Archives for posts with tag: stay-at-home mom

Having my first born start kindergarten next week is bringing out all of the ugly in me. I’m so conflicted and resistant and upset, not because I’m going to miss her or that I don’t think she’s ready, it’s because I am being forced to confront some truths about myself. I am a firm believer in public schools and I have no qualms about seceding my everyday influence to a teacher that I haven’t yet met (ok, maybe not ‘no qualms,’ but very little qualms). Many of my friends and family work in public schools and that is precisely the reason I am not concerned with the kind of people she will have as role models. And it’s because of this fact that I, and my husband, believe that schooling is the most successful when parents and teachers are a united front. No undermining one another. Keep the child’s best interest at heart. Get through the school year with dignity and grace. But, I am having cold feet about such a big commitment. The way I see it, when she gets on the bus, we are committing to 13 years of backing up teachers’ rules, a school calendar, curriculum, and all that goes with it, whether we agree or not. Granted, most of the time we will align, but there will be times when we won’t. I feel like this is when parenting will get even harder. Ugh. This transition is a tough pill to swallow after being home with her for 5 years and making all of the decisions on her behalf. But now, we’re on someone else’s radar, and schedule. Gone are the days of impromptu day trips or moving on from an activity at our own pace. Gone are the days of hand picking who she will take classes with and with whom she spends most of her time. I know, that’s what weekends and summers are for, but it’s absolutely not the same. The overall time that she is out of the house will just barely be less than when she is in the house. I’m happy for her because she will have experiences and learning opportunities that she doesn’t get at home, but I will miss that freedom to do as we please and to answer to no one.

I know she is ready for kindergarten and she will love every minute of it. There are so many positives and things to look forward to her in her school year, but I am just not there yet. I am crying over the mere mention of the word. Next Tuesday, she’ll be shepherded into a well-run machine with little more than a card around her neck stating her name and homeroom. She’ll have some hard lessons right up front. As will I. We’ll learn that what is best for her personally, may not be the best for the whole class, or the school, or the district. It’s a great thing to learn, to change one’s perspective, and to see oneself in relation to others, but there is definitely a part of me that mourns for her loss of individuality. At home, she is the center of my universe. At school, she will share that center with 19 other children, and several hundred more. I see the importance of this life lesson, and I am excited to see her grow among her peers, but I am just not ready to accept that she’ll be lost in the sea of children sitting in the lunchroom or bobbing on the playground. I seek comfort in knowing that she loves being around people and this will not impact her in the least, but for me, this transition is huge.

I am not ready for this. And worse still, I can’t slow down the clock. I’ve been told to wear sunglasses at the bus stop, so she can’t see that I’m crying, but I already know I’m going to ugly cry, and there aren’t sunglasses big enough to hide that.

Last week when I read about the comments to female Bernie Sanders supporters by Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright to fall in line behind Hillary Clinton, I was surprised that their message was one of judgment and derision. I always thought that feminists tend to raise women up, not tear them down. Right? I initially shrugged both of them off as bitter and out of touch. I read an article today about Adele’s Vogue cover photo, prominently displaying a tattoo of her son’s name, and how she touts motherhood in ways that other famous women have not been able to get away with. I believe the author of that article suggested that perhaps she is not a feminist if her family has higher priority than her art. Really? So, naturally this got me thinking. Am I a feminist? Can someone like me be a housewife and a feminist? This is not a new question. I have struggled with this personally over the past 5 years, as have many others. I have always considered myself to be a feminist, I believe in equal opportunities for women, and yet I gave up my career to stay home and raise my children. When I first decided to stay home, I was deeply conflicted about living on someone else’s merits. I always considered myself to be an equal partner, but once I gave up my earning power, I felt inferior in my relationship. I put that pressure on myself, this was not coming from my husband. Feminism is about achieving equal status as men in work, in politics, and in life. Feminism is deeply rooted in the notion that procreation is not the end-all for women. I understand what the movement was rejecting, but now that I somewhat embody those rejections, I have to say that I don’t think I am a feminist.  And I’m ok with that. However, I still believe in the basis of feminist principles and I’ve modified them according to my situation.  I don’t know if there is a word for this yet, I’m sure it’s somewhere in the post-feminist movement, but there has to be a place for women like me, women who elect to put others first and are equally contributing to society. I really do wonder if the movement is dead. It’s fascinating to me, that at a time when biologically I am the most feminine that I have ever been in my entire life, having given birth, that I feel the least feminist. Is that really the intention behind this movement? I guess I always saw feminism as advocating for myself, and making elbow room for my career, and not being willing to compromise. I never extended those principles into motherhood. Is it even possible? These days,  I have taken on a more holistic and conciliatory approach to my life and family in that everyone plays a unique role, and yes, sometimes it is gender normative, yet we are all equal and appreciated. I still advocate for myself, but the difference now is that my career is not in the public sphere. I know, a big feminist no-no.

When did I make this switch? I’m really not sure. When I first became a mother, it was a jarring transition: physically, emotionally, and in my marriage. Up until that point, my husband and I shared the load, and I had every intention of continuing that equality into our growing family. Something changed though. Carrying a baby in the womb and giving birth is a completely female experience, there is no equivalent for men.  That experience was my first clue that the balance of power shifts sometimes and it’s not something to fear, but rather embrace. It is not and cannot always be equal. And that’s ok. If anything, having a baby was the first time, that as a woman, I felt superior to men. Yup, superior. That is a pretty awesome feeling.

