I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this.
Sixteen months ago I walked away from a promising and well-paying career. In all my exit interviews, managers asked if and when I would come back. I didn’t say that I would never come back, but it’s not on my timeline for now.
I traded 12 years of experience for diapers, carpool lanes, and snotty noses.
My title officially became stay-at-home/work-at-home mom; and I was elated.
Before quitting I tried to be realistic about this new step. I knew that the SAHM life with three kids would be busy; but I still envisioned crossing things off my to-do list in spectacular fashion, spending quality time with my kids and husband, and maintaining a (mostly) picked-up house.
I was wrong.
Take yesterday as an example. With a deadline looming, I needed a shower, the house was littered with toys, laundry was piled up, and the sink was full of dishes. Every minute of the day is a choice between two opposing forces: productivity or parenting. That’s pretty much every single day. Showering, eating, and cleaning are always at the expense of working or family time. And I can’t remember the last time I got in a good workout.
There are days I wonder if I made the right decision; when I end the day feeling like a failure as a parent. Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing more harm than good and if my kids actually know how much they are loved. This parenting gig isn’t easy. The pay is terrible, the demands are constant, and the work never ends (hello, laundry).
But there are spectacular parts of being a SAHM/WAHM. Unlike working in a cube, I actually see sunlight every day. I can work pretty much anywhere in my home, and I’m even getting about 6 hours of sleep each night, after averaging about 4.5 hours each night when I worked in an office.
Can I tell you how awesome it is to pick up my kids at school every day? At the end of every school day last year, T ran to meet me with a giant smile on her face. She never did that when I picked her up from after school care. Being home during the day means that I get to do extra things with the kids, like library trips with L. And I actually get to see the baby reach all his milestones. These days won’t last much longer, and being here to see them is pretty priceless if you ask me.
What I miss most
I miss the adult interaction and cameraderie. I miss working out during my lunch breaks. I miss listening to podcasts while I worked. I miss the satisfaction of finishing a project that is part of a bigger effort. I miss playing around with spreadsheets, and making presentations.
What I don’t miss
I don’t miss the office politics and petty infighting. I don’t miss the long and unpredictable commute. I don’t miss the sleep deprivation. I don’t miss the pointless meetings. I don’t miss the tiny cube and the lack of sunlight. And I definitely don’t miss the parking.
So which is better?
After being both a SAHM/WAHM and a work-outside-the-home mom, I can say that both have their ups and downs. One is not better than the other. They’re just different. Both are hard. Very hard. Someday, I hope my kids will understand why I decided to leave my previous career. That my college degree wasn’t a waste, and that I contributed to society in ways that aren’t immediately obvious.
Would I do it all over again? Absolutely. I just might go back and change my expectations a bit.