...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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It’s been almost three years since I’ve worked as a pharmacist. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t quit my job to blog. (Although having the blog as an outlet has been wonderful.) We found ourselves unexpectedly expecting a third child in the midst of a pretty intense renovation and things were messy, literally and figuratively. The decision to quit my job was a joint one. When I was pregnant with Mabrey, Steve and I sat down and made a list of pros and cons. He came to the decision more quickly and easily than me. I knew giving up a steady paycheck to stay home with the kids wasn’t going to be all fun and games. And it hasn’t been. There are days I would rather be at work – not that being at home isn’t work. Here are the things I miss (and don’t miss) about working in the traditional sense.

I MISS:

*the money. I took an 80% cut in pay when I quit my job. It’s not 100% because I’ve been able to bring in a little money via the blog and some design work. I miss contributing significantly to our household income. I miss that feeling of accomplishment that came with each paycheck almost more than the money itself. But, when Steve and I did the math, the money I would have brought home after paying for three kids’ childcare / after school care didn’t seem worth the hassle of drop-offs and pickups and hurried mornings and evenings. At the time, I proposed Steve staying home and me working full-time. From a strictly financial standpoint, it made sense. I made more money than Steve. But I really detested my job and Steve’s exact words were, “I couldn’t do it.” Steve regularly reminds me that my worth isn’t directly related to the amount on my paycheck. I know he means well but it sounds too much like a cliché.

*a more equal division of parenting and housework. I typically worked second shift as a pharmacist which meant I did the morning routine and Steve did the evening routine on the days I worked. I also worked one or two weekends per month so Steve had weekend duty sometimes. Now that I’m home, the majority of parenting responsibilities and housework chores fall on me by default. Don’t get me wrong. Steve is an AWESOME hands-on parent. But he works 10-12 hour days and travels so he isn’t here all the time. Now, more than ever, I feel like if one of the kids is having a problem or the house is a disaster it’s a reflection on me – as opposed to us. And I feel like it’s my sole responsibility to fix it. Some days, that’s a lot of pressure. I fully realize this is self-induced and I’m working on it.

*using my brain. I swear my IQ has dropped by 30 points in the last three years. I adore having conversations with my kids but there’s a lot of talk about poop and butts. It’s not particularly stimulating on an intellectual level. For a while, I forgot how to have an adult conversation. That’s starting to change. Our kids are getting older and asking great questions which prompt interesting conversations. Still, I miss being challenged even though some days are extremely challenging – if that makes any sense.

*the freedom! After drop-offs on the days I worked, I would have a few hours to myself to do WHATEVER I WANTED. Sometimes I worked out. Sometimes I treated myself to lunch. Sometimes I watched TV or read a book. Sometimes I cleaned without anyone going behind me undoing what I had just done. Sometimes I simply savored driving home in my car alone. Now, just scheduling my annual pap smear is a logistical nightmare. I find myself choosing not to do things because the thought of working around school, naps, bus drop-offs / pickups, extracurricular activities, meals, schedules, etc. is daunting. To be honest, I have felt a twinge of jealousy when Steve shows up after work with a freshly cut head of hair. For him, it was so easy. Again, I’m working on it.

*missing my kids. After a 12-hour day at work, I wanted nothing more than to chill with my kids the following day. I missed them! And they missed me! Now, some days I want to lock myself in the bathroom. Or get a hotel room for the night. There are days I think my kids would happily fork over their own money for said hotel room. Steve is really good at recognizing this and he basically forces me out of the house when he sees that I am in need of a break. I love him for that.

*a sense of productivity. In the pharmacy, my work was constantly being evaluated. There were productivity measures on our computer screens that turned green when things were running smoothly and red when we were backed up. At closing, we printed out reports that summarized the day’s work. We recorded the number of prescriptions we filled and dispensed. We had semi-annual peer reviews that provided us with a look at the things we excelled at and those things we needed to improve upon. Now, there are days where I run around like crazy staying busy, moving from one task to the next, but when it’s all said and done, I have nothing official to show for it. Look! A clean bathroom! A fully loaded dishwasher! The kids’ nails are trimmed! woo. hoo.

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I DON’T MISS:

*the rat race. I so do NOT miss the harried busyness of getting myself and the kids dressed, fed, gathered and out the door just to arrive at the pharmacy hours later feeling like I’d already put in a full day’s work. Did I remember to pack Everett’s lunch? Did I remind Steve Layne has a spelling test to study for tonight? Did I set out the chicken for dinner? And I know Steve doesn’t miss leaving work abruptly to pick up the kids before daycare closes then rushing home for dinner, homework, baths and bedtime. When I was working, I felt like we were infinitely thinking three steps ahead. Things are still busy. Things will always be busy when kids are involved. But it’s a less frantic busy. Our mornings and evenings are less hectic. There’s less driving. There’s less shuffling hither and thither. Our family schedule is more simplified. I recently asked Layne and Everett what they liked most about me not working as a pharmacist. They had the same answer. “We like getting off the bus at our house and you being here.” And it’s little things like this that almost erase the “I miss…”

*the line of work. Even though I miss the money, the feelings that came with it (accomplishment, productivity, worth, etc.) and my hilarious co-workers, I do not miss working in a retail pharmacy. After being in the field for over a decade, I was disgusted with the way our society, in general, views healthcare. Health is not a privilege. It’s a way of life. It does not come in pill form (for most people). It’s not acute. I also saw the other side of things. The big drug companies marketing and pushing pills like a ShamWow infomercial. I was appalled. I wanted out. I also felt stifled creatively. By contrast, the last few years have been thoroughly rewarding. I’m grateful I get to be here for my kids and experiment with writing, photography, renovating and decorating on the side. I’m glad my kids get to see me throw myself into something I’m passionate about.

