Three years and a month. That is the amount of time that has passed since I hung up the working mom suit that nows hang in the very back of my closet and traded it for the uniform of lululemon pants, hoodies and on those days when I am able to actually get semi-dressed, jeans and a simple long-sleeved solid colour shirt or chunky sweater with this cold winter we have been blessed with this year.
It has been a whirlwind. A decision discussed and discussed at length with my partner, my parents, my close friends and myself, I sit here on February 4, 2014 having no idea if it was the right decision for me. At the time, the pros outweighed the cons. I was burnt out trying to juggle marketing clients, helping my husband with his business, being pregnant for the third time, managing a household including a live-in caregiver and well, life. The path seemed simple. Being home meant I could focus on one main thing, care of our children. Being home meant I would not have to manage anyone but myself and said children. No dog walkers, no caregivers, no well-intentioned grandparents. I could pick and choose what I wanted help with versus what I needed help with. I could be home when they were sick instead of feeling insanely guilty I had to cancel a meeting because goodness knows Mr. L in a thriving and essential business to pay for the majority of our expenses could not. I would not feel resentful doling out more than half my paycheque to child care and babysitters wondering why I was working to pay for someone else to spend time with our children. I could rest my brain. Sort of.
It has been an adjustment. I still cringe when someone asks what I do and I try to fumble out the words, “I’m at home with the kids.” I know it’s hard work and well-meaning people pat me on the back saying, “I could never do that. Good for you!” But I dread each and every time I meet someone new and have to divulge I am a SAHM, (stay at home mom). My life revolves around three little people’s schedules. When they eat meals, snack time, when they need to do homework, when does someone need a nap or (my favourite), who is being the most naughty and I can use that to make them help me fold laundry still sitting in a basket from two days ago and call it a learning moment?
Logically, I know the choice was a right one for our family at the time. Being on our own in our suburban town, no close by parental support, one of us had to be the go-to person. The one that was nearby in case a kid got sick at school or forgot their mittens. The one that could drop them off and pick them up after school and have the flexible hours to do so. Mr. L works in the nearby “big city” building his life dream. He was not the go-to person. It was me or hired help and honestly, the salary for a reformed corporate marketing professional to marketing consulting for the not-for-profit sector would barely pay for all the support a family with three or more kids would require between day care, after school care, extra help with housework and dog walkers. Any pay I brought home would be eaten up, nearly every cent. It was not worth it.
But part of me resisted. I still kept one eye open for that “perfect” opportunity. In between nap time and I even updated my resume and sent it out as a feeler to a couple of potential employment situations. Then I would smack myself on the forehead and think, I barely keep it together some days just handling the kids and the house. If I had to add a job on top of that, I think I would cry. What am I thinking? Then my brain tortures me saying, I did do it. Once upon a time I was a corporate marketing on-the-path to becoming an executive career gal. The only thing was I hated it. It was an easy job for me to slide into that utilized my innate skill set. I took my first corporate marketing gig being uber paranoid about paying off my rather large student debt from university and post-graduate school. I got on the wheel and got off, sort of. Trading corporate for not-for-profit kept me going for another two years and then life hands you a BAM moment. A third pregnancy with complications that required being in the maternity ward on a weekly basis for tests during most of my final term combined with having a beautiful but early and small baby boy who required intensive medical attention and blood transfusions over a three week period robbing me of that blissful first month with your newborn and I was changed. Changed so much that no matter how alluring the pull back to work was and continues to be, I will never do it. At least not in the same way I did before.
However, the dilemma remains as my now thriving three year old enters the brief season before starting full-time kindergarten next September, what do I do now? It is a question that is asked quite frequently when people learn our youngest is off to full-time school in the near future. It is assumed I will pick up where I left off. But how can I? I am changed. Different. Those suits look real nice in the back of my closet, but I have no hidden desire to try them on again. I have learned to love the casual look I get to enjoy every day sparkling it up when I can with a scarf or new bracelet. I like having every day be a new day.
It really came to light last week as my elder girl came down with a four day stomach flu. I was able to be at home, altering the slightest plan in my flexible schedule so she could be in her bed, resting and drinking plenty of fluids. It hit me again when on their PA Day, I was able to take the girls an hour away to a lovely ski resort and enrol them in private lessons and then take the kids out for lunch and hot chocolate afterwards.
I wouldn’t trade being able to be there when they got home from school bubbling with stories about their day, fighting with them over homework, seeing how happy they are if and when I manage to actually force myself to bake blueberry muffins as a treat. I am lucky. Lucky that I am able to do this because it won’t be long until they won’t need me so much or only as a driver. Not long at all and my heart will break thinking back to these days when I could pick all three up from school and have them safely tucked where I can keep an eye on them hugging them whenever I want.
I have managed to carve out my own time over the last year as Jacob is potty-trained and can play more with his sisters. Slowly but surely I realize my dream is not working my fingers to the bone for someone else, but working them to the bone to try my hand at my dream, writing. At least this makes sense for me.
I admire all parents, mothers in particular for making whatever their decision is in the SAHM vs working mother discussion. There should be applause that for many of us, we have the option to work or not work. It may take sacrifice (Alas, no I am not shopping at Coach all day, I only did that once!) Most importantly we all have a sisterhood that should support whatever one’s decision may be for whatever reason. Goodness knows either decision comes fraught with doubt and guilt we inflict upon ourselves. We do not need anyone else helping us deconstruct why a mother chooses her path.
Next September I will get the first real taste of how I sculpt my days around writing. I plan to immerse myself in what I write. At least form 8:35 am until 3:10 pm. I’ve been cobbling hours or evenings here and there to produce blog posts, edit scenes from my story or come up with a new idea that I hope to start in the future. I can research rather than scan the results on google. And maybe if there’s time, I’ll get the damn basement organized. Maybe.
So until then, when I can legitimately say, I’m a writer instead of a SAHM, I will try not to cringe as I say it but realize it ‘ain’t’ so bad. It really is not.