Saying that out loud is still a little bit of a reality check for me. But yes, I am a Stay at Home Mom. Little Deer is almost 10 months old, and you would think it would have set in by now, right? Nevertheless, identifying myself as a SAHM still seems strange. ThoughI knew that being a SAHM at some point was likely in my future, it still managed to sneak up on me. Growing up, I didn’t necessarily want to be a career woman or specifically a SAHM either. I guess I really didn’t give it much thought in general. Now that I am a SAHM though, I’ve found it to be very different than I expected. I was definitely one of those people who assumed that SAHM’s had it easy. I mean, they got to hang out at home and play all day with their kids. What’s hard about that?
Well, many things as I quickly found out. I’ve learned a lot these past 10 months to say the least. I’ve learned the ins and outs of caring for a baby, but mostly I’ve learned about myself. I didn’t realize it, but it turned out I still had a lot of growing up to do. I’ve had to learn how to be selfless, serving, and truly devoted. I’ve had to learn that when I reach my breaking point, I may need to stretch even further past it. And I’ve had to learn how to let go of the old and embrace the new. My days look very different now than they did a year ago. Being a SAHM so far has not been easy; there’s a lot of give. But in return I have a wonderful daughter who I spend my days with, and I have a whole lot of love.
As I settled into my new role of being a SAHM, there were definitely things I missed, mainly my job. As I mentioned in my introductory post, I worked as a Registered Nurse in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). It was a stressful, intense, yet wonderful job, and one that I was very proud of. I worked for a year as a Nursing Assistant, did two years of nursing school while working in an Emergency Room as a Nurse Technician, then finally became an RN. My dream job was to work in the PICU, and that’s where I landed. I loved the idea of focusing my care on just one or two patients, and working closely with the ICU team, staff, and families. After starting work, I trained for six months before being on my own. All in all, it was a long road towards becoming a nurse and it involved a lot of hard work. And honestly? I loved feeling like my job was important, and that what I was doing mattered. I always pictured that when we did have children one day, that I may stay at home for a bit when the kids were babies or just work part-time. I always thought that one way or another, I would still be a nurse.
I ended up becoming pregnant right at the six-month mark after I finished my orientation in the PICU. It happened pretty quickly, and though I had hoped to have more experience under my belt, we were both excited to be starting our family. The timing of it all meant my maternity leave would start just a few months over a year from when I began working. Mr. Deer is in the Navy, and though there was a good chance we would find out that we would be moving, I think we both thought we would get to stay in Seattle. Either way, I was in a predicament when it came to work. If we stayed, I would be due to return to my job while Mr. Deer was deployed. That seemed like it would be extremely difficult to handle. Not to mention that because I didn’t have enough experience, I didn’t qualify for a part-time position. That meant I would be working three 12-hour shifts a week, rotating between working days and nights. To make it work, I would either have to hire a full-time nanny or rely heavily on family. Both options would be difficult to pull off with rotating between days and nights. The idea of not seeing her for three out of seven days of the week crushed me, especially since Mr. Deer wouldn’t be home either. Could I really do that? Yet I also couldn’t imagine not returning to work.
Though I left on maternity leave knowing I may not return, I think in my mind I truly thought I would be back. On my last day I told my coworkers I would see them later. I remember standing outside the hospital, looking back, and thinking that I was heading out on a nice break. I even had hope that my manager might change her mind and allow me to return to work part-time. A few months later after a quick call from my husband, I found out we would be moving to Monterey. Though I was very sad about it, in a way I was also relieved that I no longer had to make the decision about returning to work. I just wished that I had processed it a little better, that I had said goodbye to my coworkers and let them know that I might not be back. This chapter in my life was closing, and it felt like it was all happening so fast.
Little Deer was born in December and I quickly learned that being a SAHM was a lot of work. As LD grows and changes, so does my role as her mother. I think it’s slowly getting easier, but to start it was definitely a struggle. Mr. Deer deployed when Little Deer was two weeks old, and returned just shy of her turning six months. That period of time was probably one of the most difficult in my entire life. Though LD was still so small and easy to care for, breastfeeding challenges, postpartum blues, health issues, sleep-deprivation, and missing Mr. Deer made it pretty difficult. LD wouldn’t take a bottle, so I wasn’t ever able to leave her with anyone to get a break. Not to mention that I didn’t have a partner to help with night-duty. I was LD’s sole care provider 24/7. There were no breaks, no “me time.” I never went out to see friends because I felt down, tired, and was scared of messing with LD’s fragile sleep schedule.
