May 19, 2011  •  In Baby, Career, Claire, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal

Rethinking My Role as a SAHM

I am no longer on bedrest. I still need to take it easy (ie, no heavy lifting, getting as much rest as possible, etc) until my next OB appt in two weeks — when hopefully we will find out BebeDeux’s gender! — but I am no longer confined to the bed. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.

I actually quite enjoyed bedrest. Although I felt a bit bad for J, my SIL, and my mother who were all chipping in to help with Claire, it was a nice break for this pregnant and tired blogger. For all that, I am certain that I probably would have hated it if it lasted longer. I seriously don’t know how other pregnant women who are ordered to bedrest for months do it.

Lying in bed for a few days got me thinking about a lot of things. And one of those things has been my role as a SAHM.

I always thought that my being a SAHM would be the most beneficial to our family. But for the past couple of months I have seriously been reconsidering my position. I am thinking about going back to work, and leaving Claire and BebeDeux with a nanny (the daycares around our area are not that great). I know that I will most likely make less money than I had before, and that I will miss my children tremendously when I’m at work. But I feel that my health — both mental and physical — is really suffering as a result of my being a SAHM.

Because it’s not that I don’t love my children; rather, perhaps I care for them a little too much and/or is too sensitive to their emotions. After almost 8 months of being a SAHM, my heartrate still shoots through the roof whenever Claire cries. It physically pains me (I get uncomfortably tight feelings in my chest) whenever she is not happy — not just crying but not happy — and it’s just impossible to keep a child happy at all times, KWIM?

I wish I could make Claire this happy ALL the time, but it’s just not possible.

Additionally, my personality has me questioning if I’m really cut out to be a SAHM. When I was employed, I had complete control over my work. I got feedback on whether I was doing a good job or not. As a SAHM, I don’t.

Be that as it may, I am afraid that if I do return to work, I will not be able to give it my all. Both the supervisors at my two previous jobs have told me that I have been the best employee at those positions — and commended me various times for the efficiency and quality of my work. I fear that if I were to return to work with two babies at home, I will not be able to put in the caliber of work for which I can take pride. And I know that my half-assing it would not be fair to my employer or myself.

And all the problems I had described above about being a SAHM? They won’t disappear if I return to work. I may have less exposure to them, but they will not be solved by any means.

Luckily this pregnancy gives me at least a few more months to think about this decision.

I have read many stories of mothers who chose to quit their jobs in order to become SAHMs, and couldn’t be happier with the result. I wonder if there are as many SAHMs who chose to return to work and are just as happy with their decisions?

16 Responses to “Rethinking My Role as a SAHM”

  1. Courtney:

    So glad things have calmed down and you’re off bedrest!

    I never had a choice to go back to work. Luckily for me, my husband does freelance work and can stay home with our daughter.

    I’m mostly OK being at work while they are home together. I’m not sure I’d be as OK if she was in daycare. I feel like leaving her for 9+ hours a day with her dad is a lot different from leaving her with a stranger for that time. It might be different if she was in her own house with a nanny, but that’s not monetarily feasible for us.

    I am jealous of my husband getting to go to story time and the park and such, but it’s what is financially best for our family.

    When I was little we had a neighbor who babysat for my sister and I while our parents were at work. We love her like a second mother to this day. So it’s certainly possible for kids to get loving and nurturing from someone who isn’t family!

    I’m sure once BebeDeux makes his/her appearance you and J will make the decision that’s best for your family of four!

  2. I don’t envy you this decision. My husband and I have just started the process of trying to have kids and I am already stressing over it. He would support me either way, but I know that the idea of me being home with the kids would be his preference.
    It’s such a heart wrenching decision and I’m not even there yet. I’m like you in that I take great pride in being the best at whatever it is that I am doing. I decided long ago that I would either be a career woman (lobbyist) or raise a family, cause I wouldn’t be able to give both 100%. But whether or not I am going to be able to be a SAHM, mentally more than anything, I don’t know yet. I’m glad that I don’t have to make that decision yet.
    Whatever decision you make though, make sure it is what will make you physically and mentally the happiest. You cannot be a good mother or wife if you are unhappy. If you feel unfulfilled and stressed your family will feel it too. Your daughter isn’t going to love you less or be unhappy if you work. My mother always did and to this day she is one of my best friends. I believe that if you do what is right for you and your health, you are ultimately doing what is right for your family.

