Life as I know it has evolved. There aren't many more 180 degree turns you can make in life like the one I just chose. Full-time, outside of the home, kids in daycare, 9-5 Monday to Friday working mom to 24-7, car-pool driving, playdate attending, mini-van sporting Stay-at-home mom.
There are so many misconceptions and generalizations about both of these roles, and now that I have experienced them both, I have never been more secure in my choices. I am right where I need to be right now and (all things considered) I am pretty happy.
Giving it all up has really made me take a long hard look at what kind of mother, wife, employee, friend, and woman I had been. It is reassuring actually, looking back.
Often, as a full-time working mom, you are find yourself questioning if you are doing a good job.
"Am I a good mom?"
"Am I a good employee?"
"Am I sacrificing too much?"
"Am I not sacrificing enough?"
I often found myself wondering what it would be like if you weren't working.
"Would things be easier?"
"Would my kids be happier?"
"Would I be happier?"
And now I can say:
"I know for sure."
I have seen both sides of the coin and I don't need to wonder. I was a GREAT mom. My kids were happy and well-adjusted. They had a great life with people who loved them, they had balance, routine and support. They thrived.
I was a GOOD employee. Maybe not great, but I did a damn good job. My boss was happy, my co-workers were (at least mostly) happy, my work got done and I supported my family.
Was I always happy? No. Did I sometimes question what I was doing it for? Sure. But that was mostly my insecurity talking.
If I knew then what I know now (like the tears and leg-clinging when I dropped off my 2 year old wouldn't scar her for life, or that the numerous sick days you accumulate with a germ-attracting toddler would not affect your work productively that much) maybe my happiness wouldn't have been a problem either.
So, how am I adjusting to my new found role of Stay-at-home-mom?
All things considered, great really. I am getting to do things I haven't been able to do before, like taking my kids to the local storytime at the library, spending all day in my pajamas, surprising daddy with a picnic lunch, or playing dress-up for hours on end. My weekends are no longer jammed full of family time on top of errands and chores. The pace of life has definitely slowed down. And that is okay with me.
Do I miss my life as a working mom? Sure. There are parts that I definitely miss. But am I unhappy as a Stay-at-home mom? No. Am I happier? Not really. It is different not necessarily better or worse.
But now that I have stepped away from it I realize that when and/or if I return to being a working mom, I can give myself a break. I am a good mom no matter what career path I choose. And this just happens to be the right path for me right now. I would let go of the guilt and ignore other people's judgment (both real and self-perceived.)
It is easy to condemn working moms for 'choosing their career at the expense of their family', when in fact they can have both without losing out on much of anything. It really is true that you can give 100% to both. It is possible.
And it is easy to dismiss stay-at-home moms as taking the 'easy way out' when in reality they are far from spending their days lounging around. Being at home all day can be isolating and lonely. Being with your kids 24-7 can be a draining experience that nobody should readily dismiss as having time 'to yourself.' Nothing is much further from the truth. Those kind of assumptions are a disservice to the profession of motherhood.
It is ironic that as mothers some of our toughest critics are often other mothers and even ourselves. Some of the nastiest, most judgmental comments I have heard about the choices I have made have come from my fellow mothers. (Frequently from those who have chosen one path and have never veered from it.) It is hard to not take those sentiments to heart, when in reality they are untrue and usually born from their own insecurity and self-doubt. I now believe it is easy to lose perspective when you haven't seen the other side.
So I will defend every mother's right to choose which path is right for her family. Working or staying at home. As long as you are making the choice out of love for your family, it will be the right one. Neither choice is wrong or right.
I should know, I've made both.