My short-lived career as a Stay-At-Home-Mom

One year after I left the workforce to stay at home, I’ve conceded defeat, and have re-entered the workforce. I pretty much sucked at being a full-time mom, and I’m not saying that in a judgmental way – it’s more of a fact. If I were to receive a performance evaluation on my past year, I would not have been a top performer. I would not have gotten a promotion, a bonus, or even a 3% cost of increase raise.  I would have been written up on a probationary plan with concrete goals to make my performance acceptable to the boys.

Here’s the thing – I love those boys with all of my heart and they give me so much joy. But, I am a happier woman when I have time to pursue other things that are important to me, like a career. It makes me feel like a bad mom to write those words, but it’s the truth.

There are very real mommy wars going on out there in the world. If you haven’t heard that term before, consider yourself lucky. You have career women who think that working keeps you intellectual and that staying at home immediately sheds 50 points off of your IQ.  Then you have moms who stay home who wonder “If you’re not going to be with your kids, why have them in the first place?” Those are the extremes, but the values and beliefs are very real, with each side believing they’re raising children the “right way”.

It’s ridiculous. There is no right or wrong way. People are complex and need different things to feel fulfilled. For me –  I don’t think I’m cut out to be a stay at home mom. I struggled with remaining present, feeling accomplished and fulfilled. I found myself being physically present with the boys, but my mind was elsewhere, thinking about all of the other things I enjoy doing – reading, working on the blog, organizing community events, working. That stuff was stimulating to me, and I started using the TV more and more while I would sit in front of the computer researching things – anything. Elmo became my babysitter while I looked up stuff like vegan restaurants in NYC (not going anytime soon, but so what?), that spiritual ecology Ph.D. program that I turned down 10 years ago (not interested in it anymore, but was it still out there?), or the Disney Princess Half Marathon (I’ve only ever “run” one 5k, and even that ended in injury.) I was escaping.

I posted on Facebook asking for help getting perspective. Mostly, it was the sense of accomplishment I struggled with. I understand that taking care of two boys is a HUGE accomplishment, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the part of me who for my entire life has been “goal-driven”. From the time I was a child, I always had some big goal I was working on – graduating with the highest GPA I could, getting accepted into the best college, getting my Masters, moving up the career ladder.  It may be ego, or a North American mentality, but I am just used to moving throughout my life kicking ass….crossing things off the list, excelling, moving up.  Being with babies all day every day is a good blow to the ego. That Ivy League education you fought so hard to get? The babies don’t care! You ran a sales and marketing team? Silly! Those dreams of writing a book, or starting your own business? WhatEv! “Be present now. Be present now”, those babies were telling me.

But I couldn’t, and it was making me feel like I was a bad mom. When I was in it day in and day out, I couldn’t be present the way I wanted – the way those boys deserve.

I was a year into this and I had not found my groove. I felt isolated, unstimulated, unaccomplished, and unbalanced. And yet I looked around me at other amazing women who stayed at home and they weren’t struggling with these things. Yes, it was hard and they had their moments, too, but they felt secure in their choice and mostly were succeeding at it! I was in awe and wanted to be like them, but just couldn’t figure it out.

So, I started thinking about re-engaging in work. It’s been a struggle and there are still times when I wonder what’s wrong with me. Why couldn’t I feel fulfilled being with the boys full time? I fought so hard to have them and I love being with them. But, if I’ve learned anything in my 41 years, it’s this…there’s no sense in wishing we were a different way, or could do something better. Creating a good life is what it’s about, and I think in life you’re constantly tweaking the recipe – adding a little more of this, a little less of that.  It wasn’t working for me, so I decided to change things up.

My new career in real estate is one where I am fortunate to have the ultimate in flexibility. The boys go to the sweetest preschool 5 mornings a week from 9am – 1pm. Almost every day, I pick them up from school and watch as their little faces light up when they see me. Steph also works from home, so she’s there most days, too, peeking in the window and then opening the door to watch them rush to us. Then, we bring them home to take a nap. When they wake up at 3:30, Steph and I trade off being with them. Soon, the infernal heat will let up, and we’ll start taking afternoon wagon walks around the neighborhood, exploring.

We’ll see what this next year has to bring, but my main goal is to be present and enjoy every single moment I have with my boys.

***One last note about the stay at home moms I know – YOU ROCK! I really mean it when I say I’m in awe of you. I watched many of you create awesome schedules and routines for your children. I know it’s not all fun, and yet you do it day in and day out. I have seen both sides of the equation and respect so much what you do.

Pics from the boys’ new preschool below!

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August was so tired on his second day of school and took it upon himself to take a nap – right there in the middle of the classroom!

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Wiped out on his second day of school!

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First day of school with their teacher Miss Amanda! She and her mom own the school.