  3. Christine:

    Find a job that gives you the flexibility to work from home or go into the office. That’s what I did! I still have a full time nanny, but I have the flexibility to be home when I miss the munchkin or go into the office when I need to get things done and have some social interaction. Admittedly, I also spend time away from home and work (I also travel quite a bit for my job), but I enjoy the balance that I have right now.

    Keeping the nanny if you took on a job that requires you to be in the office 40 hours a week could be more beneficial for you as a mother as well. If you have a nanny that tidies up your space during the babies’ downtime and cooks, then you just come home and enjoy your time with the babies. It’s great! My nanny cooks and tidies up our house (we luckily have a naturally good sleeper) so when I’m home, my baby has my full attention and I’m not worried about the laundry, or sweeping, etc. It’s the best!

    I hope you find a great nanny! Mine is great and I pay dearly for her, but I love her like family.

  4. Pam:

    I had been a SAHM for about 9 1/2 months (and stay-at-home-wife 2 1/2 months prior while pregnant) just went back to work about 2 weeks ago, but new job, new company. My previous employer while offering me employment, it was just too stressful and way too much overtime to think about going back there. My current new job is 9-5p, Monday through Friday, but no overtime and it’s a relatively stress-free desk job.

    I have mixed feelings about going back to work, and for me, no matter what I would have done whether SAHM or working mom, i would have mixed feelings. Though I think it would have been nice to be a SAHM if I could have. However, I did go back to work because financially, I had to, I could have waited a little longer, but in some ways, I thought the transition would be easier on my daughter younger rather than older. My DD goes to daycare 3 days a week, and my in-laws 2 days a week. I think it was harder for me to adjust than for my daughter, she had a couple minutes of stranger anxiety with the new daycare but settled down and seemed quite happy with all the toys and attention she was getting. Me on the other hand was worried out of my mind how she was doing and adjusting and if she was napping enough or eating enough or gettng enough attention or missing her familiar home surroudnings, on and on and on.

    Believe me, I still worry, not as much, but I still worry, everyday, how she is doing, if she is napping, if she is eating enough, if she is happy with the daycare people, if she is playing with the other baby ok, if her eczema is being attended to properly, on and on and on. I don’t think that will ever go away, as a parent, or maybe moreso, as a mom (cuz us moms are always harder on ourselves than dads are, why is that?), you just worry about your kids alot.

    I am still torn, if I am doing the right thing putting in her daycare, but i didn’t have much of a choice. However, while I was a stay at home mom, I woried that she had very little interaction with other people and kids and babies, as much as i tried to get out and meet up with other playgroups and moms. And personally, I worried that I wasn’t helping my career, or we weren’t saving any money.

    When I am work though, I am putting my all into it, making sure I do a good job, and getting my stuff done. I do think I am putting in the same amount of focus into my work that I was doing pre-baby. The main difference is that I am no longer doing any overtime which is something i made very clear with my company, and if i was doing any overtime, i needed to know in advance so I can make proper arrangements. In my old job I was working all.the.friggin.time. and even if i wasn’t working, i was worrying about all the work and projects that i was doing. now when i’m done with work, i am DONE with work, i pick up my daughter and spend quality time with her, i don’t think about my work or what i should be working on when im with her.

    i am not sure i would have been really happy being a SAHM though, i can certainly agree with you that I felt at times, like I was trying too hard to make her happy all the time, and then feeling guilty when i wasn’t, and like you said, it’s just not possible to have a happy baby all the time. there were often days where i felt like i needed more adult interaction and that i wasn’t productive and it could be boring and that there must be more than laundry, cooking and taking care of baby. but there were more days where it was wonderful staying home with her, seeing every milestone, spending so much time with her, and finding time to relax in the middle of the day when she was napping. :)

    i guess maybe the best scenario is if i could find something part time, but alas for us, full time employment and resultant income was necessary. i can’t say I am happy working, but I am fine with it, and am glad that I found a job where the work doesnt spill into my personal life at all, and i have adult interaction, i can take a leisure hot lunch, but I do feel like i’m doing double time before and after work. In the morning, scrambling to make sure she’s dressed, fed, all her things packed (bottles, diapers, cream, clothes, etc etc) ready to go, my lunch, getting ready, and then after work, leaving on time to pick her up, feeding her dinner, bathing her, changing her outfit, play time, read time, another bottle, putting her down, then cleaning up and getting ready for the next day. and my husband helps totally take care of her, so i’m not doing this by myself, but it is still TIRING and much harder being a working mom, not to mention cleaning the house, laundry, and cooking dinner and buying groceries and all that. Aiyah!!!

