Confessions of a Work-At-Home Mom: To Work or Stay Home, That Is The Question
There was a great article printed in an edition of TulsaKids a few months back about how a group of local moms decided whether to go back to work or stay home after their babies were born.
I read that article as if it were a double bacon cheeseburger and I hadn’t eaten in two weeks.
I wrestled hard with that question myself after my son was born. It was the No. 1 toughest, most heart-wrenching decision of my life, and I was eager to read about other parents’ decision making processes and how they differed from or resembled my own.
Here’s my story: Before that fateful day when that famous spare pink line found me wide-eyed and slack-jawed in our master bathroom, I had no desire to start a family any time soon. In fact, my husband and I had talked about forgoing the whole reproduction stage of life altogether. We liked the idea of having lots of extra money and time for things like recreational vehicles, extended cross-country vacations and things like new couches every six months. To, you know, match the seasons, or whatever people who replace their couches every six months are thinking.
But there that little pink line was, and a visit to my doctor’s office confirmed the news: A baby was on the way, and it’d be here in just a few short months. Even so, several weeks passed before I started to wonder: OK, wait. Once I have this baby, who the heck is going to take care of it all day long? This totally wasn’t something we’d covered (or even mentioned) in college or in high school home ec class, this whole career/family planning balancing act.
At first I thought the solution was to move my office from the heart of downtown to my living room in south Tulsa. I’d work full time from there, I thought, even if that meant getting up early, working during nap times and working after the baby went to bed and on weekends in order to wedge and shove and shimmy my required 40 hours onto my timecard each week.
I quickly realized that, despite the generosity of my employer in allowing me to give it a shot, this “solution” was not going to work out.
Decision time had arrived. Should I enroll my son in daycare, bribe my grandmother to retire and re-employ her as my full-time nanny, or give it all up to stay at home and raise my baby full time?
After several weeks of sleepless nights (for more reason than one), bouts of crying and acute career anxiety, several visits to a therapist, dozens of budget sheets and quizzing my husband about all of the what-ifs until his eyes went bloodshot a la Natalie Portman in Black Swan, I walked into my boss’s office and announced that I couldn’t do it anymore. I handed in my two weeks’ notice.
Then, things got interesting. I wasn’t home for two weeks before a blog I’d started the year before was featured in an article in a local paper. Then, I made one of those annual top Tulsa lists of movers and shakers – certainly not how I’d ever, ever thought of myself, especially since all I thought I was doing by blogging then was passing time when I got tired of washing burp rags and reading the celebrity gossip websites.
Then my former boss wondered if I’d still be interested in writing a column. Then I was asked by another paper to write a column for them. Then a local radio station offered me a weekly spot. Then a TV station did, too. Then a statewide magazine called. And somewhere in there, my blog won a few awards. One even came with a trophy that looks like the Golden Driller.
With this slice of technology that wouldn’t have been available to me even a half decade ago, I’d sort of unwittingly worked myself back into a job. The cool part was that this time, the hours I put in were my own, and I could arrange them mostly however I wanted. Plus, if someone had a job for me that didn’t excite me, I wasn’t stuck doing it simply because my boss told me I had to – I could simply say no and move on. The drawback has always been being responsible for building my own paycheck dollar by dollar every month, but given the independence that comes with the job, which is something that I relish, it’s hard to quibble too much.
I guess that ultimately I came to the same conclusion as does Dr. Bob in Betty Casey’s article in this month’s TulsaKids about ditching the mommy guilt: Basically, that there’s no one-size-fits all solution when it comes to parenting. I think that philosophy fits the working world, too, especially for working moms and dads. Everyone has to discern and discover what works for them. For me, for this time, this blogging gig has worked.
But I’m curious: After your first child came along, how did you decide to approach earning a living, and how do you balance that with your role as caretaker? Was it a grueling decision? An easy one? Do you have any regrets? Would you have done things differently had the circumstances themselves at the time been different? How has your decision impacted your life?