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8.03.2015

My path to becoming a SAHM

Today marks my very first official day as a stay-at-home mom.

If you’ve been around here a while, you know that I’ve been dreaming about doing this for months and months. And actually, I’ve been thinking about it in my journals for years (realizing that surprised even me). C and I have been hashing out the details for ages, and it only recently became a real possibility. This is a major pivot in my journey, and I’d like to share with you how I got here.

This post is long, but I hope that my putting it all on the table will help you or someone you know who might be struggling with something similar.

EMOTIONAL STRUGGLE

I’ve been writing about the idea of staying home with kiddos in my journal for a couple of years. But I don’t think that desire became real until after Little Rabbit was born. Somewhere in the middle of my maternity leave, I started to doubt my professional ambitions. I started to think that maybe, just maybe, I really wanted to be with a squishy, babbling baby more than I wanted to be in an office. But I pushed those feelings aside and went back to work, because we needed money, dangit.

Back at the office, things started out just fine. Yes, it was a little difficult to leave LR at daycare at first, but it was a lot easier than I expected it to be. Except for the first day (when I totally fell apart for about 20 minutes), I didn’t do the whole stand-in-the-parking-lot-and-bawl thing. In fact, it felt good to put on real clothes and go somewhere I was needed for my brain.

But that easy peasy-ness didn’t last long. After a while, I started to feel this hole in my chest every time I sat down at my desk. That was all at first—just a vague sense of heaviness or emptiness. But it kept getting worse. Eventually, I was shutting my office door to cry over my keyboard. I couldn’t look at photos of LR without breaking down, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her and home, either.

Now, I would be lying if I said everything centered around missing LR. That’s the good-mom thing to say, but it’s just not true. I also had serious guilty feelings about my role in keeping our home in working condition. See, when LR arrived, C pretty much took over all of the homemaking chores. He’d always done more than his fair share, probably, but after baby he pretty much did it all on his own so I could focus on taking care of the kiddo. When I went back to work, I just let that continue. I hate cleaning and love spending time with LR, so I did just that and let C do his thing.

But even though I was consciously letting the situation stand that way, I felt horribly guilty. I wished I could be better at helping out without sacrificing any of the limited time I got to spend with LR each evening. But I was mentally and emotionally exhausted every night, I didn’t really want to clean, and C was so willing to help. So I sat with the guilt and let myself keep being selfish.

THE THINGS I FEARED

At some point I realized that I was facing some kind of crossroads in my life. I cried at work almost daily. I was letting my husband do everything on his own. And I wasn’t excited about my job anymore—I struggled to cross things off my list and was totally focused on just getting to 5:00 every afternoon. Something had to give.

Then a woman I really enjoyed working with announced that she was leaving. She’d had her own baby boy just a week or two before I returned to the office, and she was leaving to stay home with him for a while. It felt a little like getting punched in the stomach—it was possible for her, why not for me? Why couldn’t we get by on one salary? Even though I knew better than to compare my situation to someone else’s, I did, and the words “it’s not fair” ran through my head more than once. I threw myself a pity party and got pretty damn surly.

C and I had done the math at a high level a couple different times, trying to see how far away we were from one-salary survival. The deficit wasn’t small, and I was unwilling to commit to major changes (like selling our house and moving to an apartment) to make it happen. I was afraid.

I was afraid that if we moved, we’d never be able to buy another house and that LR would be embarrassed one day to tell her friends that she lived in an apartment. (It’s not as normal around here as it might be in major cities elsewhere… plus I’m a tad dramatic at times.)

I was afraid that drastically cutting our spending would mean we could never do anything fun, buy anyone a good gift, by LR the things I wanted her to have, treat ourselves, or face emergencies with any kind of confidence.