*spending more. Since our household income was cut in half, we were forced to scale back on our spending. That might sound like a drawback but it’s actually been very freeing. We only buy / do things that we really want to buy / do. We rarely make spontaneous purchases. We drive old cars. That being said, we’ve taken more vacations in the past few years because we’ve made them a priority. And we would love to travel more. We’ve been throwing extra cash at our mortgage and are on track to be mortgage-free by early 2016 (if not sooner) so, hopefully, we’ll see those traveling dreams come to fruition. It’s been really insightful to buckle down and prioritize financial goals. As a result, our finances are more streamlined.

*missing special events. When you work in any retail setting, you work evenings, weekends and holidays. I missed plenty of family gatherings, school parties and programs. We don’t make it to every gathering and school function but at least they’re options now. (Okay, sometimes we’re guilted into thinking we don’t have a choice.) I’m very protective of the time we have together. When someone is sick, it doesn’t throw a wrench into our schedule as much as it would have if I were working. (Btw, stay-at-home parents don’t get sick days.) Steve and I are able to spend more time together now, too.

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What’s the point of this post? (If you’ve made it this far.) Your guess is as good as mine. When I’m feeling things, it’s usually easier for me to write them down and dissect them. None of this is news to Steve. We’ve discussed everything I’ve laid out above. He’s always been supportive of my work – the pharmacy, the kids, the blog. Looking at the list, there are more items listed under “I miss…” vs. “I don’t miss…” But when I look closer, the things that most directly affect our quality of family life in a positive way are listed under “I don’t miss…” Looking back fifteen years from now, I don’t think I’m going to wish I would have worked more.

On the other hand, I don’t want motherhood to completely consume me. Is that selfish? Shouldn’t I be happy that we can make one income work for us? That I have the option to be home with the kids? It’s just that I’ve seen far too many women stay home to raise children only to become confused, lost, depressed, aimless when their nest empties. How do you prevent that? That’s what I’m trying to figure out, I guess. I’m getting involved outside the house. I’m making time for things I like to do. I’m getting better at telling Steve when I need a break. I’m reading more to challenge my brain. I’ve discovered I’m happiest when I’m learning something new. Sometimes I learn new things from a book. Sometimes my kids teach me new things.

“Self-development is a higher duty than self-sacrifice.” – Elizabeth Cady Stanton, American social activist / abolitionist / feminist, c., 1895

“We can have it all. Just not all at once.” – Rosalind Brewer, president and CEO of Sam’s Club, 2014

Have you quit working to be home with your kids? What do you (not) miss about working? Maybe you’ve decided to keep working after kids? Maybe you’ve decided to go back to work after your kids are grown? At any rate, what do you do to satiate your need for intellectual stimulation? What do you do just for you?

Personally, I am forever grateful for this little slice of the blogosphere where I get to share all the big and little things that pique my curiosity. x

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

146 Comments

09.October.2014

Thank you so much for this! I am a Ph.D. candidate planning to graduate in two years… and just found out that I’m pregnant (our first!). One of the biggest lingering questions for me has been: do I want to try to find a tenure track job? With all the stress it entails? Take a smaller job? But then is the income worth it? Or should I stay home? My husband is also in graduate school (to be a veterinarian), so with the academic job market, sometimes my future income seems uncertain and ancillary (whereas his is pretty promising). Anyway, I really appreciate your candor and thoughtful post!

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replied on October 9th, 2014

Thought this might be helpful :)

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/2013/07/21/the-awesomest-7-year-postdoc-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-tenure-track-faculty-life/

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replied on October 9th, 2014

I know you posted this for Beth but, damn!, so many good takeaways…and I’m not in academia. Absolutely loved the part about admiring the obsessively dedicated and how we need to get away from that to bring some humanity to the table. What a great read!

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replied on October 10th, 2014

Wonderful post, Dana! Thought-provoking and relevant to so many of us, I’d imagine.

Thanks to Kay for the link to the tenure-track post. I’m a third year tenure-track faculty member myself, and work-life balance is constantly on my mind (just as it is for so many others, including parents who work at home–as evidenced by Dana’s post). I like the point in the faculty post about striving to be the best “whole person” we can be!

replied on October 10th, 2014

Another great read for those of us SAHMs who once were really–truly–professionals, even if it feels like that never happened!! http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/

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replied on October 10th, 2014

I highly suggest reading this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Mama-PhD-Women-Motherhood-Academic/dp/0813543185

I’m not tenure track, but I am a full time professor with a toddler and this book was incredibly encouraging.

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09.October.2014

Hey Dana,
It’s so sweet of you to put your feelings and thoughts out in the world like this, I love it. I wanted to share that my mom is a nurse, and she stayed home with my sister and I while we were growing up, which was great.
As we started getting older, junior high, she transitioned to working part-time. During the summer in those early years she would give us assignments to do in the morning while she was at work. Sometimes it was a craft and sometimes it was an academic thing (memorize the states or something like that). After a couple years passed, she started working full time again.
I think she loved staying home with us, but I know it was extremely hard to do. Looking back on it now, I remember her getting frustrated when we would make a mess after she had just cleaned up. It’s kind of a no-win job in terms of getting the house clean, and the sense of accomplishment is fleeting. But, I am happy and thankful that she was able to be with us when we were kids.
So, I give you a virtual high-five for doing what you do. It’s worth all the work in the end.
Warmly,
Nicole

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09.October.2014

Thank you for sharing this! I’ve been a stay at home mom for about 2 months and there are days when I feel like I am drowning. I recently accepted a PT work from home job (added bonus: it’s for real estate investors who flip houses, woohoo!) and I’m excited to have a grown up side to my daily routine. At the same time I’m worried that I’m going to drown even more. Only time will tell. Sounds like you made the best decision for your family. :)

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09.October.2014

I taught Kindergarten full time for over 10 years. Right now, I teach part time, and it’s THE BEST. For me and our family, working part time is such a nice balance. I am able to do what needs to be done at home, and I also get to go to work, and socialize with my colleagues for part of the day. I can see myself keeping my part time job for years and years to come. I really would prefer to not work full time again. I love having that extra time to be there for my family, prepare healthy food for us, and do errands and house chores as needed.

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replied on October 9th, 2014

I second the part-time work thing! I love it. Feel like my brain gets to shift gears for those hours of the week, and I get to be away from my kids- which gives me space to miss them.

