I cried in bed the night before I started my new job. Although my kids were sleeping just down the hall, I missed them with every single cell in my body. One more day. One more day to stay home with them. I wanted one more day of dropping my daughter off at the bus. I wanted one more day of running errands with my toddler. I wanted one more day of getting them ready in the morning. I wanted one more day of them.
I taught high school for three years, and my contract ended a few months before I was due with my second child. I no longer wanted to jump from contact to contract and, instead, decided to hold out for something full-time. I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. My son was born in April and I figured I would stay home for a few months until the school year was close, and then I’d start working again. When nothing but short-term gigs came up, I realized my time staying at home would probably be longer than I had anticipated. The husband and I decided we could make ends meet until I found something stable. A year. A year was my goal. I would stay home for a year.
Everyone has feelings about moms working at home vs. working outside of the house. Everyone has feelings about what’s “better” or what’s “harder.” Well, I felt stifled, confined, and smothered at home. Deprived of my identity.
We all take on different identities depending on where we are in life.
Becoming a mother is part of my identity. Just a part; not all of me.
Motherhood is only a subset of who I am; but I am my own person. I don’t introduce myself as “Mom”; I introduce myself as “Diana,” or “Dina.” My identity embodies so much more than “mom.” I am passionate about human rights, politics, education, social issues, love, loss, empathy.
I am a writer. I am a teacher. I am a friend, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a partner, a confidant. I’m a fighter and an advocate. I am stubborn, opinionated, irritable, and sometimes (but, hardly ever) wrong.
Staying at home, forced me to take on much more of the “mom” identity than I wanted to. I don’t apologize for feeling how I feel. I am not worried that someone will read this and think I’m a bad mom; I know the kind of mom I am. I am secure in that. But, I also know that I’m not “just” a mom. I am a woman. I am someone who likes to be challenged intellectually. I enjoy interacting with other adults and talking to them about more than just feeding schedules, and nap times, and potty training, and school lunches, and homework, and enrichment activities. Staying at home full time was never for me. I constantly felt disengaged. I felt as though I didn’t contribute enough to the family because I didn’t bring anything in financially. I felt unworthy of my place. My days were a never-ending cycle of cleaning, cooking, laundry, feeding, cleaning, cooking, laundry. It wasn’t enough. It couldn’t continue. I needed more. And, hey, maybe other moms have more help, or less stress, or just take a lot more in stride. I definitely created my own version based on my circumstance.
Yet, the night before I went back to work, I cried in bed. No matter how much I wanted to be out in the world, no matter how much I wanted to have a purpose beyond diapers and baby food, my mind couldn’t get past not being around my kids most of the day. But, after working for only a week, the feelings of sadness and guilt that once flooded my soul dissipated. My identity thrived and I now revel in a world full of commuting, and meetings, and deadlines, and coworkers.
Do I ever miss staying at home? Not entirely. I was miserable. I do, however, miss certain luxuries. I miss not being able to come to my daughter’s school and read to her class. I am sometimes sad I can’t attend holiday parties, and fundraisers, and other activities at the school that are held during the work day. Sometimes I am angry I can’t be there; I feel like it’s not fair to those of us who work. But, working is my choice. Working makes me happy. So, at the end of the day, I am happy I get to do something with myself other than cleaning and cooking and laundry. I am happy to have me back.
Staying at home changed my perspective. I realised I wanted to be with my family more than I had been in the past, but not all of the time. I decided I didn’t want to spend every minute of my day grading, and planning, and being unavailable. That experience changed me and it changed my outlook on family and work. I knew I had to find balance, and I think I have.
I’m a huge advocate of doing what makes you happy. Does staying at home with your babies make you happy? Awesome! Working outside of the house makes you happy? Do it. I never understood the whole stay-at-home mom vs. working mom debate. Do whatever makes you feel like a person. Do whatever makes you feel fulfilled. Find a balance. Find your identity. Figure yourself out and be happy with who you are.