I Like Being a Stay-at-Home Mom,

But I Miss Having a “Real” Job

I distinctly remember the moment when, about six months after having my son, I had to write my occupation on a new patient form at a doctor’s office. I felt a rush of panic. It was the first time since leaving my job that I had to put my new status in writing, and I was at a loss.

“Homemaker” seemed antiquated. “Full-time mom” has never made sense to me—aren’t all moms full-time moms? I thought about just leaving it blank. I didn’t have a paid occupation after all, so maybe I didn’t warrant any sort of title. I settled for “stay-at-home mom” but felt a little embarrassed. In reality the doctor’s office probably took no notice of my job, but in my mind they read that and made all kinds of negative assumptions about me and my life. 

I was pretty confident in my decision to leave my job before my son was born.

My position didn’t seem compatible with balancing family life, and I didn’t think I would feel ready to go back to work at 12 weeks. Since we were fortunate enough to make it work financially, it seemed like an easy decision to stay home, at least for a little while.

Once I was actually home with him, it wasn’t easy embracing my new identity.

I would tell people that I was at home with my son “for now.” I could never just say, out loud, “I’m a stay-at-home mom.” Again, it was because of the (hopefully irrational) fear of what others were thinking. I ran errands during the day with my son and wondered if people were judging me for not being at work. I met working moms and assumed they wouldn’t want to be friends with me. 

It surprised me that I had such a complex about it, since I didn’t think my identity was closely tied to my career. I didn’t have dreams of climbing the corporate ladder—especially since I always worked for nonprofits—or becoming a top executive. I did, however, give 110 percent in every job I had and enjoyed the sense of pride and accomplishment that came with that. I liked being a help to my coworkers and earning the approval of my bosses. I was proud to tell people where I worked and what my job entailed.

Now that I’m at home, I miss the recognition that I used to get at work.

This job is the toughest I’ve ever had in many ways, but I always try to do my absolute best, just like I did at the organizations I worked for. When there’s no one around to see all that effort, though, it’s easy to feel invisible. Deep down I know what I’m doing is valuable, but there’s little outside affirmation that it is.

It helps that I have a husband who is incredibly supportive and appreciative, who tells me every day how much he values my contributions to our family. It also helps that with his support, and a lot of help from parents and in-laws, I’m able to do some of the things that I love to do, like write this blog. Things that remind me that I have an identity outside of being a mom.

I don’t know what the future holds.

I don’t think that I’ll be a stay-at-home mom forever, but it’s who I am right now, and I want to try to embrace it more. Because even though there are things about working that I miss, it’s worth it to me to be able to spend this time with my son. I get to take him on adventures and show him new experiences all the time. He gets to spend more time with his grandparents and his dad than he ever would if I were working. Our days are full of nature, music, learning, exploration, and friends.

Recently I attended an awards gala hosted by my husband’s firm, and we had to wear name tags with our name and employer on them. Of course, under my name it was blank, and it stung a little. Surrounded by highly accomplished people, I felt “less than.” But I’ve since realized that just like my life wasn’t defined by my title when I was working, it isn’t defined by that blank now that I’m not.

In fact, I’m grateful for that empty space.

It represents all the moments and memories I’ve shared with my son that I get to keep forever. All the ways I’ve changed and things I’ve learned since becoming a parent. All the time and hard work I put in every day to be a good mom to him. So while it may look like a blank to some, to me it’s just the opposite.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Just wanted to say thanks for sharing your struggle — because the struggle is definitely real. I met a stay at home mom through our mutual love of a particular product that she had just begun selling, and both of our fears got the better of us early in our friendship. She was afraid I was judging her for not being employed outside the home, and I was worried she was judging me for not staying home with my children. We held onto these fears for a while, but eventually realized we were more afraid of being judged than ever actually judging — I know the decision to go full-time in either area is complex for so many reasons, and I love how you’ve captured your thoughts and own experience 🙂

  2. I recently transitioned from a nonprofit role that consumed my life to staying home following our move to Austin — it has been interesting how challenging it has been! I keep saying things like, “for now,” (and then noticing the guilt when people say how important it is to have kids at home at this age when they see me with my son, and then my awkward addendum that my 3 year old daughter is in preschool, even though I’m “at home”). It’s been a learning curve to own this phase in life.

    I remember my first dentist form, a month after getting here. Under employer, I put my children’s names. The next one, I just left blank. (But the first one did elicit a laugh/nod from the dental hygienist). Our society has clunky labels around raising kids, and we haven’t quite figured it out, I think.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your experience! It resonates and helps us reframe the way we’re thinking about labels and raising our kids!

  3. Thanks so much for your sweet comment, it’s nice to know it resonated with someone else. 🙂 I agree, I think we worry so much about being judged by others, when most of the time they’re worried about the same thing and not actually judging us at all. At least, I hope that’s the case!

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