Wednesday, November 11, 2009

SAHM Envy....realized.

Over the past year, I'm pretty sure I limited my public working Mom angst to Yahoo group and Facebook friends. Didn't get into it so much here or at Let's Gab. The long and long of it...(seriously it's long and rambling and entirely self-serving)...almost 7 years ago, I was a career-minded, working Mom when I gave birth to my son. And despite an immediate and very sharp desire to give it all up to stay home with him, I went back to work. Financially, it made more sense for me to work and my husband to stay home. A couple of paycuts later, he returned to work and G went off to daycare. And we all adjusted.

Three years later, I was laid off with no viable employment in sight. And finally, home with G. We all adjusted. And despite the economic hardships, I'll admit, it was heaven to be with him. I'll also say that I knew it. At the time, I knew it was heaven. I didn't waste it.

Two and a half years later, G started kindergarten and I found a job. Started part-time, while he was in school, and experienced no great bump in our little piece of heaven. By Christmas, another job found me and, in January, I returned to the 8 to 5 grind. Big bump. G went from school to his old daycare to friend Barb's. Long day for him, but we all adjusted.

Then summer came and we all adjusted again. G to day camp, various playdates and a bit of daycare each week. I worked very hard to keep it varied for him. I worked equally hard to fend off the guilt when, driving by the lake on our way home each day, G asked when we could go to "our beach." We both missed our summer days together. At the beach, on the bike trails, in the yard. The guilt ate at me. The resentment did too. I wanted our time together as much as he did.

The start of first grade brought more adjustments--these more rocky than any before. He went from school to latchkey--spending his entire, long day with strangers. New teacher, none of his buddies in his class, more of the same at latchkey, and so on. It was a very rough start for him and my guilt and concern skyrocketed. After three weeks, I met with principal and teacher and saw positive changes in his school day. Then I swapped one of his latchkey days with a weekly playdate, and you get the drift. Things turned around for him and I breathed easier, worried less.

Sounds like I was doing everything I could possibly do to successfully parent him, be his advocate and keep him priority one. Right? Wrong. The 8 to 5 grind robbed me of energy--some days just a little, other days pretty much all of it. My homelife went from exactly that, life at home, to not a lot more than chores. Leave work, get G, get home and cook dinner, clean up, review schoolwork, practice spelling words, bath, storytime, bed. The 5 to 7:20 AM time slot wasn't much different and frequently involved me rushing G out the door to school and work. In my heart, I know--being ruthlessly honest with myself--that I treated most evenings and pretty much every morning as a To Do list. Worse yet, I methodically moved through that To Do list with the one selfish goal of being able to sit down, alone, at the end of the night. For some me-time. Me-time that I needed, now that I found none elsewhere in my day.

The ache of it was awful. And friends like Lori will tell you I struggled with it.

And note the past tense. Couple weeks back I lost my job. Total stunner. Thankfully--for all the relatable financial reasons--I found another job a day or two after that. I start next Monday. So right now, I'm in the in-between. With two and a half weeks of SAHM-ness. Two and half weeks of daily, right-before-my-eyes proof that working full-time short-changes my family. My rational self knows that the short-changing would be far worse if we were to be struggling to keep our house, fill the pantry, send G to college and some day retire. The Mom in me knows--firsthand--that we would all be better served if I were home more waking hours than I was at work. In this, there is no in-between.

I've seen it in just these few days. First, G got sick and was home two days from school. Had I been working, there would have been discussion about who would take off work to stay with him. And what that would mean--using vacation days, missing meetings, etc. With the time already off, there was no discussion that might alert him to Mom and Dad's burdens. Just quiet assurances that Momma would be here with him and all he had to do was rest and get better.

Back to school, he finds me there to pick him up when the bell rings. Every day. On the crappy weather days, we come home to board games and Spongebob. On the nice days, we stop off at the community center for some tennis. Regardless of what we do or where we go, he is "home" minutes after the school bell rings. And he is a different kid. Swear. I can SEE how relaxed he is. Particularly when we get to the chore part of our days. Some things--like leaves--we tackle together. Other things I get done while he is content to play whatever. Amazing how we slid easily back into our routine of old. It has been as good as I remembered it.

And it will end in a few days.

There is a lot on this out there--whole and sound arguments for making whatever sacrifice necessary to stay home with your kids. There is also a great deal on the needs of women--beyond those of simply motherhood. Tons and tons on balance and expectations; and convenience and short-cuts. All of it worthwhile. But little of it that changes this individual's reality.

