Before I had my daughter, it never even crossed my mind that I would be a stay at home mom. I loved the work I did, and financially, it always seemed to make the most sense to work. It’s funny how quickly things change once you’re holding a tiny little piece of you in your arms. I agonized, and I mean AGONIZED, over whether or not to return to work after my maternity leave. I spent months over-analyzing and thinking through what it would mean to be a stay at home mom.
As a society, we make judgments about men and women who choose to stay at home with their kids. Women, in particular, are often praised for being working moms, as if society believes they are that much more exceptional because they made a choice to work. There’s this misconception that working mothers are more ambitious; they’re women who have aspirations and career goals and manage to juggle motherhood and their career with grace. Working mothers are ambitious, and brave, and graceful, but they are not more.
These perceptions of women, those who choose to work and those who choose to stay home (recognizing that there are also women who have no choice at all), weighed down on me as I considered my options for returning to work after maternity leave. I worried about what it would mean to leave my position, my promising salary, my place within the hierarchy of my employer. I worried about how I would look if I didn’t also receive a promotion or move on to ‘bigger’ and ‘better’ things when several of my colleagues were. I worried if I’d be judged for staying home and instantly become the stereotype of “stay at home mom” that society has dictated.
But what I realized is that I was thinking about everything incorrectly. In some capacity, those things will all still be there whenever I choose to revisit them; but what I could never get back are the early years of my daughter’s life. And for me, the thought of someone else spending the majority of waking hours with her, being there for her firsts, caring for her as she develops her boundaries and explores her personality, attending to her needs…killed me. Truth be told, being a stay at home mom with her is my ‘bigger and better.’ And I recognize that these thoughts and feelings are a complete luxury. Not every family has the financial capability to agonize over these things. And in contrast, some parents are better parents when they’re able to do what they love during the day and then come home and love on their family in the evening. For me, though, I was able to finally give myself permission to abandon the identity I had known for a brand new one: Mom. All day, every day.
Photography by: Juniper Photo Co.