I want to be a stay at home mom.

I want to be a stay at home mom.

There, I said it.

I know that this blog is called Mom at Work.  I know that I’m supposed to be writing about the whole work/life/mommyhood balance and how it really is possible to juggle it all and to at least appear to be having a good time of it.  I know that I’m a feminist and I should want more for my life than pureeing baby food and keeping house and reading aloud the same cardboard book 72 times before the sun has come out for the day.  I know that I should want to define my life as more than the success of my children and harmony of my family.

I also know – or at least I have been told – that being a stay at home mom would drive me one hundred percent loopy (or loopy in a more desperate, harried way than what this whole working mom business is doing to me).  I’ve been made to believe that I would miss the power trip and the power suit (as though I have ever worn it for anything other than that one interview) and the crummy middle manager’s office, that I would get bored and feel claustrophobic and fall into some sort of permanent mild mommy’s depression.  And I suppose that just underneath that layer of sleep deprivation and job dissatisfaction I do believe that all of these predictions are true.  And I don’t care.  Despite all of these truths, I still want to be a stay at home mom.

Family Plan to Save Money

Most of you who read this blog now were probably not around for those very first, very tentative posts of Mom at Work (like this one or this one), but as I started hacking away at this week’s one thousand words I couldn’t help but notice that this is exactly where I was a year ago at this time:  after two weeks of mama-daughter bonding, Christmas vacation crash lands into January’s long hours in the office and long days at daycare; my daughter looks at me as though I have betrayed her; my husband and I start questioning what exactly we are working so hard to achieve when it seems more and more like everything we need is right here in this house.

I know that this feeling will dissipate just as it did last year (until the next long weekend, anyway).  I’m 16 weeks away from a second masters degree and 36 weeks away from deciding which PhD programs to apply to.  I know that I will eventually fall back into the rhythm of faculty politics and bureaucratic stamps of approval.  Any day now I suspect I will get caught up in the excitement of commencement and the opportunity of office intrigue and somewhere along the way my ambition will turn itself back on.  But right now I recognize that I’ve been running a low grade fever for seven days straight, my daughter’s behavior is becoming more erratic by the moment, my bedroom looks like a very full clothesline that got hit by a very large tornado, and I’ve spoken less than 48 words to my husband in the past 48 hours.

In a few more days or a few more weeks, I’ll remember again how to live with this constant chaos and this constant ache in my soul, but before I trick myself back into believing that this is NORMAL LIFE I want for just a moment to wonder what might happen if I didn’t need to live in willful ignorance anymore.  What if we really could make single income living work?

So I start to plan.  I make charts, I make lists.  I add, I subtract, I multiply.  I could save $150 a month on gas by eliminating my commute, save $30 a month by eliminating the triple-shot lattes that keep me going after no sleep nights, save $100 a week by dropping down to half-day daycare.  We could save money on groceries by cooking more from scratch, eating out less, growing more of our own food.  We could save on clothes if I could teach myself again how to sew.  Or, of course, we could always just downsize all of it, right?

Right?

If only it were that easy.  I want to be a stay at home mom.  I want to raise my daughter and the yet to happen little sibling with my own two hands and my own big (though at times dysfunctional) heart.  But do I want it so badly that I’m willing to give up what I’ve worked so hard to gain?  Am I willing to forego my (semi) private home office, my new(ish) hybrid SUV, my (occasional) ability to buy something I want but don’t need without worrying that I’m going to break the bank?  Am I willing to jump of the economic escalator when I finally feel like the repair guy has got it moving in a steady ascent?

The honest answer is, I don’t know.  Sometimes I think I’m deluding myself that I could live a quiet life and drive an old, loud car.  Other times I think I’m deluding myself to believe that I can just turn off this desire to be with my child that is most probably as old as mammalian motherhood.

