Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Risk (and Gain) of My 1st Year as SAHM

It was this time last year I walked away from my job as a teacher. I grabbed the last few items from my classroom: my portfolio bag, a fake magenta flower arrangement, and a few thank you notes I scrawled last minute to people I hated to leave. I turned in my keys and cried like I was some super hormonal woman overstuffed with babies. Because I was.

If there is something I want to write more about, it’s about being a woman.  If there are things I’ve been avoiding writing about, it’s some things about being a woman. Being a mom. Working. Or “working”. Gender differences. Wanting more kids. Not wanting more kids. Dressing for stretch marks and love handles.. And despite so many of us aware it doesn’t have to be a versus situation with all those priorities most important (schooling, feeding, working, etc.), it still feels like it.

I’ve been at home a year and I’ve found a few great mommy friends that aren’t scared enough by my methods of motherhood (which recently did not exclude hosing down my 4 year old’s naked butt in the backyard with my guests an earshot away) to stop coming over. I love them. I’m so glad to have them for companionship. Sometimes, though, I think of how I don’t quite fit. It wasn’t long ago I was giving them the raised eyebrow. Not them exactly….just all women working (in bunny ears)( and maybe even literally in bunny ears since I've now come to find myself in a host of ridiculous get-ups to buy time) at home.

To my stay-at-home-mom friends, I’m happy to extol the virtue of extended breastfeeding (or what I’ve come to intimately appreciate as lazy parenting) and the tenets of classical education.

To my working friends, I’m happy to pretend that my absence from teaching is akin to stepping out to get some air. In this case, air defined as an unprecedented amount of yelling and crying. Me, not the kids.

A litmus test for my personality is in digesting this statement I will now make on leaving the workforce:

It was, and continues to be, the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

Oh, I know, I know. You’re thinking, wow, that’s pretty lame. And I totally agree, but hear me out.

After you look at my cuties for one teensy second...

1st, there was a loss of half of 100,000, give or take several thousand (but definitely take). And I would care about that being private information except that’s it’s not because I was a public school teacher and I know people would look it up anyway, so I thought I would save them the trouble. Just kidding. You would all just guess that I made crap.  But it wouldn’t matter how well you are off or how much you love the home or your kids, if you aren’t freaked out by losing that kind of money, I just can’t understand. Because I’m evil or something? Moving on.

2nd, there was parenting.  As a working mom, it was easy for me to divert my attention away from my faults as a mom.  I know multitudes of wonderful mothers who are clearly in the captain’s seat despite being away for their 40 (or 50 or 60) hours. I was not one of them.  I rode on the coattails of the daytime care givers. He learned to use a fork? Awesome. You taught him to say thank you? Great! On most days you would have found me in a quiet school (because other mothers had already flung their door shut to snatch up their littles and not miss one more minute) hunched over my desk grading essays like my life depended on one. more. comment. Every one of my teacher evaluations deemed me competent. Almost every one of my experiences disciplining my firstborn deemed me either a. incompetent or b. in a catatonic state.

After a few months at home and some time after the twins were born, I found there was even more to fear.  How a home is ten layers of quiet that is normally okay or great to think in but can cut deep on a bad day.  How my heart shouldn’t rise and fall on my husband’s praise, but it often does because the rest of my conversations bob between comical and illogical musings of a 4 year old.  How it feels to get no more than two consecutive hours of sleep for three months and yet work in close proximity to three beds, two couches, and a dining table that would do just fine. How doing what you believe in is sometimes no fun at all and instead of it being no fun at all with a laughing co-worker, it’s just no fun at all. How not showering in 72 hours feels like you haven’t died of stench and wow, showering after 3 days feels like I just visited a spa...maybe I’ll try this again but not admit that to anyone!. How I’m watering my irrelevancy every time I snuggle up to Thomas and giggle over a few chapters about Ralph S. Mouse or Annie and Jack or Danny and Josh or Christopher Robin or Charlie because my comrades have been reduced to:

a.) People small enough I’m in charge of wiping their butts
b.) Characters in children’s novels
c.) Stay at home moms who have yet to figure out that I’m an imposter

A couple months ago, I went out for a birthday party for a friend I worked with last year. There was some “work talk” at the table. A lot of it. There were also drinks at the table. This combination, in excess (and maybe just the drink part), later culminated to something of a horror scene where I shot up in bed at 3 am to a baby crying in the other room and me with eyes wide open and internally yelling, as if shocked awake from some nightmare, “OH MY GOSH. I’M JOBLESS!!!”

See, even if I was the best mom (hahahahaha, that’s ripe) and we were filthy rich (Richie Rich times three, to be exact), I would still be pretty much freaked out about being off the grid.

One of the cornerstones of my personality is that I’m terrified of risk.  Absolutely terrified. I have to quell panic attacks when people share photos of a tattoo they just got because I’m thinking, Are you sure about that? Oh my gosh, you are sure. Of course you’re sure; you just got it. This is real and already there so I should say something and stop staring. Am I smiling?  Did I say something? Oh wait, I'm staring at Facebook... I’m so terrified of risk that when other people take risks I put on the burden of being terrified for them which is probably good because a lot of you look just fine, if not downright joyful, about the risks you take.  

