November 22, 2011 by themommahen
It’s been a year since we left Chicago, which means it’s almost been a year that I’ve officially been a SAHM. Without fail, when I tell people the story about what I used to do, where we used to live, why we moved and what I now do, the first question is usually WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING? Followed by, “Don’t you know there’s a recession going on? And yet you still quit your good paying job, put your house on the crumbling market and moved in with your parents??”
Okay, so no one’s actually asked me any of those questions, but I’m sure some people think them – I would. Hell, I do and I’m the one telling the story! The second question people ask me, especially if it’s another mom, is, “which is easier, working or staying at home?” Now for this conversation, I try to stay out of the so-called “Mommy Wars” because a) I hate that term and b) I think us parents have enough to worry about without getting into a pissing contest with each other. It’s all hard. It’s all rewarding. We all do the best we can. We all need to feel like what we’re doing is noticed, valued and appreciated no matter what we do, where we do it, why we do it or for whom we do it.
On the heels of that disclaimer, while I can’t and won’t say which one is better, I will say I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing right now. Just as while I was a working parent from 2006 to 2011 I was doing what I was supposed to be doing right then. During those years, I was blessed to have not one, but two awesome nannies for my children. (There was a brief one month stint for H#1 in daycare. Bad situation, but I’ll leave that for another post.)
Those women loved my children as their own – played with them, cared for them and yes, were there for them at times The Husband and I couldn’t be. They saw some of Hatchling #1 and #2’s milestones first, while we were at work, a huge fear and topic of conversation for parents struggling with working outside the home. But you know what? Those wonderful women also helped teach my children how to achieve those milestones by spending days crouched over a book teaching colors, hunching over during the back-breaking task of holding up a weeble-wobble toddler learning to walk or cleaning up the accidents on the floor, in the bed and in the clothes during potty training.
For the record, I only recently got this perspective. While I was working in my career, I was the one worried about what I was missing, adding up the hours I was away to see if they outnumbered the hours I was there. (I really did that.) Now that I’m home with them, I think about how I used to come home from work, met at the door with squeals of excitement. That all changed with my work status and those squeals are now reserved for The Husband’s Grand Entrance. So aside from the squealing, how else does being a stay-at-home-parent compare to being a working-outside-the-home parent? Here are my own observations based on my personal experience.
Multitasking is key. When I used to sit 64 floors up in the sky, I never had less than five plates spinning at one time. And now that I’m home, guess what? I still have at least five plates spinning at all times. Now I’ll be the first to say those plates are filled with different things than they used to be, but as a good friend of mine says, chicken-turkey. Five plates is still five plates.
I’m stretched in many directions. As a working parent, I always felt like I was in a game of tug of war between work and home. While I don’t have to walk that particular tightrope right now, balancing all the things that go on within a household of seven people can get surprisingly harried. And here’s the thing – more of this stuff falls on me now, as it should. The Husband and I used to split home stuff up a bit more when we were both working outside the home, but now that he has a 60-90 minute commute each way, I’ve taken on almost all of the home management. Getting cars serviced, bills paid, insurance handled, appointments made, groceries stocked, meals cooked – all that still has to happen in between the day-to-day schedules of three kids including school drop-off and pick-up, meals, snacks, naps, baths, etc.
My time is not really mine. Somewhat attached to the point above, but enough to call out on its own. Working outside the home, you’re always working for someone or something else – your boss, your clients, your products, your business, your reputation. For me, whenever I had to do anything outside of my immediate work ecosystem, I was always extra careful and respectful of how much time I spent doing other things like running errands or making personal calls. For me, staying at home isn’t that much different except I don’t have a boss or clients to answer to if I spend too much time paying bills, writing this blog or making phone calls. But my kids are NOT shy about letting me know when they think it’s time to “get back to work.”
I worry that I’m not giving my kids enough quality time. This one surprised me the most. Sound familiar? If you’re a parent, no matter where you spend your 9-5 hours, you can relate to this. If you work outside the home, you’re not physically there. If you are at home, there’s so much “stuff” to do during the day, it’s sometimes difficult to be mentally there. It’s so easy to fill the day with everything that has to get done, from laundry to prepping meals, I often have to make sure I set aside enough time to just enjoy time with the kids. When I was looking for advice on blogs and other outlets on transitioning to a SAHM, I read somewhere (and I wish I could remember where to give proper credit) that as a SAHM you must remember to play – every day – because isn’t this why you’re staying home in the first place? I didn’t understand how that could possibly be challenging to do. Until I became a SAHM.
My strengths and weaknesses are the same, no matter where I am. Super organized in the office? You’ll probably be really organized and run a tight schedule at home. Always late to meetings? You’ll probably be late to play dates. Like to fly by the seat of your pants and wing that client presentation? You may not have a completely buttoned-up meal plan for the month, or even the week. (I’ll let you decide which of these, if any, pertain to yours truly.)
How about you? What are your thoughts about balance, regardless of whether you’re a parent balancing from inside or outside the home? What would you do differently if your “work” status changed?