And other times I don’t think at all.  Like in the pre-pre-dawn hours of the morning, lying on the floor next to my daughter’s crib and pleading with her to please please please go to sleep even though she just keeps repeating “mommy has to go to work, daddy has to go to work, baby has to go to school,” and I want just as much as she does to take her out of her crib and crawl into her playtime tent with Babydoll and Peapod and a big pile of books for an all-night Koukla and Mama snuggle up slumber party.  But I cozy up instead with a pillow and wait alone on the rug for her to finally give in to her exhaustion, because in just a few hours from now mommy has to go to work and baby has to go to school, because there is too much on my desk waiting to be done and too many voices in my head chiding me for a job not quite well done.

There are so many things I want to be teaching my daughter, so many experiences I want to be sharing with her, from walks in the woods to sounding out her first words to watching a real life hungry caterpillar turn to a real life beautiful butterfly.  Instead I am left to steal moments rather than days, left feeling like an occasional spectator instead of a partner and participant.

Just another day in the life of this mom at work.  Turns out that work really is the easy part after all.

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38 thoughts on “I want to be a stay at home mom.

    1. Thanks! It may be a pipe dream, but just looking at our silly plan on the fridge every morning makes the day a little cheerier – even if I’m still on my way out the door to work…

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    1. Oh how wonderful it must have been to be with her everyday through the whole first year! It sounds like you’ve got a great attitude about going back to work, though – I think I should take a lesson in optimism from you 🙂

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      1. I’m sorry to hear that, I know how hard it can be to be away from your child for long hours. I know we’re supposed to be liberated and all, and I love having the freedom to pursue my career, but sometimes this whole modern life thing just kind of sucks.

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  1. I’ve been there with the planning and saving and trying to cut costs because I’d love to be a stay at home mom before my little guy (who’s not so little anymore) is old enough to drive, lol! Will it happen? Probably not, but that’s where my heart is. Sigh……

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    1. Busy is our newest best drug though! What would I do without busy, especially now that I’m (sort of) quitting smoking again? (One more way to cut costs, of course…)
      But yes, joking aside, my husband and I are kind of obsessed right now with finding our way out of the rat race. Having a kid definitely has a way of shifting priorities, I just wish the rest of my life could catch up to the new hierarchy!

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  2. There’s nothing wrong or anti-feminist in wanting to be home with your daughter. It’s not like you were confessing to wanting to stay home and eat bon-bons all day. Your investment in her is one of the most important jobs of your entire existence.

    But if you want this to happen, truly want it, both you and your husband, then you’ve got to take a really hard look at your spending. What are you really willing to give up to accomplish this?

    Also, giving up the “trap”-pings of modern existence is exactly that. If you feel currently trapped by your life style, then staying at home is the perfect excuse (if you need one) to seriously simplify your life. This will hold benefits you can’t even imagine right now.

    There is a prolific literature on living simply as well as one on cutting back expenses without feeling like a miserly penny-pincher. How about giving yourself some time to explore this?

    Jessie

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    1. Oh, if you only knew the hours upon hours my husband and I have spent lamenting the prison of modern life in a place like Los Angeles. The strength to live a simple life is (yes, quite literally) something we pray for, but we always end up falling right back into all those tempting trappings, particularly with one of us working in the film industry (it’s hard to overstate how much image matters in that business, even in the little no-money independent corner of it, and even with my oh so unglamorous job in higher ed to balance it out). Without fail, it always becomes a much, much bigger conversation – do we both need career changes? do we need to leave Southern California? are we willing to forego some of the “sustainable” (also known as EXPENSIVE) choices we are trying to make? and what about that mountain of debt from so very many years of schooling? or the future cost of high quality schooling, lessons, instruments, etc. for our daughter? It seems like the more we talk about the simple life, the more complicated the conversation becomes!

      I’d definitely love to read other stories of and approaches to making the transition to a simpler, or as my husband likes to say, more civilized way of living. Do you have any recommendations or books or blogs I should check out?