Bottomline, I will go back to the 8 to 5 next Monday. G and I will part ways in front of his school before 8 AM and meet up again just as darkness falls here in Northern Michigan.

Some things will be easier than before. For one, latchkey has introduced a new teacher/leader for G's group--a woman from our church that 'knows' G (this knowing is important to him this year). So that should be better. And friend Barb has decided it best for G if she can get him from latchkey earlier than I'm able to. Another stop in his long day but one that is as close to his own home as it gets. Another thing, my new job promises to come without the bizarro factor underlying my last one. That alone should alleviate a good deal of the energy-drain.

And hopefully...hopefully it will be easier simply because we had this brief respite. Not only a gift of what I'd been missing so much, but a reminder not to let my own burdens ruin what time we do get together.


  1. I've been reading your blog for awhile now and had to come out of lurkdom to tell you how moved I was by your posting. I think you're a very strong woman who is doing everything you can to make it right for your family - emotionally and financially. I really admire you. What you wrote about are some of the fears I have go through the back of my mind. My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for two years, but there's always that niggling thought of - if I'm so tired now when I get home from every draining day at work, how could I be what I need for my child? I always feel like that sounds selfish of me, but it's a reality. Hang in there - just the fact that you're conscious of your situation and wanting to look for ways to improve your family's emotional well being says so much about you already!

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  3. Hi Jennifer,
    I'm so very fortunate that I've been able to be a SAHM for my daughters, although I did have a short time during which I worked part time when my eldest was a baby and it was one of the most difficult times for me as a parent both emotionally and enegry-wise for a lot of the reasons you mention in your post. I honestly don't know how working moms handle everything they do and still find any time for themselves, too! I wish you and your family the best.

  4. Okay, let's try this one more time...

    Your words were very moving. There probably isn't a Mom alive, who works, that hasn't felt all the same things you've voiced here. I know I did. I always felt so alone in those feelings too because everyone else seemed to be handling the separation from their children to be at work so much better than I was.

    We lived on a strict budget and had older cars and a small house, but we managed it so I could be home with our boys a great deal and for that, I'm truly grateful.

    I hope you have saved a copy of this post for your son. It's one of the most beautiful and honest love letters from a mother to her child I've ever read.

  5. I have nothing to add, except to second what everyone else had to say.

  6. Just hugs. I know how hard the last couple weeks have been for you. And the last few years. And I've been there. You held my hand when I had to go back to work full time, which sucked more than I can say. All that guilt, which still lingers. Even now that my oldest is almost ready to pick a college. So as you go through this, know that I'm here for you to hold your hand, too. And that G will love you, no matter what. And that he'll love every minute you spend with him, whether it's after work or after school.

    Hang in there.

  7. So many moving and supportive comments. Thank you Ladies, very, very much.

    Thank you Angie, for delurking. I understand your reservations. My husband and I felt exactly the same way when we lived and worked in a metropolitan area. Our commutes were so long neither one of us could figure out how we'd have any waking hours with a child at all. Compared to those days, my 10 minute commute and proximity to G's school, etc. are blessings indeed.

    Beautiful words Rosie. Thank you. And I will cross post at G's blog/journal to save it. Thank you.

    Thank you Christine and Katy--simply understanding means much in the way of support.

    And hugs back Lori. I value our friendship and your constant support. Like when you helped me sort out my words for G's principal and teacher...and advised as I was choosing his after-school latchkey options...and...I love you friend.

  8. Great post, Jennifer. It's very interesting for me to read this post, as I don't have kids yet. I think it's great how you enjoy being a SAHM - not for yourself, but for your son and family.

    It definitively sucks in that case that you have to go back to work :(

  9. Oh, thank you for this post!

    I'm a working SAHM with two young daughters. I often complain about how difficult it is to find writing time, and keep the kids occupied, and get the housework done, etc etc. I'm kind of ashamed of myself for grumbling, rather than appreciating my good fortune. I know how lucky I am to have the best of both worlds, a career I love that doesn't keep me away from my darlings.

    Thank you very much for the touching reminder.

  10. Thanks for your thoughts and support Nath and Jill. Appreciated very much.

    I started back yesterday and man, I'm holding all of these thoughts to me like choke off the tears.

    thanks again to all!

  11. (((( Jennifer )))))

    Hang in there. Keep your chin up and remind yourself you are doing what you need to in order to best care for your son and your family. I'm thinking of you. :)


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