Leaving the workforce was completely uncharacterisic of me. The only thing as uncharacteristic would be me being a mom...which I am...to three.  So, leaving the workforce to be nothing but mom served up what should have been epic disaster. Oh, and it did. But not like what I mean. There’s been so much nursing and so little showering---that kind of stinky disaster--yes!. But not the identity struggle I anticipated.

Me before the black hole of jumping to SAHMing it:

Outgoing? Nope.
Visionary? Woah. NO. No. No.
Extrovert? Nope.
Leader? Hahahahahahaha.
Nurturing? Hell no. Never been.
Selfless? <silence>
Risk-taker? You’re drunk. Go home.

Here I am, at home, being very much different than what I thought I was.  I’m assertive, decisive, and quick to act. I’m drawing boundaries (aka saying no) with others and teaching my son to respect me and his dad. I’m actively searching for and nurturing friendships. I’m laughing more as I loosen my grip and need for control.  I’m feeling good about being a mom (and I didn’t for a very long time which makes me very sad for time lost feeling crappy). And I’m falling in love all over again with Paul because that’s vulnerability which is risky and I know risky because I quit my job to just be a mom.

I’m so grateful for this past year. Just like any other job, I’ve learned a lot the hard way--that’s H as in hell, heckling, hurl, and hurt. I don’t know how long I get to stay at home or what’s ahead to discover this year. For now, my take away, other than a home and family pretty happy and healthy, is that I loved diving into something scary and finding I’m so much more than the labels I saw as absolutes.  There is no price to put on the freedom of breaking those illusions. 

But if there was a price, I would say it would be half of 100,000 give or take several thousand (but definitely take).


  1. I so enjoy following your adventure in SAHM-ing...as I navigate my own over here. Cheers to being a mom, the job I never could have predicted I needed so badly!

    1. What a perfect way to say it, Danielle! That's exactly right. I was trying to be cheeky with that idea in the post. I know that my service is needed here and that it's tough, but I also know that I have gained some things I didn't expect.

  2. Girl, I love the way you write. So, ditto what Danielle said.

    And.... I'll just take the liberty of adding one more H-is-for to your list: humbling. Dang me if this stay-at-home-mothering gig isn't humbling as heck. And maybe even a little (a LOT) humiliating? I mean, I've gotten actual poop on my hand. Given myself a baby wipe bath and called it good enough. Cried, multiple times, over things as silly as running out of milk or breaking a wine glass. Gained an obscene amount of postpartum weight (yes, lost the baby weight and then gained 10 pounds of stress-eating cookie weight). Felt helpless. (Another H word).

    But, like you, I'm growing my sea legs and getting quite accustomed to just rolllllling with it. It's not my personality to do that, but I have to! And God knows that it's beyond good for me to loosen my vice grip on the illusion of control.

    Take care! Happy mothering.

    1. Girl, I love the way you comment. Really! No seriously, every single thing you said---me too!! The cookie dough and crying over random things and being humiliated. I'm right there with you!

      You struggle with control too? I've just been coming to terms with this for me over the past few months. It's been eye-opening.

      So excited to "meet" you. :)

  3. Nice to virtually meet you Ashley! I can relate the fears you have about leaving the workforce. I am not fully a SAHM but I went from working full time for years down to part time a year ago. I have two little two and under. Becoming mostly stay at home mom, slashing our income, that was all scary at first. But this switch to part time (not
    My choosing, my hours were cut) has
    been such a blessing. I love being at home most of the time, and then I love being able to go back to work for a "break" I guess you would say--even though I miss my kids every minute I am at work. Great post! I am now following your blog. If you'd like to follow me, here is my blog: http://mylifeasafiremanswife.blogspot.com/?m=1

    1. Mia, I have always felt that a part time situation would be supreme. And sometimes, it's just because I have the tendency to stay at my home until we're out of milk and eggs and bread and sugar... so getting out of the house every other day would keep me on my toes & continuously remind me it is NOT normal to eat cheerios off the floor. :)

      Thanks for sharing your blog too. I'll be following along!

  4. It's not normal to eat cheerios off the floor? Not only do my children do it, but sometimes, I do it and don't even think about it until its in my mouth and I'm mindlessly chewing. Then I think to myself, "How did I get to this point? I am out of control!"

    1. Yes, exactly! I find myself out of control often. I haven't dressed yet today. Ennnh. Wrong. I have dressed. I kid you not: I'm wearing winter knit stockings under a swim cover dress and a long sleeve Batman shirt on top (from Paul's closet because I miss him and I'm weird). Good thing the husband comes back today and I have to go grocery shopping because I go crazy quick.

  5. Lol these moments will all be over so soon! I think you are perfectly normal! And perfectly right for taking this adventure! :o)

  6. Thank you for sharing this, Ashley. It was really interesting to read about your conversion from working mom to stay at home mom.

  7. I think your honesty is right on the money. And I think that it's good that you understand yourself so well that you can face the advantages and disadvantages to each. I think often it's misleading to working women to hear that as soon as you're a mom you'll want to magically stay home with your children and be with them all the time and be filled with dreamy love for them all the time. It's so hard to understand that mothering, like all real love, isn't based on an emotional feeling, and that to be a stay at home mom you've got to push through all the many things that may not feel good in the moment because it is so rewarding for your children, your family, and you. Somedays I dream of having a coffee break again. Or for having complete assignments. There is no "complete" when you're the mom of kids in diapers, because there's always another diaper! I'll stop droning on now, but great post Ashley!