      Thank you for another wonderful, thought provoking comment! A girl could get used to this 🙂

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      1. Hi Anna,
        Back from getting my daughter back to university. While driving I really thought about you and your questions and your goals.

        I don’t have any books or blogs I can point to and say “This is it. This is what you should do.” You really need to find the plan that resonates with YOU, that makes you feel that you can accomplish this. I can say you should probably steer clear of anything that smacks of “back to the land” or “off the grid” simply because I don’t get the impression that either you or your husband have the background or basic skills to enjoy and thrive in that lifestyle. It’s a helluva lot more work, just simple backbreaking labor, than anyone imagines. You’d have no time for the kid.

        I’d look for the writings of folks who’ve faced down problems that resemble yours. Did they pay down debt? Did they change attitudes and find happiness, not deprivation, in not buying “stuff?” Did they really add up, actually calculate, what it is costing your family to have both of you working? What does it cost for day-care, your commute, your office clothes, your away-from-home food (including coffee, candy bars, whatever), your office cosmetics, your office party/gift contributions, your professional dues/subscriptions, your retirement contributions, Medicare and SS? There may be other costs I’ve not thought of. Compare that to your take-home salary, not your gross.

        Are you prepared for the fact that this will take years to fix? Are you prepared to face others with a new set of values that may not match theirs?

        Just some things to ponder.

        Jessie

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      2. Somehow you seem to have psychic powers that told you how black and white my thinking can be about this stuff – either I’m all in the rat race, or I want to drop out completely, buy an off the grid cabin somewhere in the mountains, homeschool my child, etc… Unfortunately my husband suffers from similar delusions of what we are capable of, despite the fact that we have sunk hundreds of dollars into home gardens at multiple apartments and rental homes, only to come up with a couple of tomatoes and enough lettuce for half a salad.

        BUT, I dare say that we are trying to be a bit more pragmatic about this more recent version of a new life we’ve been contemplating. We’re trying to understand that it won’t happen overnight, not unless we win the lotto (also known in Hollywoodland as getting paid to make your script into a movie). Part of this is out of necessity – if we want to have another kid, we darned well better wait to give up my cushy university healthcare and family leave benefits – but part of it is getting older and understanding that while rash decisions may often be the right decisions, they tend to work out better when you give yourself time to actually act on them in a not so rash manner.

        Thank you again for your great comments, they really get me thinking! I hope you’re feeling a bit better these days, and look forward to seeing more posts on your site!

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  3. And I have a similar to-do list for making it possible for me to work. My son is almost three, and I have always been home with him, though more by accident/necessity than by choice. Our problem is sort of the opposite, that we can’t really afford for me to GO to work – cause of childcare, needing a second car, money for gas/eating out etc. We do barely scrape by on one salary in LA (working in the entertainment industry) but our lives, to most people in our social circle here anyway, seem so miserly and simple. We hardly ever buy clothes, and when necessary only from discount places like target, H&M, TJ Maxx (even that is pricy). Which wasn’t weird anywhere else I have lived but here is seen as positively crazy. We never go out. We only have one car (in LA thats a big sacrifice). I found its actually much cheaper to get a CSA then to grow my own food (gardening is actually pretty expensive). And still we hardly are able to save money, and I am worried about when my son gets older and there start being higher costs for activities and school, and clothes cost more. Preschool is coming up and we don’t have a dime to pay for it. And as a fellow feminist there is also the never-ending nagging feeling that I am failing somehow, that I’m a kept women, that I am in too vulnerable a position. And i know when my son is older and leaves home, if I don’t have a career or anything resembling it, I’m going to be feeling rather lost. I really need to work! And yet we hate the rat race so much we are constantly scheming to try and make it so my husband can work less – cause he wants the same thing you do – to be home more with our son. Modern life truly does suck for families.