Thank goodness we lived near family. My mom was my rock during this time, frequently coming over, bringing me food, and supporting me in any way she could. I remember the first time LD and I finally made it out to the grocery store by ourselves. It felt like such a huge accomplishment. On the flip side, I also remember staring out the window one day and realizing that we hadn’t left the house for over a week. Oh the highs and lows of motherhood! I remember trying to get LD to sleep one night, just sobbing and feeling like I couldn’t do it anymore. That night it took me four hours of rocking, bouncing, and walking around with her to get her to sleep. My arms were shaking they were so fatigued from the hours and days of holding her. I loved our baby girl so much, but I felt that I was reaching my breaking point. Was this how being a SAHM was like? Would it always be this hard?
At that point in time, the idea of returning to work sounded delightful. Getting to talk with other grownups, grabbing food and a drink at Starbucks, using my brain for critical thinking, actually getting a lunch break… it all sounded wonderful. A turning point came for me one night when I was reading a Christian parenting book. My faith is very important to me, and this book really brought a few things to light. I began to look at Little Deer’s late night nursing sessions, her difficulty with sleep, and our challenges with her MSPI as an opportunity to change my mindset. Rather than grumble, get frustrated, or even cry, I tried to turn it around and remember that what I was doing was an act of service. By holding her, loving her, rocking her, I was serving my sweet baby girl. As we would do our pickup and putdown routine at night (sometimes for hours) I began to use that time to pray over her. Though there were still many challenging moments, I think my change in attitude helped me finally see that being a SAHM was doable.
Once Mr. Deer came home, everything changed. I suddenly had all the help in the world. There truly were no words to describe it. He was so awesome and did wonderfully at jumping right back into fatherhood. Though he hadn’t experienced it firsthand, he knew what I went through and the difficulties I had faced. I so appreciated how hard he worked to help with Little Deer. He was able to take extra leave upon returning from deployment, so he got two months off work which was the most time we had ever had off together in our relationship. Seriously, pure bliss. We went on walks, hung-out with our families, and enjoyed being a family of three. Being a SAHM at that point was easy. Those two months of having Mr. Deer at home sure did pass quickly though. Soon the move was upon us and before I knew it, we were down in Monterey. Our things arrived, we got unpacked, and Mr. Deer returned to work. Once the dust settled, I looked around and the realization that I was truly a SAHM hit me. I wasn’t returning to work, my mom wasn’t coming over to help anymore, and Mr. Deer was gone all day at work. It was just me and Little Deer.
That was two months ago. My days now involve getting up around 5:00 AM to nurse Little Deer, making breakfast for Mr. Deer, seeing him off to work, then getting Little Deer up around 7:30 AM and starting our day together. We usually eat breakfast together, do a few things around the house, then she’ll take her first nap. After that we’ll try and get out for a bit, whether it’s for swim lessons, a trip to the aquarium, or just a walk. After her afternoon nap we wait for Mr. Deer to come home, then spend the evening together. Then it’s bedtime, and the routine repeats. It’s really easy for the days to feel like they blend together. I no longer have to be somewhere at a certain time, so I often forget what day of the week it is. If I don’t make a to-do list or have a plan for the day, I find it just quickly slips away. Learning to be purposeful with our week is definitely something I’m working on.
Though I miss my job and have at times struggled in my new role, I do realize that being a SAHM is a complete blessing. I get to be by Little Deer’s side every day which means I don’t miss a thing. First smiles, giggles, rolling over, crawling… I’ve seen them all. When Mr. Deer gets home there’s no rushing around to get dinner ready or get organized since I’ve had the day to plan things out. Instead we can relax together as a family and enjoy our afternoon and evening. I previously worked every other weekend, so now getting to spend every weekend with Mr. Deer still feels like a treat. Though my days do feel very full, I recognize that if I were working they would feel much busier and be more stressful. Being a SAHM has given me a new outlook on life, and I’m working to understand my new purpose – being a mother. I’m having to redefine myself. I’m not just a wife and a nurse, I’m a mom. There is a lot of giving, of my time, energy, body, sleep… but I try to give it gladly. And in return, I get to be Little Deer’s mama and be by her side, watching her smile, giggle, and grow into a beautiful little girl.
So yes, here I am, trusting in His plan and fully embracing being a SAHM. We’re stationed in Monterey for two years, then we hope to return to the Seattle area. As Little Deer gets older I may try and find a small part-time job down here, or I may wait until we move back home and have the support of our family and friends close by. When I do return to work, it probably won’t be in a fast-paced hospital environment. It’s rare to find a hospital job that doesn’t involve starting on nights, and that’s no longer something I’m willing to do as a mom of a growing family. I may look into home health care, especially if I can find something where I’m caring for children. Or perhaps some clinic work. I honestly don’t know what the future holds, but I do hope that I can return to nursing in some capacity. I love being able to help, care, and support children and their families. I love being part of a team and understanding the the clinical, social, and emotional components of caring for a patient. And I love that nursing allows me to gain skills that also help me care for my family as well. But for now, first and foremost, I am a mom. And I will be here at home, taking care of Little Deer and loving on her all day long.
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Have you embraced your role as a SAHM, WAHM, or WOHM?