The Grass Is Greener Here
Fifty years ago, almost half of all moms (49%) stayed home with their children. Today, true stay-at-home moms are pretty rare: only about 29%.
This coming May will mark 6 years since I left the so-called workforce. The longer I’m away, the more distant the memory becomes. I have had 6 years to reflect on my decision to leave, and overall, I am glad I quit my job to stay home with my kids. I was so scared to quit, though. JW and I were engaged, and he was deployed until the week before we got married. He and I talked about what we would do as far as me continuing to work. JW made a lot more money than I did, and Harry and I were planning to move from the house my mother owned (but did not live in) to the house JW lived in with Chandler and Reagan. We lived about an hour away from each other, and my office was pretty close to my house. I knew that when we got married, I’d be looking at an hour commute for not very much pay, plus the stress of the kids being in daycare (they were 2, 2, and 3 years old back then).
I was just a medical secretary, but I was proud of my job. I graduated from college in 2008, 3 months pregnant and right as the economy was crashing. Talk about bad timing! It took me over a year to find a job. I applied for at least 50 job: jobs I was qualified for, over-qualified for, under-qualified for, some not doing anything I was remotely interested in, and plenty of offers for “business opportunities” (aka scams). I finally got a job working at a hospital as a secretary. The job was only on an as-needed basis until I could secure a permanent job in one of the offices I was temping in.
I did get a permanent position and worked from September 2009 until May 19, 2011. On my last day, I left work and went straight to the airport to pick JW up. We applied for the marriage license the next morning, waited 72 hours and were married 3 days later on May 23, 2011. I had been terrified to put in my 2 week’s notice. JW and I talked about all the options, and I kept asking “are you sure?” because I knew how hard I had fought to get that job and how hard it would be to find another one if I quit. JW didn’t understand this because he had been in the military for 12 years at that point.
When I was growing up, both of my parents worked. I was a latchkey kid from about age 9. We had dinner together most nights, but I relied on friends’ moms to take me to Girl Scouts and gymnastics. I walked to piano lessons. I ate Little Debbie’s in the afternoon while watching Saved By The Bell, Full House, The Real World, and (most importantly) Beverly Hills 90210. I stuffed the Swiss Cake Roll wrappers in between the couch cushions. I secretly shaved my legs. I went in AOL chatrooms. I mixed up peanut butter with chocolate chips and ate it straight out of the bowl. I basically did whatever I wanted until my father got home from work.
I always got the feeling that stay-at-home moms weren’t worth as much as moms who worked outside the home. I don’t know if it was explicitly said by my parents, or if it was just implied. Three of my four childhood best friends had moms who stayed home, and I was always so jealous! I loved going to their houses after school. Their moms had snacks for us and would check in on us periodically as we were listening to music or doing makeup or whatever. There was something comforting about going to a non-empty house in the afternoon.
Most days I love being a stay-at-home mom! I love it for the reasons I wished I had a stay-at-home mom when I was a kid. I like welcoming my kids home from school, having a snack ready for them, and being there while they wind down and then start their homework. I like that I’m there to ask questions. I like that we can have a home cooked dinner every night at 6 because I’m always here to make it. Not only that, but JW’s life is less stressful because he doesn’t have to worry about making dinner. Chores that, in my childhood, would have been left to the weekend, I can do during the day when everyone’s gone. Then our weekends are free so we can truly relax together. I feel lucky to have a partner who earns enough so I don’t have to work.
But some days I wish I did still work. I know it will be really hard to return to the workforce, each passing year marks another year I’ve been gone from it, a bigger gap to account for on a resume. Do I say I spent six years vacuuming, changing diapers, and baking cookies? I don’t know.
From time to time, I’ve gotten catty remarks from other moms who work –comments to suggest I’m spoiled. I sense jealousy, and my instinct is to get defensive. But really, they’re feeling the same thing I do when I think about returning to the workforce. Every time I consider returning to work, I know there’s someone else who wishes they were a stay-at-home mom.
I could spend my days being jealous or defending my choice, but I try to have compassion because sometimes we all want what we don’t have. Everyone has days where the grass seems greener on the other side. I imagine that the women who get a little catty are just having one of those days because I also have those days.
I think about where I might be in my career 6 years later, had I continued working. But why? I made my choice, and for now, this is my path. I think returning to the workforce would be just as hard as leaving it. I’m sure I will someday, hopefully doing something I love, possibly food-related. But it’s not even on the horizon right now.
So what’s the best thing to do? For me, it’s to revel in my choices. I’m a stay-at-home mom! I am a badass in the kitchen. I get to take my kids to the pool every day during the summer. I am always available to help with homework. I get to see all of Beau’s firsts. I’ll probably never be a six-figure earner or maybe never even a manager, but I’m glad there are women who are those things because the world needs both of us.
PS: This is my 100th post!