The great debate of being a working mom versus a stay-at-home mom rages on. As a woman who has done both, worked full time and then converted to a stay-at-home mom, I feel I have some insight into both of these worlds.
For several years before we had children, I worked for two large investment firms, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. I thrived in the very fast paced and growth oriented environment. I loved going to work each day and facing new problems and conquering the challenges that my coworkers and clients presented to me.
But after several years, my husband and I felt that something was missing in our lives, and we became pregnant, and eventually welcomed our first little boy into our family. My son, Owen, was perfect in every way. He was super chubby, had the most adorable wrist and thigh rolls, and was always happy. I had always planned on returning to work full time, but as my maternity leave came to an end, I felt that foreboding dread throughout my body that I’m sure every new mom feels—how was I going to leave my baby? Who would I leave him with? Would they love him and care for him the same way I did? We were lucky enough to find a wonderful woman who watched children in her home, and she welcomed Owen with open arms and lots of kisses and love.
However, as I returned to work, the professional life that I had so loved did not seem to hold the same importance anymore. I longed to be home with my baby and caring for him full time. My schedule was grueling: I woke up at 5AM, left the house with Owen at 6:15AM, dropped him at the sitter’s at 6:30AM, raced/commuted downtown to work to be there on time by 7AM (usually late!!), worked until 4pm, picked Owen up at the sitter at 4:30pm, home for dinner, bath, and bedtime for baby by 6:30. Phew!! I’m exhausted just writing that! I knew I couldn’t keep this up forever.
After my husband and I welcomed our second baby, Griffin, into our family, I made the great switch, and left my career to stay home with our boys. I knew deep down that this was the right decision, but it was so much harder than I had actually anticipated. I’m embarrassed to admit, but I thought that stay-at-home moms had it easy. I thought they didn’t have to keep a schedule, could sit at home in sweatpants all day watching movies and hanging out with other mommy friends. Boy was I wrong! I was quickly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that staying home and caring for a family brings. I wondered to myself how I had done all of this work previously while I still was working professionally full time. I vividly remember waking up one day shortly after my second son was born and realizing as I looked in the mirror that I am responsible for raising these two tiny humans and shaping them into the people I want them to become. I remember squaring my shoulders and saying to my reflection, “I’m ready for this next job.”
I still think that for me and my family, my choice to leave my career and stay home with my boys was the right decision. But it is a decision that I can honestly say is not right for everyone. Now, almost three years later, there are still many days when I wish I could drop the kids off at the sitters house and let her deal with their little problems and tantrums. I miss the days I spent socializing with my co-workers and I miss their friendship terribly. I long for the days of the past and the life I left behind. However, I cherish this next phase of life that I am in. I love the time I am able to spend home with my boys and I have loved being an active part of their growth and development. I love to be the one who teaches them the ABCs, and the one who drops them off at preschool, and the one who watches them run and play with friends at the park. These jobs are rewarding in very different ways than my professional accomplishments were. I loved when my boss would praise my efforts and tell me I had done a good job. Now, my two very small “bosses” rarely praise my efforts, and they hardly tell me that I’ve put in a good day’s worth of work. But they do put their little arms around my neck and squeeze me tight and tell me how much they love me, and that has become so much more valuable to me than any of the accolades or awards that I could have ever earned from my professional work.
I’ve come to learn that there is no such thing as a perfect balance. When I worked full time, I felt that my life was out of balance and too much of my time was spent away from my family and at work. When I stayed home full time, I felt that the pendulum had swung the other way, and I was not stimulated enough.
We, at Mommy Mailbox, are often asked what a day’s worth of work looks like. Quite often, my “work day” starts very early in the morning before my boys are up. If I can wake up before the sun, I can squeeze in a few quiet and very productive hours of work. I continue to squeeze in a bit of work during nap time, and then I’m at it again after bed time. Some people have remarked that this business must take up all of my “free time.” I always have to laugh at this—what free time?? As a working mom, or as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve rarely had any “free time.”
Mommy Mailbox has given me the ability to use my talents and skills that I developed while I had a career and still allow me to share and experience the joy of watching my boys grow. I feel that I’ve been able to accomplish my dreams of staying home with my boys and owning a successful business at the same time. So I challenge you—what are your dreams? What are you doing to accomplish them while you are on this beautiful journey of motherhood?