Having an awesome sitter, who they love, makes it pretty ideal. It feels like a win/win for everyone.

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replied on October 10th, 2014

Hi Dana,
I agree with Marissa and Katherine, after staying home for 8 years with my three. This last year my youngest started preschool and I accepted a part-time job in my field which has been GREAT!
I enjoy the mental challenge, though its definitely been a challenge and somedays I do feel over stretched with homework and activities, and my days are definitely full. But Its a good feeling for right now, and I am blessed to be able to do it.
I’ve been struggling with increasing my FTE with increasing workload and responsibility at work, but I think this post helped me remember what I love about being at home… so it makes the answer for me easier.

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My husband and I don’t have kids yet, but are planning to start a family in the next couple years. I always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but the longer I work before having kids, the more I realize that I will miss working so much! Love hearing your perspective.

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09.October.2014

I totally understand it all. I have been a SAHM for 5 years and some days it is great other days it totally sucks. I toy with getting a part time job at night/weekends, but then I have to tell myself that it would take time away from our family and also, any tri/runnning training I am in the midst of, (which almost always). I feel my IQ has dropped, I have no idea what is going on in the world and like you have I have a hard time forcing myself out of the house. Either way working outside the home or being a SAHM is tough, it is all work.

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09.October.2014

I absolutely love this post and your honesty. Thank you. XO

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09.October.2014

Thanks for sharing this! I’m not a mom but made a major life decision to quit practicing law last year. A big part of that was prioritizing what is important in my life. It takes a lot of courage to do what is right for you and nearly as much to share it with the world.

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09.October.2014

Dana, I absolutely loved this post. I do not have any kids myself, but I work and study full time – on top of that I have just decided to start a blog. I needed an outlet for all the things my everyday life wasn’t giving me.
So even though our situations are nowhere near the same, I take joy in knowing one day all this hard work is going to pay off and maybe Ill be lucky enough to be able to stay home with my (future) kids, so I should enjoy now for what it is because maybe one day I will miss this time too.

Just to add – I love your blog and everything you put in it. I read this blog for you and not for how awesome your kitchen looks (it does look really awesome, though).

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09.October.2014

I have been a SAHM for 8 years and find that, on some days, I am still trying to get the hang of it. I think we all go through the same feelings at one time or another.

The hardest thing for me is reconciling the fact that, while my husband works incredibly hard at work and helps out a lot at home, it is a change of scenery/duties for him while my day is largely the same in the same place. Luckily, I have the greatest husband who is very understanding and, as my kids grow, I see the difference between them and their friends whose parents both work. Those differences show me that I made the right decision for me and for our family.

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replied on October 10th, 2014

I too have been home for 8 years with my 3 kiddos. I have the very same situation with an amazing husband! He works so hard (and travels) but when he is home, he is so very present…such a hands on parent. We are in this together and we are doing it right, for our family. I feel so lucky to have the ability to be home with the kids during the day. As much as I miss using my brain and socializing, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I watch the working parents of the world try and manage it all and when it comes down too it, I enjoy the simple things – like staying after school to play with buddies, keeping a kiddo home for a 1-on-1 date, etc…our life is simple, but man is it good. These are the days we will remember….

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replied on October 10th, 2014

I’m not trying to be inflammatory, but I’m just genuinely curious: what differences do you see between children with a stay at home parent and children with two working parents? Because I couldn’t go to the playground and tell you which kids were which (kind of like I can’t tell the difference between kids who were bottle fed vs. breast fed).

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replied on October 10th, 2014

I should have explained that point more since I think it applies more to older kids. I certainly didn’t mean to say either way was right or wrong (I have actually done both and for our family, me staying home works better for all of us, but not really for me).

I actually hadn’t thought too much about it until I was talking with a friend of mine who teaches middle school who once told me she could, with great accuracy, tell whose students’ parents stayed home with them vs. not. For her, it tended to be more of a behavior thing. She thought it probably had more to do with consistence in terms of correcting poor behavior, aggressiveness, etc. Not sure if that is entirely true or not since I know plenty of working parents who are very involved with their kids and some who stay home who you would think were single and let their kids do anything so not really sure and it certainly isn’t scientific. I think I just tended to notice more after our discussion – kind of like when you get a new car and suddenly notice your car everywhere. My kids just didn’t seem as aggressive like taking things from other kids, calling them names, etc., and I have no doubt I’m, in part, using that to justify to myself on my bad days (when I have to do “creative bookkeeping” because my husband doesn’t get paid until next week) how staying at home with them has helped them, but what do I know? I’ve never had kids before so I am just muddling through as best I can and just hoping I can get them to college without any major problems. ;)

As I previously stated, I don’t think either way is the right way. Everyone has to do what is right for his/her family.

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replied on October 11th, 2014

I agree with you, I don’t think there is a difference strictly because both parents work or not. I think it only has to do with how children are raised and sometimes it’s not even reflective of that. I’ve seen horribly behaved children from both environments as well as the opposite. I think if both parents are working, it does add a level of difficulty, but so does being low on cash when only one parent works. I can identify with the latter. Stress is stress, it just comes from different sources and that makes parenting and everything else more difficult. It’s a trade off like everything else to me, one plus with at least one negative if not more.

I think that from an economic point, it’s better if both adults do paid for their own security in life. I have never worked outside the home other than sporadic paid and pro bono freelance design work and I wish I had made it a priority. There is something about that experience that gives a person a sense of self and place in the world and not just because of the money. Staying at home you can literally disappear from the world. Someone commented that staying at home was better for the family, but not for them personally. Sometimes I feel this way, but when I start thinking about all the details of both of us working, I quickly think I’m good at home for now. However as long as I’m taking a class or researching something I find interesting, I’m good to go for the most part.

09.October.2014

Also keep in mind that just because you don’t work outside of the house full-time now doesn’t mean you can’t do so in the future. Both my mother and aunt were stay at home moms until around the time my cousins and I were in high school, now my mother owns and runs her own antique mall and my aunt went back to school and became a doctor. I suppose this goes along with your Sam’s Club quote above.