    I’m so happy for you and the expanding family, it is exciting times for sure, and just think, Claire, is going to be the big sister soon! :) I too, am hoping for another young one, but not gonna start trying until next year. :)

  5. Sachi:

    A lot of women are happiest when they stay at home with their kids and don’t work. A lot of women are utterly miserable when they stay at home with their kids and don’t work. The best thing for you personally, your children, your marriage, and your life overall is that you are content and fulfilled – that you make the best choice for YOU and for YOUR FAMILY’S PARTICULAR SITUATION. You know yourself best, and you and your husband know what works best for your family. Working, not working – there is no one right answer.

    But remember – if you don’t take care of yourself, physically AND mentally, you won’t be able to take care of anyone else. Many mothers I know feel that both their career and the money they earn are essential to their sense of identity and self-worth. (I’m an academic, a scientist, so many of the women I’m know are researchers, professors, administrators, and friends from grad school who went to work in government or industry.) Like many of my friends, you may very well be someone who’s not cut out to be a SAHM. That’s not a crime. You put a lot of effort into your education and career before you had children, and you’re certainly allowed to value – and continue to value – that. If you working is a good decision for your family – and you and your husband are the ONLY people who can make that decision – then that’s what you should do.

    Also remember that you can of course change your mind, more than once if necessary. This isn’t the final decision, no bridges are being burned forever immediately upon deciding. You’ve got years and years ahead of you in which your life will be rearranged many times, voluntarily and involuntarily. It’s impossible to make a perfect decision, so just make the best decision for now – this month, this year, whatever – and plan to reevaluate in a year once you’ve had plenty of time to settle in and work out all the little challenges that will no doubt arise.

    As for your fears about not being able to give it your all, don’t worry. You’ve had a LOT of change in your life in a relatively short time, and more is coming soon. I think your ambivalence over whether or not to work once your second child is born is feeding these worries – it’s a lot of uncertainty to try to deal with at once, so of course you’re a bit apprehensive. But it’s so far in the future, and there’s so many more changes to come between now and then, that it’s impossible to predict how you’ll feel by that point, and you’ll drive yourself batty trying. You’ll probably have to rethink what “giving it your all” means, once you know what work you’ll be doing, but you still possess all your knowledge and skills – that part hasn’t changed. What will change is your work style, but we We all have to change how we work over time – I certainly do things differently now than I did at 18 or 25. I’d be willing to bet you’ll learn to work smarter and MORE efficiently so you can get home to your babies and husband faster. =)

  6. MrsW:

    I think whatever you do, you don’t need to feel like that choice was one you HAD to make — I fully believe that you could handle your life well either as a SAHM or a working mom.

    That said, I don’t know that I can speak for every mom, but I don’t think the anxiety you describe is completely out of the realm of normal for first-year moms… I know you’ve mentioned you’ve had issues with depression in the past so maybe there is a link?

    Given your field, if I were in your shoes I would experiment with some freelancing, maybe? You could work at home with a nanny for Claire — that way, you would still be with her, but you could relax knowing that there was somebody there who could take care of her. I know it would probably be a difficult transition, given that you’ve said Claire is very centered on you, but that’s a step you’re going to have to make at some point anyway.

    To answer your final question, I have a friend who did the SAHM thing for a couple years (married before junior year in college, surprise pregnancy her senior year, graduated a couple weeks after giving birth) and then decided she’d be happier being a certified nurse midwife! She and her husband split childcare and live near her family for extra support while she is attending nursing school, with two boys under 5. It is hard work and tiring, of course, but from what I can tell she’s really enjoying it.

  7. So happy to hear you are getting better. I have been out of the loop so I didn’t know you were on bedrest. :(

  8. Hey Jenny! I don’t have kids… (I feel like I start every comment with that) but I always thought I’d be a SAHM. My husband mentioned a few months ago that he’s not entirely sure I’d be happy being a full time SAHM. He thinks I’d do better working 3 days a week or so.

    After thinking about it… I think he’s right. I’m the same way as you, I need feedback. I want people to tell me I’m doing well, I love hearing that I’m awesome and that my ideas are good and that I’m a positive force in an office. I think I’d have a hard time not having that validation. Plus I love talking to adults. :-)

    I think it’s definitely something you should really consider. Even if you just look at part time work, it would give you goals that you could definitely meet (this week I’ll get this project done, this week I will impress my boss, etc). Do what’s best for your family and you!! I know you will.