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    1. I so hear you. LA is a really, really tough place to live a simple (or frugal) life. I probably make twice as much money as most of my friends from art school, but they all dress a million times better than I do – because they don’t have kids, of course! We managed one car living when my husband was working from home most of the time, and everyone we knew looked at us like were had totally gone off the deep end when we would mention it. My husband and I talk a lot about moving someplace with a lower cost of living, but the conversation always ends with – but the film industry is in LA, what in the world would he do in rural Washington state??
      Sounds like we’re both stuck between the same rock and the same hard place, just trying to squeeze out from different sides!

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  4. Sigh. Oh, to hear it written so clearly and whole-heartedly from the other side… thank you for sharing. It’s amazing how sometimes these things push you one way or another, stay-at-home and become something you hadn’t expected or go-to-work and become something you hadn’t expected. The amazing thing perhaps is that whatever you decide, you can re-decide down the line. Or life may re-decide for you. Either way, hoping for the best; more snuggling, less of it in the middle of the night!

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    1. I like your reminder that I can decide and re-decide, depending on what life teaches me. It’s so easy to fall into this feeling that I’ve dug my whole too deeply (and covered myself too completely in ambition and IRAs and cost of living increases) and there is no way to ever get out, and to already believe the reverse about a lifestyle that I’ve yet to even begin – that once I drop out of the workforce, I’ll be forever marked and unemployable.
      In the meantime, I’m trying to accept that I can only control the things that are actually in my control – and more snuggling is definitely in my control!

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  5. Love this! I began as a working mom, and after my husband and I took a long look at our finances, I made the decision to become a stay-at-home mom. I have to say, it was the Hardest transition I have Ever gone through, but one of the most rewarding. I want to preface this statement by saying I truly believe in a mom having the freedom to discover what motherhood looks like for her, but having finally transitioned into the stay-at-home mom role, it was the best decision I have ever made.

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    1. Yay, living proof that it can be done!!! I have so many questions that I keep swirling around in my mind – I even wonder if I would actually ever be able to take the plunge, or if all of my fears would just get in the way. Do you get bored? Do you miss your old life? Do you miss putting on a fancy pair of shoes and bossing people your own age around? Have you found that financially it’s been a struggle (if it’s too much information, feel free to ignore this last one…).

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      1. I do get bored, but that’s usually when I allow myself to be the stereotypical stay-at-home mom. Meaning, I only care for my daughter and the house. So, when she does go down for a nap, I just have to be very intentional about that time, and guard it for me time. I do miss wearing clothes other than yoga pants, but that’s what date nights and girls night are for! As far as finances go, it’s not too bad. You just have to make a new budget for yourself, and stick to it!

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      2. I also should mention that we certainly downsized. We found that we could live off of one car, so that certainly helped. Also, we realized we don’t watch tv anymore, so we don’t have cable/satellite anymore.

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  6. I’m probably not the best one to comment here because I don’t have children, but I don’t think you should feel badly at all for feeling like you want to stay home. Although I am a strong and independent woman with a career, I also dream of the day when I will have children, and I want to stay home with them. Sure, I’ll work part time because we may need the money but I think in this world of feminism and materialism we have lost sight of what is really important in our lives. Our children are now raised by daycare providers and television while we work tirelessly to buy more junk that we don’t need. What’s wrong with second hand clothing or something from two seasons ago? What’s wrong with a car that you’ve had for 10 years? Why do we need a 4,000 square foot home when there are millions of square feet of world out there for us to explore? I think women have every right to be equals with men, but that doesn’t mean that we are anti-feminists for wanting to raise our children the old fashioned way and sew our own curtains once in a while. My dream for my family is that we will live well within our means, grown our own produce, buy second hand, stay out of debt and raise our children in a hands-on fashion. I don’t think that people who do it differently are wrong, and I understand why they must do it their way, but I can’t imagine that they are truly happy living in the rat race and as you mentioned “stealing moments instead of days.”

    Good luck, I hope you find a way to make it work!