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09.October.2014

I am so happy I stumbled upon this post. I was a teacher before I became a mom, and I’ve stayed home with my daughters for the past 5 years, I feel like you put all of my thoughts into beautiful words that make so much sense. So refreshing to know there’s good company in the trenches. And the poop talk is a huge hit here as well.

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09.October.2014

I love this post. I worked as a therapist for a gov’t agency in children’s mental health before quitting after 9 years this April. I have two little kids and my youngest was doing so poorly in daycare (just finding it really hard to separate, and it was getting worse, not better) that the amount of money I was spending on taking them there coupled with the fact that I didn’t like my job anymore made it an easy, but scary decision to quit. I am now working on building my private practice and am so happy I can work around the kids’ schedules. There are days where I’m bored and frustrated and totally missing a bigger paycheque, but I think my kids are happy I’m here more. Your list definitely resonated with me :)

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09.October.2014

Great post! I’ve been home with our 5 kids since the first was born in 2002. I’m 41 now, and I can’t see further ahead than tomorrow’s breakfast. I tell people that I used to be really smart… I really was… and I’m not anymore, but it’s all worth it. Have you ever read the Tightwad Gazette? A great resource for frugal living and a wonderful look at how you prioritize your money and your time — because that’s where your heart is.

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09.October.2014

I cannot express how much I love this post. I quit my job in financial services marketing this past May, and I’m struggling with some of the very same things. I still need to find my creative or intellectual outlet because that’s where I’m feeling the most lost. Well, that and the incredible loneliness that comes with being a SAHM of small child. I told my husband when we decided that I would stay home that I thought the bad days would feel worse and the good days, so much sweeter. And that has definitely held true.

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replied on November 20th, 2014

Oh Emily, how much I needed to read that line about bad days feeling so much worse now and good days even sweeter! I’m a SAHM now after having y first baby in June, and how that resonates with me.

Thank you, Dana, for putting into words so much of how I feel now and can see myself becoming.

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09.October.2014

I completely empathize with your post. Thank you for sharing!!

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09.October.2014

I have a dear friend who is expecting her second and recently asked me for feedback on my decision to stay home with our children. When I really stepped back and gave thought to this experience so far I realized that in all it’s been entirely freeing. I feel excited like a freshman in college. That feeling where I can do anything, be anyone, pursue what makes me passionate. I was in biomedical sales before our 4 beans came along and now I am looking down the line and thinking about a completely different career track. I feel lucky that my experience at home with my kids has awakened this in me.

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replied on October 11th, 2014

I just became a SAHM and I could never really put into words this strange feeling of adventure that came over me and it’s absolutely like being a freshman in college. Thank you for that!

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replied on October 12th, 2014

Yes! love your words!

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09.October.2014

Thank you for writing this post!
I just recently quit my job of 11 years and started full time with a start up company that I 100% believe in( Sierra Sage… you reviewed some of the products a while back!! thanks again!). Although I still work full time.. it is more like 40 hours a week with some longer travel weeks verses the 60-70 hours week that I was working. Because of this, I am able to take my kiddos to school, pick them up and for the first time since I have been married, spend an entire day TOGETHER on the weekends. It is amazing. On the flip side, I took a severe pay cut . It has been super hard but for the first time I am out of my comfort zone and I am kinda loving it. My hubby and I are even discussing renting our house, buying an old RV and living on our land that we bought last year. Saving up mula for a couple years and then building our sweet farmhouse on the hill. The idea of moving to a 400 square foot space has never sounded better!

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09.October.2014

Bravo, Mama, for talking so openly! Working vs SAHM is such a ridiculous debate and one that shouldn’t exist. It’s SO important for women to speak honestly and directly about motherhood, in all it’s ups and downs, in all it’s idiosyncrasies.
I left my career after the birth of baby #1, which my husband and I had planned on from the beginning…and I HATED it. I frequently heard how “lucky” I was…and I frequently had to bite my tongue.
Being at home is such a delicate balance…I struggled (struggle-?) with feeling like I’m not doing enough to the opposite end of the spectrum of feeling overwhelmed with waaaay too much.
I feel much more balanced now, (3 kids later!), but I’ve also realized that pursuing my own interests is as important as facilitating the interests and needs of my family. Some days it’s taking a photography class and some days it’s a glass of tea and time to catch up on my favorite blogs. ; )
I LOVE being home for the little things and being able to volunteer in my older children’s school and classroom.
I DISLOVE how easy it is for me to segregate myself from the rest of the world. (Also grateful for an insightful and thoughtful husband who says “GET OUT NOW” in the most loving way!)
You appear to be doing a really good job, Lady. Keep it up!

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replied on October 10th, 2014

I completely resonate with you Melissa (and you, Dana! Thanks for the article!). My son was born in July and I’m now a new SAHM.. There are days where I am so unbelievably thankful to be home but there are days where I miss getting dressed and ready for work and going out to lunch with colleagues and accomplishing something other than dinner. I hate the debate of SAHM vs working mom- because there is so much more to it than that. I’m not being ungrateful for the privilege I have to stay at home when I say I’m struggling with being bored or wanting something to throw myself into besides diapers and feeding schedules. My family is so supportive, though, which has made a big difference. I’m now looking into starting a lifestyle blog and perhaps local consulting business for home organization and new expecting moms. I’m not sure where I’ll end up but it’s exciting to know I have options- perhaps more than I had when I was in my rat race marketing job. And that’s a great feeling!

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09.October.2014

I was just having a conversation with my husband about this exact thing. I quit my job to stay at home with our 2 girls and while I didn’t enjoy what I was doing for work, I missed the feeling of contributing financially. I guess it’s easier to see what you’re bringing to the table when it can be measured in dollars. My husband is constantly reminding me that I’m contributing to our girls’ lives in a way that can’t be measured.

Play dates help. Sometimes I get cabin fever being at home with the girls and just hanging out with other mom’s while simultaneously letting the toddler burn off some energy is always refreshing for everyone.

