I’ve been in a unique situation since Baby Y got here: I’ve gotten to try out being a stay-at-home mom, a work-at-home mom, and a work-outside-the-home mom. In fact, because of a flexible arrangement with work, I still wear all three hats on a rotating basis.
(A little more about my situation, so this makes more sense: Papa Y and I share an employer. When one of us is at work, the other is home with the baby. His job is more important, so he sets his schedule, and then I go into the office when I can, usually a couple days a week. The other days, I either work from home or don’t depending on whether I’ve scheduled a day or two off by extending my maternity leave.)
I was a SAHM for the first few months of Baby Y’s life during maternity leave, and my schedule has given me plenty more time to try out the role since then. While I had never really envisioned myself as a SAHM, I always said that my opinion could change as soon as my baby was here. After all, I’d heard from plenty of moms who figured they’d continue to work, but ultimately just couldn’t bear to leave their child.
So … I am not one of them.
Obviously, I love Baby Y to pieces. But I have found being a SAHM to be utterly draining. Perhaps it would be different with an older child in a location that offered more opportunities to get out of the house, but I go a little (lot) stir crazy on my SAHM days. And I’ve realized I need to have goals and some sort of external recognition for accomplishing them – it keeps me motivated. After all, Baby Y isn’t going to compliment me for an expertly changed diaper or a well-timed nap, but he certainly may scream his head off if I’m not doing something right. In other words, he’s the type of boss I would dread in any other situation!
Then there’s being a WAHM, which is the case for me at least a couple days a week. I always figured this would be the sweet spot – a great arrangement if you can get it, right? I would get to be there for Baby Y while giving my brain a break from the sometimes-tedious tasks of childcare. Win-win.
Again, not so much.
Aside from the logistical difficulties of rushing to get work done during naptimes or (even worse) after bedtime, I always end up feeling like I didn’t give my baby OR my job 100 percent. There have been times when I’ve had to let Baby Y hang out in his jumperoo much longer than normal in order to send an important e-mail or finish a particular project. Sometimes he’ll stop jumping and stare me down: Play with me mommy. Take me out of here NOW mommy. Nothing is more important than me, mommy! I can only imagine how hard this would be with a toddler who is old enough to really voice his displeasure when he’s not the center of attention.
That leaves me with being a WOHM, as I am when not SAHMing or WAHMing. And I’ve realized that this is the best scenario for me – at least for now.
The days I get to go into the office, frankly, are pretty great. I am able to see Baby Y through most of his morning routine and run home and feed him at lunch, so I realize this is a much better situation than most people have. But I am also able to actually focus on what I’m doing without guilt when I’m in the office. And when it’s time to put my “mom” hat back on, I feel so refreshed. When I walk in the door and Baby Y smiles at me, it’s like a revelation. Oh! You! I love you so much, and I missed you! And that makes me a better mom.
Now, if I had to leave Baby Y every day and couldn’t run home during lunch, I might be a lot more reluctant. And if I were leaving him with someone other that Papa Y, I know my worries would probably multiply. But I do feel like I’ve learned an essential truth about myself that probably won’t change: I am not cut out for stay-at-home motherhood, and I prefer to work outside the home unless someone else is on baby duty.
I do feel a twinge of guilt about this sometimes – what kind of mom doesn’t want to spend every second with her child, etc. – but I try to shove that aside. I’m a believer in quality versus quantity. If I can give Baby Y quality time, that’s a much better deal for him than being stuck with a worn-down, sad-sack mommy every minute of the day.
Are you (or do you want to be) a SAHM, WAHM, or WOHM? Do feel like you have to justify your decision to others?