I’m hurrying around the kitchen fixing everybody lunch. One wants turkey — no cheese — and bread with no crust. One wants turkey and cheese, no bread. My phone vibrates. It’s an important email I really should answer right away, but I’m elbow deep in turkey and cheese and not-bread.
I’m not a working mom, but I’m technically not a stay-at-home mom, either. This is the life I chose for myself, because this is what makes me the happiest mom I can be.
Still, when someone asks if I stay at home with my children, I’m not sure how to answer. Technically, yes! I do! And I am so happy to do so. But was that question a loaded question? Are they judging me for being out of the workforce? So I quickly respond, “But I work, too!” And then their face changes. Judging again? Oh, but my work is from home, so it’s cool… I’m still home with the kids, most of the time. And their face contorts again. Oh, I must have said the wrong thing. I must be doing the wrong thing.
Except I know I’m not.
I have worked since I was 9 years old. Yep, 9. My family owns a small business, and even as a kid I couldn’t WAIT to work there. I started as a tiny 9-year-old waitress and toast maker in our little restaurant, and I graduated to the camp office and store within a few years. I worked close to full time in high school on top of my extracurricular activities and continued the pattern in college. Two days after my college graduation, I was offered my first full-time position in the city. My husband’s career in the Navy took us all over the place, and I took my work with me wherever we went. I have ALWAYS worked.
When I had my first baby, I took a year off. I had an awesome work-at-home job, but I left it after my maternity leave. My husband was at sea most of that year and I was living in a new place. I thought working would complicate things further, so I took a step back. Just before my son’s first birthday my previous boss called and asked me to take on some new remote work. I jumped at the chance. I loved that job and the autonomy it brought me while my husband was deployed. And I loved having something of my own as a new mother. It was part-time work from home, but full-time stress, and I really, really appreciated it.
When my second son was born my life turned upside down. I grossly underestimated how difficult going from one to two children would be, and I suffered extreme postpartum depression and anxiety. I left my job the day he was born, and for his first year of life tried everything to find myself in the midst of the mess. Even after overcoming PPD/PPA, I still felt totally out of control every day and truly felt I had lost myself. And then I realized what the problem was: I wasn’t working. I didn’t have that tiny piece of myself anymore. I needed to get a job.
Motherhood is my dream job, and I have never wanted to be anything other than a mother. But it doesn’t fill me up 100%. I need task-based, quantifiable work. I need to-do lists and deadlines. And, as an added benefit, I consider any work I complete as contributing to my “retirement” as a SAHM someday when my kids are grown and don’t need me home all the time.
I’m now working part time, mostly from home. I have 10,000 unfinished to-do lists and 10,000 thoughts floating through my head at any one time.
But I am happy.
I go into the office on Saturdays while my kids are home with their dad, who has continuously cheered me on in this journey to find my personal and professional identity. When I go to work, I am ready to turn that part of my brain on. When I come home or close my laptop after a quick hour of emails, I am re-charged and ready to sit on the floor with my kids and really engage with them again. I thrive when I am busy, and I am absolutely a better stay-at-home mom when I am working part-time.
And I am proud of that.
Do what works for you, mamas, and find no shame in it.