I’m actually excited for the day when my girls are grown and I can fill my days with whatever I want. Not that I’m excited for them moving out because I’ll probably bawl my eyes out and cling to their ankles while they try to run away, but excited for the new chapter of life it will be. All that to say, I’m giving you the slow-clap and nodding my head because I understand this exact thing. I’ve actually been thinking about what I’m going to do with my time once it’s not filled with wiping up messes and changing diapers. Like really evaluating the things I like to do and what job I could have that allows me to utilize those things and still challenges me.

Okay, I’m rambling now and I have dishes that need to be washed since both babies are asleep. :D

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09.October.2014

Thanks for inspiring me to chime in! I have 3 grown kids and quit my nursing job when my kids were young so I could be a full time Mom. It was my goal to be there after school because I also had wished that when I was growing up.(You are hearing your kids well!) All 3 got college degrees and thank me often for being there for them. And even now at 61 I am still there for them when they need me. Its the best feeling that you can drop everything for them or the grandkids. I did not go back to work when they left home as there was just always something for me to learn and do. I too got disappointed in medical care industry. My new hobbies make money too. I read books and do online research. Then I started trading stocks and options. I dabbled in some eBay selling after my husband changed careers and we decided to sell his tools. And it goes on and on. I am always finding something fun to do like I swim laps at the local pool all summer and I feel happy like the child who can’t get enough pool time. We feel like our life has been so much richer with me not working outside the home even if I sometimes don’t get out for days at a time. We buy what we need. But our needs are so much less than most. Used cars are fine and my husband drives an 18 year old car for his 4 mile commute even now. Our house has been paid off way back before the kids hit college. None of our 3 children had any loans when they graduated from college. They worked summer jobs and saved every paycheck. They paid half and we paid half. They worked summers through college and we gave them older cars to drive. They had what they needed too. So when others say it takes 2 paychecks to survive I know better as we made goals and priorities that carried us through. The Tightwad Gazette was my inspiration. And I tutored each of mine through the same algebra spots that they did not understand in middle school. I even tutored one of there then college friends through some math issues later on. So even if you think you loose some IQ it’s still there when you need it. And it took me many years to mentally shift my guilt of not working for a paycheck.

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replied on October 9th, 2014

You are the second person to mention Tightwad Gazette. I hadn’t heard of it before this post. I’ll have to check it out! Thanks for chiming in.

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09.October.2014

As a husband and father it is a wonderful blessing to have the opportunity for my wife to stay home with our kids. She has shared many of the same thoughts as you have expressed. But sometimes I feel that no matter how much I express my gratefulness for her endless, tiring work she does for our family it doesn’t sink in. So from a husband and father with a stay at home wife, we know how hard you all work and we could never truly express how thankful we are that you unselfishly give to our families on a daily basis. You are greatly appreciated!

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replied on October 9th, 2014

You are not alone in your sentiments. Steve has voiced the same thing. Thank goodness for appreciative partners!

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replied on October 12th, 2014

Dana,

This post resonates with me on every. single. level. I couldn’t stop nodding my head in agreement with what you said, and I’m so grateful to know that I’m not alone in my feelings (and our situation was very similar, with me earning double the income, but still deciding to make do on his salary).

Similar to your posts on the things you each want in a dream home (loved those posts!), do you think Steve would want to make a list of the differences with you being home? Like, the things he appreciates (or misses) now that you are home? It would be interesting to hear his perspective, though I’m sure you hear it from him often already on the hard days that make you question your sanity. ;-)

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replied on October 15th, 2014

I think that’s a great idea! I’ll see what he thinks…

09.October.2014

I used to think that once the kids were in high school that I could just shift back to working part time but having stayed at home since the kids have been born, it’s a hard shift to make. Teens still need you even though they don’t admit that they do and seem to act completely otherwise. And that feeling of coming home to a parent after school as opposed to an empty house, I don’t think that feeling ever gets old. Home is so much more than just a pretty, tidy, organised house, it’s the people in it that make it. I still struggle a lot of the time coming to grips with the feeling that somehow I am missing out, I am not contributing financially. And yet deep down I know that because I am home, my husband and I fight less, you know the ones that involve who takes leave to stay home with the sick kid, yes it can still be frantic when everyone has things on but when one parent has the flexibility to work around it, it does wonders for the family dynamic. That zen and peace that pervades the home is more easily maintained and my kids love coming home even as teens. Not saying that it’s the only way to go for every mom, but it was a decision we made and it has worked for us. Will I never go back to work? I can’t say for sure what the future holds, but for now, I am learning contentment, counting my blessings and making peace with the fact that I don’t have to justify my SAHM status…which never seems to amaze me because 50 years ago no one would’ve even dreamed of asking a SAHM, “what do you DO all day?” or “Don’t you get bored?”

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replied on October 12th, 2014

Completely agree with you. It is a hard shift to make. I went back part time after being home for the past 20 years and after 3 years of working I’m quitting to stay home again. I miss the house and family being my number one focus and so does my husband and almost adult children. My husband is a pilot and travels a lot so everything tends to fall in my lap when he is gone so it’s going to be much less stressful for me to just be home all the time again.

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09.October.2014

Totally get everything you are saying! I’ve always been a SAHM… for the last 13 years to two kids. I started going crazy immediately. What did I do to counter this? Well, I have degrees in interior design, university studies, and graphic design, and half of a masters. I watch documentaries and read obsessively. Because of the area we live in and the real money I would be bringing home, it didn’t make sense for me to work either. It just didn’t seem to be worth all the hassle. I also take free online courses through Coursera. They are great. And I find it very satisfying to overlook the finances in our house and meet goals on a modest income. I also do pro bono design work for causes that I find important and paid work occasionally. I think it is a constantly changing balancing act. Sometimes things work for me and other times they don’t, but at least I have the flexibility to make changes easily. I’m not sure what I will do when the kids are gone, but it doesn’t scare me. I may not work or I may, don’t know and I guess that’s okay.

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replied on October 9th, 2014

I think not knowing is okay, too.

