I was inspired by Jackie’s post on admitting to be a stay-at-home mom, and I am struggling with finding the right term to describe my own role – for the most part, I am a SAHM, but I do also work occasionally. So where do I fall within these two definitions?
Before I had Will, I was lucky to choose a career that for the most part had ebbs and flows. I worked full-time as a Technical Director for some well-known theatre and opera companies here in the city, and our tech weeks were all encompassing. Full 12-14 hour days and with only enough time to come home, sleep, then get up and do it all over again the next day. Rinse, repeat, for 5-6 weeks.
When I started on mat leave, I was 36 weeks pregnant with Will, and I embraced those last few weeks of extra time to rest, nest and enjoy those final moments of pregnancy. I filled those spring days with daily yoga, walks on the beach with the dog, afternoon naps, and eating well. (Oh my goodness… take me back to those glorious few weeks, as pregnant as I was, I soaked up that time).
Fast-forward through my son’s birth and to the end of my mat leave – I decided not to return to my job full-time, and instead focus my energy at home. I was, by definition, becoming a stay-at-home mom. There were a lot of conversations at home leading to this decision – my husband and I discussed the financial impact, of course, but there was also an emotional impact as well. If I went back to work, I’d still be spending those long weeks in the theatre, and I wouldn’t get to see my son for extended periods of time. For this and various other reasons, I left a job that I loved because it worked best for my family.
That being said, there’s a part of me that feels like I haven’t really left; I have worked on a few projects and shows on a freelance basis since I left my full-time job. It’s certainly not a regular thing, and our whole world has to adjust for a week or two while I do, but I decided to continue to work because I enjoy it. I genuinely like being a technical director, and although the hours are long and the work is complex, it keeps me engaged and satisfied. I may no longer be employed full-time, but given the type of work that I do, I have the flexibility to pick up projects and shows on my own terms and within my schedule.
I consider the impact my work has on my son; It gives him an opportunity to have some space from me, the person he spends all day every day with, and to see me as more than just a stay-at-home parent. Luckily, he is easy going and happily goes along with the plan. He gets to spend a whole week with his grandparents, and how wonderful it is for him to have a strong relationship with them as well.
So what does that make me, then? How do I define it? Because I do cross back and forth across the line of stay-at-home mom and working-mom, I’ve seen both sides. I have seen how society glorifies the position of a stay-at-home parent – as if it is a luxury that comes with lattes and leggings. It has been pretty great getting to spend so much time with my son, but there is a grit that comes with the gig, though – and sure, caffeine may play a role in that, but so does dirty laundry and showers only every other day, if I’m lucky! There’s also the dirty perception that being a SAHM isn’t “real work”, which is a whole other conversation.
Some days it can feel mundane, and some days I don’t have nearly enough patience, and some days I hide in the bathroom so I can have a few moments to myself, even though that sweet little voice yelling, “Mama! Mama!” on the other side of the door just wants to spend every waking moment with me, I seriously just need a moment’s grace. I’m not the only one who feels this way, right?
And in case it’s not obvious, a stay-at-home parent doesn’t just hang out at home all day, although the title might imply otherwise. My days do consist of frequent activities, park dates, play groups, appointments, and lots of errands. Don’t get me wrong, many of the things I accomplish in a day still need to happen in every home – laundry, cooking, cleaning, repairs. I may not have the pressures of a 9-5 job to compete with, but staying home does come with it’s own challenges – including entertaining a toddler all day long. And just like any life-changing decision, I sometimes do question if I made the right choice.
I like to think that by continuing to work occasionally, I am demonstrating to my son that it is important to pursue things that make me happy, keep me engaged, and fill my soul, because if I am happy with my choices, I can refill my cup, so to speak, and have more to give back to myself and my family. Working gives me something to look forward to, but I also have peace of mind that there is an end to every contract. I love spending my days with Will, but I think a shift in our daily routine, a change of pace, can be healthy for our family, as it lets us reevaluate if what we are doing is still working for us.
Although I’m still on the line on how to define my role as it is, I’m certain I’m not the only one. Do you identify as a stay-at-home parent? A working parent? Somewhere in between? Do you even define it at all? I’d love to hear how you identify your role within your family and how you make it work from day-to-day. Let me know in the comments below!
Last year after finishing my mat leave, I chatted with Piya Chattopadhyay and CBC about my choice to stay home. Be sure to give it a listen.