  9. I don’t think you should feel bad about making a change. Happy Mom makes for a much happier baby. I know I could never be a SAHM. For a long time, I was the only person I knew who felt that way. It kept me from having kids earlier in life, because I felt like not wanting to stay home meant I didn’t really want kids after all. I even had a few people use the dreaded “why have kids if you are not even going to raise them yourself” argument on me. Since then, I’ve met many other women who love their kids and their jobs. It totally made me reconsider everything, in a good way.
    I know you were intent on being a SAHM, but hopefully the same thing has or will happen for you in terms of being able to see working and having kids in a different way.

  10. sandy:

    I’m 16 weeks pregnant with my first baby and think a lot about the SAHM versus working mom issue. I’m very interested to hear how the transition goes for you. I’ve been a practicing attorney for the last 7 years and I am more than ready to walk away from my job to be a SAHM…or at least try it for a year…and if I decide it’s not working for me then I will figure something else out (I know I don’t want to go back to practicing at a firm). It’s really hard to know what is best for your family and what makes you happy until you actually try out the SAHM thing.

    Most of my friends really wanted to go back to work after 3-6 months of maternity leave. A lot of them felt their child got more out of being in daycare or with a nanny…and they were happier going to work and getting a paycheck to contribute to the family. So, I do know successful women who could have been SAHMs, but chose to go to work and are happy with their choice. Be sure to keep us updated :)

  11. Yeah, there’s no way to win. Two years as a SAHM has me totally burned out on parenting and missing my adult life, but my friends who work talk about being equally frustrated at being constantly torn between two worlds. The other commenters had some great ideas re flexible arrangements, and you are lucky to have the kind of computer skills that don’t necessarily need an office, so….? Hopefully you will find something that works well for you.

    This weekend I had lunch with a friend whose 15-month-old has been in day care since his first month. And I have to say, for all the talk about the benefits of stay-at-home mothers, that kids was much more outgoing, well-trained, and schedule-oriented than my little anti-social diva. Day care forces kids to work within a group and gives them more stimulation via the presence of other kids. Now that she’s two, our girl is regularly bored at home. (But as a sick-o, I don’t have the energy to run her around town for stimulation.) So, yeah, rambling comment but point is that daycare has a lot of benefits from the CHILD’s perspective as well and no mother should be made to feel guilty for going to work.

  12. Oh P.S., my mom was totally a SAHM who went back to work and loved it. Recently I was telling her how bored and burned out I feel with staying home, and she said “Yeah … that’s why I went back to work.” And she really loved spending time with me, but some women NEED the kind of challenges (and, let’s face it, the adult escape) that work provides.

  13. I stayed home for the usual 3.5 months (actually, I worked a couple hours a week starting at 2 months), but I knew that I couldn’t stay home. You are so analytical and in touch with what you want and need and I think you’re thinking on this is right. It IS a lot of work to be a full-time mom. No, it doesn’t mean that you love your children any less that you want to go back to work. It’s healthy to try to find balance. I’m in a situation with work right now that I could go and do very substantial and cool things. But I don’t think I could give it the necessary energy to really excel. So, I’ve turned down and sabotaged great opportunities so I can stay in a comfortable, albeit mediocre place career-wise. This is the balance I have right now. I get to work and enjoy it, and I can keep it at work when I come home and enjoy being a mommy without being distracted. Something always gives a little bit. And I’m just too old to try to do everything, and everything on 11. I hope you find that sweet spot balance. I have a feeling you will, as you’re smart and resourceful and know what you want.

  14. I would like to return to work after my son is born for the reasons you listed. I don’t like this one-size-fits-all mothering, where we all are supposed to act like being a SAHM is the ideal. We financially could handle me being a SAHM, but I’m a part of this family, and I will be happier if I work, at least a few days per week. And if I’m happier, my family is happier. I am glad that you are entertaining a range of ideas to find what works best for you.

  15. VB:

    A single mom to an autistic child, I quit my job because a) I couldn’t deal with an extremely toxic female boss, and b) I felt my child needed more of my attention.

    It’s been 18 month and a financial nightmare, but a good decision because I did get to spend some quality time getting my son the services he needs and being there to transport him to school and therapy, which would be impossible if I were working full time.

    However, I know its time for me to go back to work at least part time. I’m scared, because of my past experience with the most toxic boss of all time, but I need to create some autonomy for myself. Big time.

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