I was afraid that leaving my job to be “just a mom” would mean that I failed to live up to my potential. I graduated high school as valedictorian, after all, and went to college with a great scholarship. I was smart, ambitious, and capable of so much more. I was afraid that choosing to be home was choosing to throw all of that away. Not to mention the simple fact that leaving the workforce for a length of time would make it hard to get a good job down the line when I was ready to go back.

I was afraid that staying home was being selfish, and that C would come to resent me for it. I was worried that maybe I was wrong and it wasn’t the right choice for me—that I might come to think it was all a big mistake. I was afraid that this would destroy our individual happiness and our marriage.

SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE

Despite all of that, I knew I had to make a change. Either I needed to suck it up and embrace my career, or I needed to let it go and embrace living creatively with less. I simply couldn’t walk the middle road any more. And I knew exactly which side of the road I wanted to be on—which side of the road I felt called to. But to get there I’d need to overcome that big list of fears.

Truthfully, the things I feared were big flashing signs pointing directly to the idols in my life. I knew this, deep down, but I didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want to acknowledge that, though staying home was possible for our family (with some big changes in our way of life), I wasn’t doing it because of the material comforts I wasn’t willing to give up. I also would need to find a way to make about $100 a month, through freelancing or my photography business or my Etsy shop or the blog or any combination of the above. Totally doable based on past performance, but a risk all the same. That risk and those sacrifices… I didn’t want to commit to them.

So I hemmed and hawed instead. I talked about how impossible the change would be for our family. How I wished it could happen for us, but how it just wasn’t in the cards. I acted the martyr instead of just admitting that there were things I was prioritizing in my heart that I shouldn’t have.

Now, before you accuse me of saying that every working mom is being selfish, know that’s not what I mean at all. These were just my circumstances. I wanted to stay home. I wasn’t doing it because I wasn’t willing to sacrifice to make it happen. End of story.

So here I was, hovering on the edge of a decision. I knew what to do—what I wanted, what I felt God wanted, what was best for my family—but I still wouldn’t dive in. I stood there, held back by fear.

THE SIGN ON THE SEMI

In the meantime, our little family took a trip back to my hometown. While driving, C and I were talking about the situation, and I happened to look over as we were passing a big semi truck. On the back of the semi was a little sign that said:

“Proud supporters of GOD WILL PROVIDE [ministries, or something like that]”

Ok, not exactly that—I can’t remember what was at the end. I was too distracted by what it said in the middle. In big, bold, all-capital letters.

I’m not one to believe in coincidences. The words on the back of that truck were meant for me, and I knew it down to my core. It was time to make a decision. If I claimed to trust God, I had to act on that. I had to embrace the uncertainty, commit to working through the struggles that would come, and believe that he wouldn’t leave me hanging.

Ok, God. Let’s do this.

BIG-ASS BLESSINGS

Excuse my French here, but it’s exactly how I feel about what happened next. Not long after we made the commitment to do it—in August, after our car was paid off—C got a raise at work. One that eliminated the need for me to make $100 extra a month. One that gave us a tiny little bit more security with one income. One that could only be called a gift straight from heaven. I cried on the phone when C told me.

Friends, God is so, so good. He shows up in the middle of our lives. He blesses us with exactly what we need, when it’s right for us to have it. This piece of my journey is the best example I have. Thinking about it even now leaves me speechless, full of awe and gratitude.

COUNTDOWN

After that, the countdown was on. Every time I left work, I checked off another day in my head. Then I told my boss my plans. Then I put my files in order, turned in my office key, and walked out the door. And now, here I am, home with Little Rabbit. This is really happening.

I fully expect this to be hard. There are lifestyle changes I have to make, things to give up, new responsibilities settling on my shoulders. I expect there to be frustration at times, sadness or loneliness at others. But there’s also LR and hours and hours together. A new dynamic in our home. There is joy in that, and peace in my heart. I look forward to the ways I will be changed through this experience, the things I will learn. I open myself to a transformation of heart and mind. I don’t know that I’m really ready (are we ever?), but I am willing.

Here we go.

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