This summer Jollene wrote a post about how putting her career goals on hold to stay-at-home with her boys was not a waste of her degree. Her words hit me. I was in my first year of my PhD program working part time as a research assistant and part time as a therapist when we began our pregnancy journey. And it was a journey – full of infertility, loss, and complicated pregnancies. I was quickly and painfully thrown into a decision to put the current career path on hold in order to have a healthy pregnancy.
I was passionate about the work I was doing, but I would be lying if I said I hesitated at the decision to put it on hold. I would put anything and everything on hold to bring a baby home. I wanted to be a mother from the time I could hold a toy doll. Fortunately, my husband and I agreed on me starting as a stay-at-home mom post pregnancy until we mutually decided on the best time for me to pick up my other pursuits again.
Fourteen months later, and I am still at home and still loving my job. This is the right fit for our family. I have mom friends who work outside the home because they need to, mom friends that work because they want to, and mom friends that work while their partner stays home. In every case, they have carefully made a decision that works best for their family. But as Jollene said, I am not JUST a stay-at-home person – I work at home taking care of my son.
There is a common misconception about stay-at-home-motherhood that it is an anti-vocation. It’s a jobless pursuit of homemaking. However, as my working mom-friends will tell you, babies and young children are rarely self-sufficient and require a care provider during the day. If a family has working parents, then they pay someone to care for their child.
When searching for a provider, preference is placed on providers that will incorporate educational and developmentally appropriate activities throughout the day. Preference is also placed on providers that have safety knowledge, are engaging with the child, and able to help meet the sleep/feeding/hygiene needs of the child during the day. We have chosen not to delegate these tasks out during the 9-5 hours. Instead I am the chosen provider – the unpaid, volunteer, yet highly qualified (right!?) provider. I am caretaker, teacher, and mom during the day.
My day with my son consists of various activities geared toward his current developmental stage. I thank my background in research for giving me an edge at staying on top of knowing what’s coming up and how to find ways to encourage his growth. We have several activities during the week to provide social skills and learning opportunities (and a chance for mom to get out of the house, i.e. out of pajamas).
I also spend an insane amount of time preparing food, feeding him, cleaning up said food, and changing diapers from said foods digestion process. Then there are the many minutes attempting to help baby sleep. The short nap breaks where I rush to try to shower, feed myself, and attempt to tidy up. Contrary to popular belief, there is no additional time for chores – at least no more than I had when I worked outside the home. Also, having a new toddler is kind of like having a cyclone so most of my chores involve tidying and re-tidying the same things multiple times a day.
All of this probably sounds familiar to anyone raising a child. Motherhood doesn’t have a clock-in clock-out button. Certainly, working mothers are still on-call as needed for their child’s daily needs and they are the managers of the overall process. I am also managing while doing – and I’m on-call 24 hours. There is literally no break between my at-home life and my work life. It can be exhausting.
It’s also incredibly rewarding. I know my son better than anyone on the planet. I know exactly what each expression means, what his muffled words are meant to be, how he learns best, what each cry or giggle means. I have been present for every one of his firsts. This is the biggest benefit of my job. I am every moment of every day actively momming. It is the most rewarding job I’ve held to date.
There will be a day that I turn him over to his teachers at school and that will lend hours in the day which I will be on-call but not on-duty. I anticipate that I will pick up my degree work again then. Who knows, I may even clean the house. For now, you can call me CEO-Mom of the Kann Household.