift. When my daughter started full day school, my opportunities greatly enhanced. I had been lucky to have jobs that were flexible enough that we really never had a regular babysitter.
There is often a rift between the stay at home and career moms. Which is better? Whose kids are better off? The kids who can see their moms fulfilled and happy, that’s the kid who is better off. I will try to stay away from the ultra-feminist banter in this piece, but you really never do hear about a man who has to feel bad about working instead of being a stay at home dad. And the dad who is a stay at home dad, more power to you. As long as everyone is taken care of, it should all be good. If I ever make enough money for my husband to stay home and cook and clean for me, I won’t stand in his way. I really feel like if more women stuck up for each other’s choices, and tried to understand that different doesn’t equal wrong, all our kids would be better off.
I finally found a career that I love, something that still lets me get my daughter on the bus, and I’m able to get dressed up to go to work. Almost the best of both worlds. I still can’t keep up on laundry. But some battles just can’t be won.