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09.October.2014

8 comments before someone took a shot at situations where both parents work. That’s actually pretty good! Nice to see everyone else keeping it civil.

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Although not a parent and a SAHM I can relate to this post. I have worked from home for two years running a family business and sometimes worry my IQ is dropping..I wonder if I could still play the part in the corporate world and reenter the paid workforce now. Although I enjoy my work, it is daunting wondering if you have done the right thing. For me blogging is a hobby and a way for me to have a creative outlet and working in a paid fulltime corporate role wouldn’t have allowed me to do that so I am very grateful.

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09.October.2014

Thank you so much for this post, and all the thoughtful comments it inspired. Its so easy – inherent perhaps to the solitary nature of the work we do as SAHMs that we miss out on the support of the greater community of women and men who chose to stay at home with the kids despite the many challenges. I find it particularly challenging to square my independent, feminist leanings with the role I chose here, but isn’t that what feminism was supposed to be about – choice?! I LOVE what I do now more so than I ever loved any job I had before, I even love the creative challenges of trying to make a happier life for us all with less money coming in. As my youngest child gets older I’m aware that the question of going back to work grows louder in my mind and though it would ease a lot of the economic burden on my husband I’d miss everything else about this really. I’ve had two children seperated by 9 years, I stayed home with my first until she went to kindergarten, and left my job again 4 years later when my second was born. That was four years ago. Very young children always engender a near constant state of confusion and preoccupation with the logistics involved. I know things tend to clear up as they grow and I hope you find the same to be true. Having a teenager around to converse with has helped greatly to balance out the “poop and butts” themes – who ever says anything positive about teenagers? I do – every chance I get! Its been so gratifying to be home for my eldest to see her becoming a young woman. I’m rambling now, but I’m so glad to hear that others are doing and contemplating the same ideas. Oh, I find that looking ahead at what I could do once my youngest is a little older has been exciting in the same way I get excited by trying to figure out how to stretch our budget – its a creative challenge! I haven’t landed on more than a few vague ideas about self employment but I like trying to puzzle it out.

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replied on October 9th, 2014

What a great point you bring up, Rebecca…being at home and staying true to independent, feminist views. I think it is all about choosing what is right for you. Sometimes it’s such a heavy decision!

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replied on October 10th, 2014

Heavy indeed. The decision is compounded when considering the examples we are setting for our children. I choose to believe that we can model the complexities and seeming contradictions of flawed flexible loving people even when we navigate difficult circumstances. We like to generalize with catch phrases about reaching for the stars and having it all, but life can be so much less glamorous and yet so much more gratifying.

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replied on October 10th, 2014

I agree with Dana. Too often feminism is considered “the ability to do the same thing men do.” My personal belief is that feminism is the ability to make your own choices and take charge of your own life without other people (or yourself) putting roadblocks or limits in your way because of your gender. It applies whether you decide to be an executive, a SAHM, a wrestler, or a professional cross-sticher! It is about choosing and owning your own life, unlimited by gender.

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This post means more than you can imagine. I worked outside the home before I had my kids and I loved it. I’m fortunate to be a work-from-home mom now, holding the same position I have for years but without the commute, without the hours away from my kids, and with the ability to keep up with the household during any down time. I still find myself being envious though – of those working outside the home and escaping the craziness of motherhood for those precious hours and of those able to be stay at home moms who can give themselves 100% to their kids and not worry about the day’s conference call schedule and deadlines. That darn grass always seems greener on the other side and it’s nice to have a reminder that everyone’s lawn has some brown patches mixed in.
Even though I’m a working mom, I often don’t feel satisfied with my social life because much of my adult communication happens via email or conference call. So I started a part-time photography business because it was a natural way for me to pursue my passion, interact with other adults, and make some extra cash for our home remodel. The bonus is that I’m 100% in control of my schedule, and that feels great.

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09.October.2014

I read this post on my phone and had to come back when I found time on the laptop. So glad you wrote about this. I just became a mom 4 months ago and will be staying home for the foreseeable future. This is something we planned and we have always lived off of one income. I never “saw” a paycheck because it was diverted to pay off our home. But, I have thought about what I do and do not miss about work recently. I do not miss my job. It was never my career job, but it paid great and allowed us to meet some amazing financial goals. But since I have been off (and I know I just had a baby) but I can tell my mental state is not the same. I feel so unfocused. And I *hate* it when other Mom’s tell me it never goes away. I cannot abide by this. I think it has to be a choice. I need my mind back. Even if my former career job wasn’t as stimulating as it could have been, I also recognize only being a caretaker will not satisfy my mind.

So, I am taking my education (both in and outside of schooling) my work experience (both in corporate sales and being raised on a farm) and I am tilling up 1 acre of our land and growing wholesale fresh cut flowers next year. So excited!

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replied on October 9th, 2014

There are days where my favorite and least favorite parts were both “being at home”. Maybe you can relate? I tell Steve and the kids that I’m complicated but I think I’m just human. It sounds like you may have found some good middle ground. Best of luck with your new endeavor!

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09.October.2014

Thoughtful post. For every choice there really is a sacrifice, yes? We also bought an older home in need of some care, living off of one income, on which we could put our stamp (my creative outlet while being at home with 3 children). Now off to clean up the nail polish that’s all over the bathroom floor and put away the pot roast everyone complained about. Later I can gaze over 3 children, beautifully asleep, gin and tonic in hand.

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09.October.2014

Thanks for this post. I’ve been struggling with this since my daughter was born two years ago. I want to be home so badly to be able to spend more time with her and manage the house, but I also want to keep working. Right now, I’m trying to build a freelance business while I work full time, which basically means I work around the clock. I’m not sure where this is headed, but sometimes it feels like (for moms especially) no choice makes complete sense, is totally fair, or will ever have everyone’s support.