So where does this leave me? I’m not sure. I feel women should have equal say and equal compensation and equal rights, but also that we should be open to different interpretations of what it is to be a strong woman. I don’t feel like I am a subordinate for making the choice to put my family first. In fact, I feel the opposite. I find empowerment in bringing happiness, love, and order to my household. While I am home, I have also helped other working women by caring for their children, and I feel that I am helping them achieve their highest potential. I’ve elected to take on these roles because I thoroughly enjoy them, not because I was told that I should enjoy them. What would Madeleine or Gloria say about that?!

The Five Things I Want to Tell Employers About Women Returning to Work

http://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2015/mar/23/the-five-things-i-want-to-tell-employers-about-women-returning-to-work

I’m surprised they didn’t mention stay-at-home dads, too. Gentlemen, do you feel this represents your obstacles returning to work as well?

Who cares? What does it even mean to be relevant in today’s workplace? I’m still trying to figure this out myself, but I suspect my yearning to stay relevant has to do with human psychology. This is not my area of my expertise, but I am going to take a stab at it anyway.

I should back up a little bit. I wasn’t planning to be a stay-at-home parent. Here is how it went down for me. I worked my ass off in college and did what I could to stand out, particularly in my departmental studies. I did the whole, work for free for a summer because it looks good on your resume, internship. I took on leadership roles in different clubs to show I was well-rounded. I graduated top of my department and was ready to take on the world. (Mind you, I selected to major in Geography, a liberal arts degree, which I am wholeheartedly passionate about, but I admit has not lead to a stable career path). I found a rewarding career in non-profits and gave it my absolute all for the next eight years. In that short time, I relocated, was promoted, was laid off, was hired, managed a team, and was finally settling in for the long haul. My husband and I were ready to start a family and the plan was that I was going to continue working. At the time, I didn’t think much would change career wise. Amateur move! I went from managing a department to being a full-time parent in mere seconds (or so it felt that way).

So here is where the psychology comes in. At first, the rollercoaster of emotions after welcoming a child into your life overshadows any thoughts you have about your career (or pretty much anything else). But once the dust settles, and the little one is toddling around, you start to realize the more entrenched you are in baby world, the further away you are drifting from the professional world. It’s a very unsettling feeling, especially if you weren’t planning to be home full time in the first place. What makes it worse is that you are battling a corporate culture that looks down on the dreaded ‘gap in your resume.’ This is why I am so focused on staying relevant. I’m staring down the barrel at eight years of work experience and an eight year gap, which in reality might land me back in entry-level positions. (I have absolutely no regrets. I love being home. I loved working outside the home, too). Hopefully, when you are applying for positions, you get a hiring manager that sees past the gap, but if not, you will have to be diligent in crafting your experience.

Am I still boring you? I’ll admit this isn’t the most riveting topic, but it means a lot to me. I’ve spent a lot of time and money building my career and to watch it fizzle away (if only temporarily) is a hard pill to swallow. I am pretty sure I am not alone.

Do you have any suggestions on staying relevant? Am I the only one who thinks about this sort of stuff?

There are so many emotions I went through once I decided to be a full-time caregiver: joy and elation about witnessing my child’s every milestone, joy and elation about not having to drag myself back to the office, and on and on and on. It seemed only happy emotions early on. I am totally embarrassed to admit that I thought it was going to be easier to stay home than to be at the office, and that I’d be able to have time for myself throughout the day. Boy, that was a steep and painful learning curve.

So, after the sleep deprivation and reality kicked in, I started to feel fear that I was making the right decision, fear about cutting back our spending enough to keep us afloat, and fear that I would have a career to go back to once the little ones were off to school. After working in an office environment, I hadn’t realized how accustomed I had become to being given direction and praise from my managers. As a stay-at-home parent there are no managers, deadlines, annual reviews. Nothing. There is no road map. You are suddenly the expert on your child and family, and if you are like I was, you had no idea what you were doing and if you were doing it right. Once I started to think of being home as my job and giving myself goals and deadlines, I felt much better about things. To this day, I like to think I am sharpening my management skills. I even ask my husband/parenting partner for feedback on my ‘performance’ because, for me, it is a way to stay accountable and also stay open to receiving criticism.

If you’re wondering why I say ‘I’m Sorry’ in the title, it’s because once you make that transition to full-time parent, you lose a huge amount of respect from the professional world and in a way you become invisible. I struggled with it immensely at first. My identity was tied to my work. That was all I knew. Once I didn’t have work, I tied my identity to my daughter, but that was not sustainable. It has been a few years now, but I’ve learned the difference between the roles in my life and my identity, and I keep them separate. But nonetheless, I am sorry that our society does not value the role of the stay-at-home parent and that you are suddenly uninteresting because you don’t work outside the home. I don’t let it bother me anymore. I know I am working my ass off. I know I am still interesting. And most importantly, I know my family and friends value me.

What is/was your biggest learning as a new stay-at-home parent?