In January I had this thought: “I’m so unhappy. Maybe I should get a full-time, out-of-the-house job again.”
I was feeling done with taking care of a baby. Probably because I had been done.
Mothers are supposed to have rainbows shooting out of their hearts when it comes to their babies.
We all know parenthood is hard, but we talk about it being hard in a stoic martyrdom sort of way. It can be hard in a stark and scary way. As I said back in January, “I feel like [the baby] took a vibrant, passionate woman and turned her into a listless baby Sherpa.” (More on babies being adorable and annoying here.)
Things that were becoming more and more within range as the boys grew—professional aspirations, success tied to discrete goals, creative paid work—these things were blown out of reach like a plastic bag on a gust of wind.
“You don’t have to do this baby the same way as the boys,” my therapist said. She was right, of course. But it’s hard to wrap my head around having been a great stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) for K-Pants and Boy Woww, and feeling dread about doing the same thing for the baby.
I remember reading parenting books when I was pregnant with K-Pants that gently warned that husbands may not really enjoy parenting until the baby turned five or so—when regular-people activities started to overtake the Savannah-to-the-Sea insanity of infancy and toddlerhood. What about moms? Apparently we love to play peek-a-boo and go to Gymboree and clean up crushed Cheerios—and we just wait for the dads to catch up.
Maternal instincts. Biological clocks. These paints do not produce the same colors on every canvas, and we’re not good at acknowledging that.
So here I was in January, thinking about getting a full-time, out-of-the-house job again.
It didn’t quite feel right for me, but I wasn’t sure why. So I made a list of things in my life that give me purpose and joy and make me feel like I’m living into my values: walking the boys to-and-from school, working with clients on writing and editing projects, writing my blog, meeting my grandma for lunch, planning my permaculture garden, tromping around in nature, volunteering for kindergarten reading, and seeing close friends.
After I made the list, I noticed something: the baby was a very peripheral figure in all of it. I love having a flexible schedule to absorb our family’s bumps and turns, but I’m suffocated by baby care.
I decided a full-time, out-of-the-house job wouldn’t be a good fit. Instead, I needed to maintain and build my freelance work in order to have the professional life I crave and the family time I love. And that means more babysitting time for the Fairy Pig, and less baby care for me. (Shout out here to our babysitter Sue: Thank you.)
I’ve been really excited lately when girlfriends make the choice to go back to full-time, outside-of-the-house work after taking time off. I also love seeing girlfriends who love being SAHMs in all its beauty and grit. There’s no right choice or easy path. Knowing what’s right for you and your family—and being able to act on it—is a gift.
So I’m transitioning from being a SAHM with a writing addiction to a WAHM with a sometime baby sidekick. It’s the right choice for us.