Making the Decision to Become a Stay at Home Mom and All That Goes Into It
Written by Caitlin Richmond
I remember the day Eric and I talked about me quitting my job and staying home with the girls as if it just happened this morning. He had been out with Camilla and when they came home the first thing he said when they walked in the door was “I’ve been thinking more and what if you stayed home with the girls?” My brain went in a thousand different directions. I was legitimately speechless and started crying. The tears were probably in large part due to the fact that Vivienne was about 1 month old and my lovely hormones were all over the place like a toddler after some fabulous, sugar filled cupcakes. Eric took one look at me (got me some Kleenex) and said “maybe let’s talk about this more later tonight.”
We talked through the many thoughts running through our heads…different factors, our personal worries/fears, how our home life dynamic might shift, how I would feel leaving the corporate world and so many other things I won’t bore you writing them down here. The one thing we agreed on and kept going back to after each thought was the big picture–is this better for Camilla and her development? We knew we wanted her to have more one-on-one attention throughout her whole day to be able to really work on the things she works on in her therapies and keep the momentum going on her progress. The daycare she was attending was wonderful and they really went above and beyond to make sure Millie was moving along with her peers, her current skills were being developed and honed and she was included in all activities regardless of where she was at in her development. Her teachers were/are absolutely wonderful!! However, we weren’t oblivious to the fact that there were 7 other kids in her room and that one-on-one attention just wasn’t feasible throughout the entire day. The fact that her teachers and school cared for her so much and really wanted to help as best they could definitely played into making this a very tough decision!
After a few hours of talking we sort of put the idea to the side since I was just starting my maternity leave and we were in the middle of a major life change with a newborn and a toddler. During our conversation, Eric had lots of good input but said at the end of the day it is really my decision because I was going to go through the biggest shift and change. I had been at my company for over 5 years at that time, enjoyed what I was doing and LOVED the people I worked with. I had also moved my way up in the company and had experienced some pretty big stuff with my coworkers (both professionally and personally). I had also been working since I was 14 (albeit part time jobs when I was younger) so it would be a huge mind shift in a number of ways.
I am not one to stress easily but let me tell you this idea was always “on” in my head, sometimes hanging out at the back of my brain and other days right there as a main focus. So I was mentally going over ALL THE THINGS that related to this decision constantly. My thoughts ranged from “What if I’m horrible at the whole stay at home thing and the girls learn nothing?!” “Will we run out of things to do by day 3?” “Will I forget how to talk to anyone other than a toddler?” to the more serious “Will I be okay not financially contributing to our family?” “Will I be okay walking away from my comp/bonus checks?” “Will I start to feel like I’ve lost my identity outside of being a mom?” “What if I hate being at home all the time and miss going into an office?” “Will my brain not be challenged and lose some edge?” “Will I be seen as un-hireable in the future?”
I knew in my heart the big picture was Camilla and Vivienne…their development (especially Millie’s), helping to keep the momentum and progress from therapy going strong by working one-on-one, taking some stress out of scheduling doctor and therapy appointments on the fly sometimes without having to juggle work schedules…It also didn’t help that anytime we were out and about someone stopped me and said “Cherish these times while they are so little” or “It feels like forever ago when my kids were that young.” It’s like the universe was playing a cruel mind game! I was also feeling that this time around it was a lot tougher to have the full excitement about returning to work then I had after Camilla. I don’t know if it was different because we had two babes now, or that Millie was an interactive toddler, or those plus a few other things.
As I went over (a million times) in my head all the factors for both decisions there were a few thoughts that were constant. I knew I could always go back to work down the road; I was in a Client Management/Sales role so would there possibly be new tactics to learn in the future…yes. Was it a job I needed to be up-to-date on the latest procedures, laws, rules or license?…No. So this wasn’t a role that would be generally difficult to return to should I want to in the future.
Fast forward a few months and I thought I had made my decision – I was going to quit my job and stay at home with the girls. But then there was the thought that I should probably return to work to really make sure this was the decision I wanted given I was making my decision while on maternity leave. Once I was back in the work groove, I was loving being back and feeling I had a handle on all the personal life things. That feeling of having it all under control quickly faded, and I just knew the stress that was building up wasn’t going to dissipate at any point. I started rethinking all my past internal (and some external) conversations over the previous months. Like I said earlier I don’t stress easily so this was definitely a gut check.
Spoiler alert – I ended up quitting my job! When I gave my resignation, the idea to work part time for a few months was mentioned to give time to backfill my position. I would still have flexibility to be home with the girls and I wouldn’t be leaving my team completely high and dry, so I said yes. This all seemed like a great plan and everyone was happy….and then COVID and quarantine happened.
I know that a majority of us had a major change in our work life with quarantine and I also know I’m very lucky to have been able to voluntarily walk away from my job during a pandemic. But it was such a weird way to end my corporate working life. On my last day I closed my work laptop, put it on the dining room table and walked into the kitchen where my husband had a bottle of champagne waiting to cheers my “retirement.”
I didn’t get to clean out my desk instead one of the loveliest ladies I know named Mary did and a coworker dropped off a box of my things. What a weird feeling to be handed your work life of 5+ years in a cardboard box on your front porch. I had to say goodbye to my coworkers/friends via Slack…no hugs, high fives or drinks on that last day. It was just a surreal way to end such a huge chapter in my life, but at the same time almost the perfect way to start that next huge chapter of my life. I ended my last day at home which would become my new “office;” and I went to go have a drink (milk and champs appropriately) with the gals (and Eric). It was fitting, because they were kind of like my new officemates to catch up and gossip with, take a few coffee/milk breaks throughout the day and learn/grow together, and help each other as we navigated what was being thrown at us on a daily basis.
I’ve learned so much from so many people and experiences in my corporate working life; however there are some people who have just stuck with me over the years. Their attributes, lessons they’ve probably unknowingly taught and overall attitude towards situations have stayed with me as I’ve changed companies and even industries. As I type this I probably should reach out and let some of them know what an impact they’ve had on me. I will continue to carry these things I’ve learned with me as I move into a new role, as I believe that your business and personal worlds have a lot of overlapping aspects. It’s so cliche to say but at the end of the day we all put our pants on one leg at a time…and if that’s not you, what the hell is your secret?!?
It’s such a tricky thing when you get that title of parent because there is no training manual or on-boarding sessions to ease you into your new role. But I’ve quickly learned one thing, you have to trust your gut when it comes to your children.
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