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Love the look on Liam’s face. Hi brother is probably deconstructing what he’s working so hard to construct.

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Building towers!

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Music time! With August’s signature look – one shoe off.

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Hey! I have a chair like this at home! Gotta love Ikea!

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August’s new friend, Le Chat.

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9 thoughts on “My short-lived career as a Stay-At-Home-Mom

  1. Steph

    August and Liam beg to differ and think you did a fine job being a stay at home Mom. So do I. We love you and are proud of you either as a stay at home Mom or a real estate agent or a _________. The most important thing is that you are happy and fulfilled!

    The boys do have a long-list of some kick-ass toys however and are glad you’ll be rolling in the dough before too long so that you can buy them for them. Liam’s biggest wish is a 1:1 size 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. He doesn’t care that it’s too long for our garage.

    🙂

    Reply
    1. Rebecca Winters

      I love Steph’s response!! This was just wonderful to read. We are human. The recipe isn’t the same for everybody..it would be boring if it were. You guys are still my idols!

      Reply
  2. LaTisha

    I have the opposite problem. My greatest desire is to be a SAHM. But financially it isn’t feasible, so I work at a job I hate to feed and keep a roof over my kids heads, but completely unfulfilled. I wish it was easier for all mom’s to do what they really want.

    Reply
  3. mary lou birnbaum

    I love the blog. I love your candor. I have struggled over the years with the stay at home. I have gone back to work over the years after my first two got into middle school. In the early crib days we decided I would leave Independent Fire insurance company because those were the days when you had to dress for work where high heels and the dreaded panty hose and where the landing stands now was the parking lot where we had to pay $60 a month to park and between parking daycare diapers and doctors appts for a constant runny nose because of daycare we decided that I needed to stay home to break even. Then the second child came along. Evently my sister opened a deli on Riverside ave. across from the fire station near Blue Cross and needed me and I jumped at the chance to get out of the house and around adults again although my kids were in school all day but at this point I had done all the home room mom stuff I could stand and class parties and painted t-shirts and made 30 plastic milk jug easter baskets and did hundreds of classroom cut outs and gone on all of the school field trips for two children and all the school committees that I could stand. I have run the school store at Darnell Cookman and made them more profit than they have ever seen in its history only because I am crazy enough to run the city and buy out every sale item in the beginning of the school year knowing what the store needs and I think they would like me to stay. I took over after Janie Boyd had it. I would like to say our sales ROCKED. But I was sick of it. Now that I have Avery bless her I love her. I never thought I could love any more than my own child till I got my first grandchild but I think her first week in kindergarten I told the teacher I had been there and done that I don’t volunteer then half way through the year I apologized and said I am sorry I will do whatever you need. She said she didn’t remember me saying that I said oh ok well if you need me let me know. Ha Ha. I think the biggest and hardest thing of not working is not being around other adults. No adult conversation. Sometimes when Ophelia gets here on Saturday night I think my husband just looks at me like are we going to leave or what because I start talking to her and I just don’t want to shut up. Its another female that wants to have conversation. I need girl friends. If there is one thing I am lacking it is adult conversation. My husband is on the phone from the time he gets in his car in the morning till he walks in the door in the evening and the sometimes it is still ringing at 11p.m. As I am typing this I can hear the text messages going off this morning because his office is open today but he is staying home it will be like this all day. Oh the things I could say. Thanks for your blog. Its a bright spot in my day. Mary Lou

    Reply
    1. hbuckman Post author

      Thank you Mary! Finding a good balance is so hard. I think the key to being happy is to feel connected with others around you. Many SAHMs and SAHDs are able to do that. I was never able to “find my tribe”, and just felt very isolated. Sounds like you made some amazing contributions when your older two were little. How blessed are you that you get to experience this all over again from a different, more experienced perspective!

      Reply
  4. Tiffaney

    I think if you ask most adults to reflect on their childhoood, they would not say that they preferred a stay-at-home mom, or a working mom, just simply a happy mom.

    Reply
  5. Molly Sasso

    Heather, I could not agree more! I didn’t realize how much I loved my career until I had the boys. Not only do I need an “escape” from 24-7 mommying, but I truly love my career. Having the ability to spend time away, and for my boys to spent time with “Mimi,” my mom, we all appreciate our time with each other more. As for the SAHMs (and SAHFs for that matter, and let’s just go ahead and extend this to full time child care-providers, too, even though they get to “clock out” at six, which SAHMs and SAHFs do not)… I do not think they have shaved 50 points off their IQ. I THINK THEY ARE THE MOST AWESOME CREATURE GOD EVER PUT ON THIS PLANET, and I am so thankful there are men and women capable of doing the hardest job of human-raising full time (so I can work on my comparatively easy career as a lawyer).

    Reply

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