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09.October.2014

It’s so interesting to hear so many of us struggling with this issue. I just went back to work as a journalist after a year of maternity leave, so I have thought about this a lot lately. For me, the transition back to work has been both positive and extremely difficult. My first few days back, I periodically went to the bathroom to cry because I missed my sweet little guy so much. Now, six weeks into my return to work, I finally feel like I’m starting to enjoy my job again. I loved having the opportunity to stay home and be a full-time Mom for a year, but I wonder if I would yearn for more independence, action, and intellectual stimulation if I were to stay at home. On the other hand, I still pine for my kid during the day and wish I had more time at home with him. I agree with the previous poster — for women, this is a constant tug-of-war that we may never really feel 100% satisfied with. All we can do is figure out what feels “most right” and go from there.

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09.October.2014

Sometimes I tell my husband “I have a college degree and I spend all my time cleaning up our children’s grossness”. While I know that the best thing I can do for our family and probably for society in general is be home with our kids it is often hard to see good results on a day to day basis. I think that is why I like being physically creative… sewing, painting, building, I like doing things where I can see actual results, it gets me through those days where I don’t feel motherhood has been rewarding. I can honestly say though that those rewarding mothering moments blow any other “rewarding” feelings you can have out of the water.

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09.October.2014

thank you for laying it all out. truly appreciate your honesty. the one thing I can add is that if you want your children to pursue their dreams you need to pursue yours. isn’t this what this space is all about?

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I worked in Architecture for several years before my daughter was born and have not returned to work full time since. I had many of the same feelings as you, some things I miss and some I don’t. Although it was a creative the job was also filled with red tape – code reviews and letters to the permit office and the Fire Marshall were far from anything I thought being an architect was about. Since having children I have worked but it has always been something flexible or something I could do from home and for that I am thankful. I cannot imagine working full time and still being a pleasant mother I just don’t have enough patience. As my children have gotten older (9 and 14) I have been able to add more work into the schedule. Last year I started my blog and have been doing more and more design work, but still on my own terms. Just yesterday I was laying out an art arrangement for one of my clients on the living room floor and my 14 year old daughter asked me where it was going. I told her it was for a client and her exact words were “You should get more clients! You seem really happy when you have things to do other than just chores around the house.” I love my kids, but she is right. We all need something for “Me.” I totally agree with Jen if you want your children to pursue their dreams you need to pursue yours. Remember kids grow up. One day they move away (hopefully) to do there on things and at that point it will be important that there is something left of “You.”
Find the balance that works for you and throw guilt out the window.
Thanks for sharing

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10.October.2014

Love this post. I have a love/dislike relationship with being a stay-at-home mom. I will have a big change next year when I go back to work as my littlest is in kinder. But I wanted to share that I have a running joke that sometimes being a SAHM feels like Groundhogs day (if you have ever seen that movie). Man, if the seasons didn’t change I would be in big trouble.

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10.October.2014

Thank you for this honest post! My husband is in the military and we recently moved to Germany. I was forced to leave a job I LOVED. A very prestigious job. Luckily, I have the best job in the world now – mum to my sweet 21 month old. Leaving my job was a giant blessing, as was being financially able to, but like you said, there is a lot you miss when you leave a job, even if you WANT to stay at home with your children (which I do, until they are in school, then please please get me back into the work force). There is a sense of self worth that comes with doing something outside of the house, at least for me, and I am still struggling finding my spot in our home, in the world, in society. Luckily, I have a few smaller part time gigs that keep me busy, photography and blogging, but I still struggle every day. It’s such a strange feeling too. I want nothing more than to spend my days with my son, to be here when he’s home, to not miss this part. To have another child and be able to be with that child like I was with my first son (I worked from home before). But I often feel like I’m doing nothing, I have nothing to show for a days of exhausting work, I need a break from that sweet boy that I love so much. It’s a tough balance, parenting and working. Self-sacrifice for our children and self-preservation for ourselves.

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10.October.2014

One more thought… I think you said that you work out at home, but I have found that the gym is a huge blessing for a SAHM. The women I’ve met there are happy, satisfied with their lives, and empowered (so cheesy, I know, but generally true). I’ve made some great friends at the gym. And did I mention, most gyms have daycare? Instead of 24 hours a day with the kids, it becomes 22-23, and I absolutely enjoy that little break. I get my workout in, get a shower ALL BY MYSELF, and have fun chatting with the other moms. Often there are playdates afterwards. All good stuff.

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replied on October 10th, 2014

Funny you mention this! Now that both boys are in school full-time, I enrolled in a tennis class. There’s a nursery on site for Mabrey. My first class was this week and it was great!! It’s been over 15 years since I’ve held a racket (I played in high school) but it felt really good and I met some new women. Can’t wait to go back next week!

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10.October.2014

Our family just made the decision for me to stay home and it’sbeen good and bad. There are certainly things I miss and I can feel guilty about that if I don’t watch myself. I appreciate your honesty and I couldn’t agree with you more that 15 years from now I will not miss working more!

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10.October.2014

I totally get what you are saying. I went back to work part time after I had my daughter 4 years ago, and then took a year off when I had my son in January of 2013. Then a month after I went back I was fired, and now I have an amazing part time job and it is the PERFECT balance. I work for myself, I come and go as I please. There are many a moments where I wish I contributed more to the financial aspect of our home but my husband swears up and down that contributing to our childrens daily life is worth so much more. But all of your feelings in todays post are my feelings too. So glad to see them written down.

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10.October.2014

Can you tell me what extracurricular activities your boys are involved in? Do you limit how many activities per child? Just curious how you balance this.

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replied on October 10th, 2014

We do limit each child to one activity at a time. For instance, this summer was swim classes for the boys. Now that that is over, Everett is doing tennis and Layne is going to open gym where he used to do gymnastics competitively. As much as Steve wishes they were, the boys aren’t really into competitive sports so we have that going for us when we are trying to keep our schedule simple.

Back when Layne was competing in gymnastics he was putting in 10 hrs practice/week and traveling on weekends to compete. It was so time consuming! We had started him in gymnastics at the suggestion of an occupational therapist. (Layne was diagnosed with a sensory disorder when he was much younger.) We were hoping to see improvement in his symptoms so to watch him compete in real events was pretty amazing. Eventually, he made the decision to quit competing. We were a little heartbroken but we knew he wasn’t going to be a pro and we had gotten waaaaaay more out of it than we ever anticipated so we supported his decision. It’s fun to watch him practice at open gym without the pressure (or cost) of competing.

