fbpx

Why I Do What I Do.

DoWhatIDoThe stay-at-home mom is an enigmatic creature. Often spotted wearing her workout clothes with dried sweat providing the perfect accent to her already un-coiffed locks, she runs, walks, rolls from drop-off to yoga to field trip to lunchroom duty to the park to nap time-to snack-time to pick-up to swim lesson to home to bed and then starts it all of again. The stay-at-home mom’s (“SAHM”) car is a command center of sorts, equipped with baby wipes, snacks, books, blankets, strollers, and copious amounts of hand sanitizer. She is a Jane of all trades – hairdresser, short-order cook, amateur seamstress, tutor, nurse, and more. But why does the SAHM do what she does?

In my years since graduation, I have worked full-time with no children, and I have worked part-time with children. For the past year, I have taken a step back and been a SAHM. Even when I worked part-time, I was a SAHM from the world’s perspective as I was a sneaky, secret lawyer, who worked almost exclusively from home. I was more likely to run into my law school classmates at the park or grocery store than at a courthouse or conference room. I have experienced different iterations of work-home balance, and the juxtaposition has been interesting.

So why have I chosen the life I lead? For me, constantly straddling the line between career and family was exhausting. Granted, the exhaustion was at least partially caused by my approach. I tried to squeeze a part-time job into a full-time mom schedule. The most childcare I ever had was six hours/week, but I typically worked twenty to thirty hours. Ill-advised. I frequently felt pulled and peevish, constantly calculating how many hours I could bill in the p.m. if my children went to bed promptly at 7:30 and feeling flustered anytime an activity exceeded its time slot or a nap was unexpectedly cut short. It was not a winning formula. I was never entirely focused on either my work or my children.

By comparison, for the past year, I have felt relatively relaxed. I have been able to be a more purposeful parent – planning out activities and meals and goals. I have come from a place of yes with my kids – yes I’m available to volunteer more frequently at school, yes I’m available to linger at the park a little longer, yes I’m available to read that book. For me, it has been a slow and refreshing exhale.

So I think the answer to my own question is that I choose this life because it is my choice. Each of us has to live the life most-suited to our unique circumstances. Right now, my children have a lot of needs. We have moved on from the days of learning to eat and sleep and walk and talk.

But each of my children is at a pivotal time in her life. My three-year-old is currently experiencing her first year of part-time preschool and is learning how to interact with others, follow school rules, and respect teachers. She is also at an age with a long list of things she’s learning – numbers, letters, phonics, writing, bike-riding – the list is staggering. My six-year-old is facing an entirely different set of challenges this year as she navigates kindergarten. It is amazing the social challenges she is already encountering – peer pressure, name calling, gossip. It boggles the mind how early these tiny girls are called upon to stand up for themselves and their beliefs.

At this exact time in their lives, I feel extremely lucky to be able to be available to them. It is a luxury to be both the first one to talk to them after school and the last voice they hear beforehand. When I was working part-time as a lawyer, my mentor, who had recently made partner, retired from law firm life, at least temporarily. When she called to tell me the news, she explained that she wanted to be around enough to have a chance to influence her kids while they were still young enough to be influenced. At the time, having no school-aged kids, I’m not sure I got it. But now I do.

My decision has included sacrifices. I do not think any mother, or at least most mothers, is totally satisfied with the balance in her life. I truly believe there is no perfect formula of how to balance your own life with those of your children. In my case, I do recognize that I am shutting off a side of myself. As a lawyer, I felt intellectually challenged most days and felt a healthy fear attributable to constantly being pushed out of my comfort zone. On a more basic level, I talked to adults everyday about adult topics whilst wearing adult clothing. As a mother, I also feel intellectually challenged but more in a “how can I avoid screwing up my kids” way. But in contrast to my lawyer days, I feel very much in my comfort zone. Admittedly, I do feel pangs of insecurity related to losing the feeling respect that came with having a defined profession. Reciting “I stay at home with my kids” does not always garner instant respect. I have seen former law school classmates address all professional conversation to my husband, and I have endured comments from friends about how they could never be “fulfilled” by only being a mom.

But, ultimately, I am the one who must be comfortable with my decision. I do ask myself occasionally if I am fulfilled, and I find I am not sure what that word means. Does it mean satisfied? Happy? Challenged? Because I can say that I feel all of those things everyday. I don’t feel them every minute of each day, and some days, those feelings are more fleeting than others (stomach bug and temper tantrum days, I’m looking at you). In moments of reflection, I mostly feel grateful to have the opportunity to choose. In a life where I may not always be afforded this time with and influence over my kids, I try to measure my happiness in seconds as I watch them quickly slip away.

, , , , ,

7 Responses to Why I Do What I Do.

  1. Avatar
    Patty Rankin February 20, 2015 at 10:00 am #

    Jamie,

    Bravo! I love this statement you made, “I do not think any mother, or at least most mothers, is totally satisfied with the balance in her life. I truly believe there is no perfect formula of how to balance your own life with those of your children.” It was life changing for me when my mom became a SAHM during my middle school and high school years. It was life changing for my kids when I became a SAHM when my kids were in middle school and high school. Love this post.

    Patty

  2. Avatar
    Renee Pascale February 20, 2015 at 10:40 pm #

    love this- you are a brave girl to put your career on hold to be with your little ones- the rewards are immeasurable- the memories of these precious times shared will stay with you as they grow into women. Good for you- your children are so lucky that you are their mom!

  3. Avatar
    Sarah February 23, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    I would love to see more blog posts written by moms who choose to work outside the home and do not regret it. I’ve read so many posts lately focused on the SAHM and the sacrifices she makes for her family, etc. I support these mothers and their choices, but also know that having mothers in the work force (especially at the top of the ladder) helps all of society. Returning to work, I have such empathy for what women choosing to work in the 60s and 70s did to set the path for those of us working today. There is still so much to be done to improve employment for working mothers (and fathers), but having mothers choose to work and fight that fight is one step in the right direction. It’s really challenging having a four month old son at work and returning to work full-time as a first-time mom, but I am excited about the impact I have on society through my work (and the opportunity I have to teach my son about the value of women working outside the home through my example).

    • Avatar
      Sarah February 23, 2015 at 9:49 am #

      that should say home. 🙂
      It’s really challenging having a four month old son at HOME and returning to work full-time as a first-time mom,

    • Avatar
      Jamie Shouse February 23, 2015 at 2:59 pm #

      I absolutely think that working moms have value, especially since I have been one myself into very recently. For me, being a working mom was harder than being a stay at home mom. The point of my blog was not that I feel like being a SAHM is the right decision for everyone or that I’m sacrificing myself for some greater good. The point I was trying to make was how I arrived at this decision and that each woman must make the decision that is right for her unique circumstances. And I definitely think working moms contribute to society, as do SAHM.

Leave a Reply