Leaving my career behind to raise my children was not an easy decision to make. I’d spent my entire adult life working in the same industry, climbing as far up the ladder as I could. After becoming a mom, I imagined how nice it would be to see all the firsts, and be the one taking care them all day. All other factors aside, I thought the “job” of being a SAHM would be so much easier, and way more fun than dealing with disgruntled clients or a missed deadline. It wasn’t until I became pregnant with our third child that the option became real. We had a decision to make before this baby arrived. My husband’s job was good, but childcare and summer camp is expensive. Multiplied times three, the cost was damn near a mortgage payment. We had to consider it.
Along the path of transition into my new role, there were things I wasn’t expecting. Feelings and emotions, that I was not prepared for.
Where’s the warm, fuzzy feeling?
Once we made the decision that I was going to be a SAHM, I expected to feel happy and blissful, like I was on top of the world. Instead, I felt anxious and overwhelmed. I thought the moment I could be a SAHM, I would be packing my desk and running out the door. But you see, I did not win the lottery or suddenly become rich. This is real life. I’m considering eliminating the one thing I know I’m good at doing, and my income. The process of making the decision was slow and intentional. My husband and I had spreadsheets, ran all the financial scenarios, and had many long discussions. For five months we did this because we wanted to make the decision that would be best for our family. It wasn’t about what I wanted, it was about what would be best for the children and our family as a whole. I never considered the social and personal impact this would have on me. I had no SAHM friends to counsel me on the reality of being the primary caregiver. I was blind to what was in store.
After the decision was made, I had to deal with the emotions of leaving my career. I needed to work through the remainder of my pregnancy, so I chose not to say anything until it was time to resign. This was hard to do, especially with the ladies that I was closest to in the office. As I went on with my daily work, I would think, “this will be the last time I renew this client”, or “the last meeting I go to with this person”. Looking back, these thoughts were the first signs of just how connected I was to my professional identity and the difficulties I would endure in this area. I didn’t catch it. If I’m being honest, even if I had caught it, I probably would blamed it on pregnancy hormones, and swept it under the rug.
The devil attacked and depression set in.
In the immediate days after the baby was born, things were exciting. But, I knew it was coming, I could feel depression closing in. At first, the feelings were minimal and I attributed it to lack of sleep and hormones. The second week after the birth, he went back to work, and I was completely on my own. I constantly compared myself to other moms. If they could do it, why can’t I? I was sad, and then I would be mad because I was sad. Sounds crazy, but it’s what your mind does crazy things when you are depressed. I beat myself up because I had three healthy children, a husband that provides, a house, etc. How shameful of me to be sad. I had no right. The mom who lost a child has that right. The woman who longs for a child has that right. Not me. As time went on, the depression gained a stronger foothold. I felt alone, and it was all I could do to get through the day-to-day. I didn’t feel like getting dressed and going out, but I would force myself to for the sake of the kids. I had no interest in seeing people; when I did, I would pretend everything was great. In reality, I just wanted it to be bedtime so I could go to sleep. I couldn’t keep up with the laundry or any of the chores. It was all I could do to keep the home in a sanitary and livable status. I felt sorry for my husband, who probably thought he was coming home to dinner on the table and a clean house, because that never happened. I felt sorry for my kids because they probably thought they would have a mom that wanted to make crafts and go to the park to play, and that rarely happened. How do all these “other moms” keep it all together without going batshit crazy like me? Why was I the only one seemingly falling apart? For the first time in my life, I felt like I was bad at my job.
I missed feeling like I accomplished something.
It’s hard to feel intellectual when the majority of your time is spent watching Disney channel or singing ABCs. I missed feeling smart and important. While being a parent is the most important role I’ll ever have, the gratification is not immediate. No one pats you on the back and says “good job changing that diaper”. The gratification comes later on for parents, when our children display good values and become productive members of society. The shock of this new SAHM role was difficult for me to digest. I believe that I had such a vivid picture in mind of what my life would be like; and, anything that didn’t fall in line with that picture was wrong. I set the standards that I failed to meet. I was my own worst enemy and it took me a long time to see that.
Humbling trials build strong walls.
I’ve been on the job for nearly two years now and I’m still married, and all of the kids are still alive and well (accomplishment #1 — patting myself on the back). I’m learning to accept that I will never be that perfect SAHM that I pictured and compared myself to for so long. She doesn’t exist. I’m still an introvert, and my house is noticeably occupied by children (please call before you come over so I can shove things into closets and close all the bedroom doors). I’m working a small amount from home, which gives me a sense of accomplishment on a professional level and has helped me feel a little like the old me. By far, the best decision I have made was to grow in Christ. I joined a small group at church, a church I’ve been attending since 2010. It took me all these years, but I finally did it and I’m so glad I did. These ladies gave me back the camaraderie and friendships that I was missing. The spiritual growth has helped me deal with life from a new perspective, and it’s looking a little better each day.
When I look back on where I was and where I am now, I believe I am a better person. There is something about being humbled that gives you more compassion and understanding. Before this experience, I only had the opinion of a person that worked 40 hours a week, and thought staying home with the kids would be a breeze. I have now gained the perspective of a full-time mom, and had to fight the feelings of envy towards my husband because he gets 2 hours of quiet time during his hour-long commute each way. I truly have been on both sides of the fence. The grass isn’t really greener on either side. The key is that you must include your needs into the decision-making process. When you’re on an airplane, the attendant gives instructions for an emergency event. They tell you to put on your oxygen mask first, then help others near you. Momma, you can’t take care of others unless your taking care of yourself.