I’ve always said that if one of my kids were super passionate about an activity, then we would be open to putting more time in but, so far, that hasn’t happened. They ask to go to the library more often than anything else and I’m completely happy with that!

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10.October.2014

Thank you for this post. I needed to see this. I am currently expecting my first child and struggling with the impending choice I’ll need to make to keep working or to stay at home. I fear I’ll miss many of the things you say you miss – a paycheck, time to myself, using my brain for intellectual thought – but will the rewards outweigh the downfalls? I still have 6 months to think it over but you’ve given me a lot of food for thought here. Thanks.

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10.October.2014

Enjoy every minute. It really goes by quick.
( from a SAHM of 2 children, one in high school and one in college)
One day you will be proud of your choice and miss seeing their faces everyday.
On the tough days, give extra hugs. :)

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10.October.2014

I TOTALLY relate about the haircuts!

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replied on October 10th, 2014

Yes! The haircuts!

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10.October.2014

Are you a mind reader?!?! My husband and I were just talking about this last night. Not that we are in a position to have only one income, but in general, how hard life can be with kids. How things change when you have kids. I knew my thoughts weren’t crazy, but it’s nice to hear other mothers having the same feelings. Thank you!

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10.October.2014

CONGRATS on becoming mortgage free in 2016! What a huge accomplishment!! Last year, we bought our “dream” house that was almost 3 times the size of our previous home & took on a sizable mortgage with it. I’m very unhappy with my current job, but it pays really well. I *thought* having my dream home would be worth suffering through each day to pay for our dream home. Sadly, it’s not. I would love to hear more about your financial strategies, budgets, goals and how you worked through those during the transition of cutting your income in 1/2. Thanks for sharing!

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10.October.2014

Love hearing other people’s thoughts on this. I think about all things related to career vs staying home all the time! I miss my old job, but for a long time I found it hard to pinpoint what it was I missed about it! I still struggle to work out why because there is so much about going back to work in my old publishing job that I know I couldn’t physically do anymore, like travel 3 hours a day back and forth just to work or work late or run around the city attending launch after launch and forcing myself to write nice things about advertisers I despise. And that world has changed so much in the years I’ve been gone from it, I don’t feel I have a place there anymore. The biggest problem for me is not so much that I miss my old career, but that I no longer know what it is I want to do anymore when the time comes to start work again properly. And I WANT to have a career again, once Annika is at preschool perhaps (so about 4 years away!!), but I have no idea in what capacity. In my mind, I see myself with a small business – possibly a small retail and hire space or creating my own line of something – but when and how and if always pop up and I just shut off from thinking about it for a while. And there is no need to right now – I don’t NEED to work; Steve has a great job, we have a small mortgage and are financially secure. We’re lucky, I realise that, but it doesn’t stop me having these little debates with myself every now and then!

Layla said something to me about a year ago that horrified me. I said she couldn’t visit a friend’s house this particular day because her friend’s mum had to work. She looked at me with a funny look on her face and said “mums don’t work!”. I nearly died! And promptly gave her quite the lecture about all sorts of serious stuff that I’m sure she tuned out to. But it made me realise how important it is to me personally to ensure my kids know that I’m not just on this planet to fetch them food and wash their clothes (though, honestly, some days it does seem as though that is all I do). I wouldn’t change what I’m doing for the world – I DON’T want to be absent in my kids’ lives while they’re young; I want to help in their classroom and take them to their after-school activities and make afternoons fun and their childhood memorable. I don’t regret this choice for a second. But I do ensure they know that when I’m on the computer blogging or writing copy for crafty projects for other sites, taking photographs, attending the odd launch or replying to emails, that it is work. And I’m lucky that my job is fun and that they get to participate in it, but for my kids sakes – particularly my daughters – I don’t want them to think that being a mother is all they should aspire to be. Because I don’t want to be JUST a mum. I am more than that – I’m a woman, a creative, a writer… They may be young and will no doubt get this as they grow, but I feel I need to drum it into them by example somehow.

I don’t even know if I’m making sense anymore! Basically, I think just like parenting itself, the work vs stay-at-home is such a personal case-by-case thing, there is no right or wrong way to do it. You have to do what feels right for you and your family. I feel that’s what you have done and I admire you for it xxx

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replied on October 10th, 2014

I think you’re onto something. I see Mabrey pushing her shopping cart around, taking care of her baby and pretending to cook and I don’t get worked up about it but I do want her to know that that’s not all there is to being a woman. I make a point of doing other things in front of her: writing on the computer, painting, taking pictures, using tools, reading books, exercising, tackling projects that require manual labor, etc…just because I want her to see that side of me, too. I want her to know she can do whatever she wants and I want my boys to know that women are capable, competent, intelligent and strong.

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10.October.2014

YES to everything you said! I worked full time with my first and hated it. It was so chaotic trying to make sure between my husband and myself who could get to daycare before they closed. All to turn around and do it again the next day. I switched to part-time but when my second was born I quit because the amount of money to put two kids in daycare was ridiculous. Now they are both in school and I am in that gray zone where I want to be there for them when they get off the bus but also want to use my brain. I feel like my college degree is going to waste!

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10.October.2014

Just wanted to say thank you for posting this, as it really hits close to home. I’m a full-time working mom with 3 daughters, and I constantly have an internal battle with myself about what’s right for myself and our family. Seeing each of the things that you miss and don’t miss are just so relatable. It’s refreshing and reassuring to hear from you (and other women) on this topic, because let’s face it. Despite how awesome and supportive our husbands are, no one understands what you’re truly going through besides other mothers. Thank you!

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I think Ideally if I could do it again-I’d work a very simple part time job. Maybe work a couple years, stop and stay home-then work a couple more. I never planned to lose myself there but it happened and it’s been a digging out process. And with being a mommy-if you do a good gob-they end up leaving-that sucks.

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