Coming to Terms With Life as a Stay-at-Home Mom
By: Melissa Harper | Date: June 10 2016
After 15 years of working my way up corporate ladders, becoming a stay-at-home mom was definitely a bit of a culture shock. I found myself suddenly dreading the question: “What do you do for a living?” For the first 3 months of being a stay-at-home mom, I answered this question with a lie. Not because I was intentionally trying to mislead the interrogator, but simply because I hadn’t come to terms with my new role yet. In my mind, and my instant gut reaction – I always responded, “I do marketing for Hyatt Hotels.” I was proud of that position, I generally liked telling people what I did because it was an interesting role and I worked hard at it. I was successful.
After I finally realized that I was telling these lies, I switched my story to a more truthful tone, “I’m a stay-at-home mom.” The reactions this response prompted were unexpected, to say the least. Depending on who I was speaking with, I either received blank stares, a judgmental eye, or pure and simple jealousy. I could physically feel these acquaintances writing me off as someone who perhaps lacked education, work ethic, determination – maybe some even thought I opted for the easy road and now lived some “cush” life without a grueling 9-5. Others simply felt they probably had nothing in common with such a simple-minded person or simply couldn’t relate. Fellow mothers, who didn’t or couldn’t give up their jobs after having children either seemed to judge me for wasting my education and a spot in corporate America or looked at me envious of my “easy-breezy” lifestyle.
I’ve come to despise these reactions, hence me hating the question itself in the first place. I found myself desperately wanting others to know that I was educated, that I put myself through college and have worked hard for everything I’ve ever had, and that prior to becoming “mom”, I was climbing the corporate ladder with one of the largest hospitality companies in the world. I was not lazy, I was not on some “free ride”. For some reason, I needed people to know that, so I found myself working my past resume into the conversation somehow – proving my self-worth to these outsiders who had probably already made up their mind about me the second “stay-at-home” left my lips.
The only time I ever felt validated for my “stay-at-home mom” title, (besides my husband telling me how grateful he is for me – he’s a gem) – was when my husband’s grandfather looked me straight in the eye and said, “I think it’s so wonderful what you’re doing for your family – staying home and raising your daughter. You should be really proud.” That simply stated compliment was so shockingly different from the other responses I had grown accustomed to hearing, that I fought back tears and could barely spit out a muffled, “Thank you.”
THANK YOU to this sweet old man for understanding what it meant to stay home with children — he should know, his wife had stayed home with five! And he was right — why wasn’t I proud of my new title? Why was I letting these negative reactions and judgmental tones determine my own self-worth?
Now, let’s address the elephant in the room — I am lucky. My husband is the breadwinner and he works extremely hard to financially support our family. When my daughter was born, I made the decision to leave the corporate world and stay home with her. A decision that I know many of my friends and acquaintances never had the opportunity to make because of financial or family situations. Others did have my same decision, and they chose careers over staying home, and to that I say; to each their own, no judgement here. I could have easily made the decision to go back to work and continue building my career – it was a close call. But in the end, I decided that I loved my job, but I loved the idea of staying home and raising my daughter more. The decision was mine, and my husband’s, and we made it together.
But let’s get one thing straight — staying home and raising a child/children is as far from “cush” as it gets. You punch in for this job and you never punch out — unless you go back to work of course. I’ll tell you what looks really “cush” to me right about now — sitting in my old private (and quiet) office, answering emails and phone calls while having uninterrupted conversations with adults, attending high-level meetings in my perfectly pressed suits and manicured nails, and receiving praises and raises for a job well done — that sort of lifestyle feeds the ego.
Often being a stay-at-home mom is a thankless existence that requires you to pat yourself on the back every now and then — a role that often gets lost under stereotypical labels associated with yoga pants and loads of laundry. (Dont’ get me wrong – I do wear yoga pants and I do A LOT of laundry – but the point is, there’s more to my job than that). Unlike my past corporate life where I kept my eye on big goals and projects, I now live and breathe by the small accomplishments my toddler and I achieve throughout our day; like teaching her how to pick and smell flowers, brush her own teeth, say please and thank you, or eat all of her veggies (well, the veggies are a work in progress).
When you’re consumed by these small, sometimes mundane, accomplishments every day, it’s hard to see the big picture that paints the importance of a stay-at-home mom. It’s hard to truly grasp that these small actions that fill our days are molding my daughter into the woman that she will become someday.
It took some time for me to appreciate my new role and what it really entailed. When I finally stood back and realized that I’m the biggest influence in my daughter’s life right now and my constant presence and guidance is impacting her overall existence, my role as a stay-at-home mom seemed larger than life. I suddenly could care less about outside judgement or not feeling “appreciated” enough in society. Me staying home with my daughter was working for our family, and I couldn’t ask for a better reward.