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    1. Thank you Tammy! I’ve been going back and forth on this since long before I had kids as well, so you have every right to comment. I’ve always seen myself as a go-getter with big career aspirations, but I also have always felt like I would be pulled toward the domestic realm when I finally had a child, and that’s exactly what’s happened. Unfortunately there’s no easy answer to this big question, but I think your plan sounds like a beautiful and idyllic life – I hope you’re able to make it reality someday!

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  7. If you want to stay home, you should do it. Now. Before you waste any more time feeling the way you’ve described above. Life’s far, far too short to spend every day watching the clock, desperate to be somewhere else. Seriously. You need to do what feels good and right for you in this moment. – and feminism has nothing to do with it – men have a long history of doing what feels good and not being sorry.

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    1. If only it were so easy! Or if only you didn’t make me think it could actually be so easy? Because maybe it really is just about making that choice, and letting all of the other chips fall into place, and maybe I’m just scared to make that choice. Because I’m sure my hesitation is probably about more than just some abstract notion of a feminism that doesn’t even quite exist anymore, right?
      Honestly, my biggest fear about actually committing to being a stay at home mom is that I would be a worse mom than I am now. I feel like so much of what I do now is to make up for not being around 40 or 50 hours a week – would I still be so focused, so good with her if that sense of scarcity went away, if I didn’t constantly feel like I had to make every last moment count?
      So it’s easier to talk about it than to actually do it, for now anyway. But every morning when I leave my daughter at school and go to spend ten hours away from her, I get a little bit closer to just saying fuck it. Good mom or bad mom, new clothes or old frumpy cheap clothes, none of these will make any difference because we could all be better off for it.
      Which is to say, I hear that rent’s really cheap in those rural suburbs of Seattle? And that frumpy clothes and bad parenting are coming back in style up there?

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  8. I could have written this whole post myself! What a dilemma we face ourselves! I have a feeling that if I was a SAHM, I’d probably be driven a little bit crazy but I also know how horrible those snatched moments are. When I come back to the office on a Monday morning after 2 days with my boy, it’s the shittiest day of the week for sure! I used to work part time (one day off haha!) and I loved it so much, our special day together, just us. But then we bought a house and suddenly we had a mortgage to pay and we needed my full salary! I still have hope somewhere that I can go part time again one day but for now, this is how it is. I just have to deal with the feeling like a crappy mum for not being there 24/7 for my boy! I’m just glad I’m not alone in my feelings!

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  9. Me too; that’s my secret wish well not anymore:):) With a high cost of living, bills, and a very simple lifestyle, I work but I wish I could just stay home and take care of my home and family. I realize that when I have vacation, I feel so much fulfilled and happy with work in the home. I don’t know why, but I do.

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  10. Say it mama, I’m due back to work in less than 4 months and even though I know our family needs me back at work for financial reasons, they also need me at home raising our kids the way we see fit. My biggest fear of leaving kids at nursery all day is that I don’t know what morals they are being taught, and we see all sorts of weird habits which develop that are not from our household. It’s like a constant battle between expectations from home and expectations from everyone else. My beautician who is from Romania, says that over there, maternity leave is 2 years and in other central Europen countries, mothers can chose form 2-4 years, what! We get 9 months paid leave here in the UK and 3 optional months on top without pay, I’m taking all of it but it’s still not enough. Sometimes I seriously feel like packing up and finding life somewhere, away from the inconveniences of modern life (maybe in the woods, lol)

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  11. I was a stay at home mom for 11 years. After my son was born I was scheduled to go back to work but couldn’t do it. Plus with daycare being what it is it really kind of worked out. I had no plan. I talked it over with my husband, stressing the cost of daycare LOL and we just did it. The adjusting to one income was easy. I think people over complicate it and make it seem like you can never survive off one income in this world but think of the stuff we HAVE to have in life that is so clearly just a luxury. It worked out for eleven years and I still got to go in vacations. I would not trade t hat time for anything. As for being a feminist -I think if you take a poll many of them opted to stay home when they had children and some lucrative businesses started that way. GO FOR IT!

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