Working mom, stay-at-home mom, or somewhere in between? In my seven years of parenting, I’ve done it all. For five years as a working mom, I struggled to strike a balance between home and work life. When I quit my job to become a stay-at-home parent, I struggled with my identity and thoughts of “not doing enough.” These days, I find myself somewhere in between.
At the beginning of the year, I made a soft launch back into the workforce through part-time contract work. With one child in elementary school and the other in preschool a few hours a week, this is exactly what I need right now. I work from home and have the flexibility to integrate work into my schedule in a way that works best for me and my family.
Growing up, I didn’t have many examples of stay-at-home moms, especially ones that look like me. My mom worked most of my childhood and seemed to navigate work successfully and our family’s needs. Naturally, I imagined that when I became a parent, I would do the same. I would have a successful career and also be present at home. In hindsight, I realize that as a child, I may not have had the full picture of what it took for my mom to do all that she did.
As a working mom, I realized that I was burnt out. It was increasingly harder to make work and home fit together well. My job was becoming more demanding, and the uncertainty around what school would look like for my son in the midst of a pandemic weighed heavy. In addition, working from home for over a year gave me a glimpse into what it might be like for work to look different.
When I made the transition to being a stay-at-home mom, it was difficult to find my footing. I quickly fell into the comparison trap, thinking there was a script that every other mom must have that I somehow failed to receive. Over time, I realized that my experience as a stay-at-home mom was just that, my own experience, and it didn’t need to look like anyone else’s. I began to find my own rhythm but still felt like something wasn’t clicking. I missed working. I missed my coworkers and contributing to a team. I missed the mental stimulation and challenge. I missed having something outside my home to call my own. Then, my daughter started preschool. Suddenly, I had more time on my hands that I didn’t know how to fill.
My connections and relationships with other moms showed me there is more than one way to fit motherhood and career together. For the longest time, I believed there was one way to make it work: you choose home or work. It was an either-or decision. I have since learned that motherhood and work can coexist in many different ways, leading me to where I am today–somewhere in between a working mom and a stay-at-home mom. I work just enough to fulfill all those things I was missing from my time as a working mom while also being more present and engaged at home. For me, it’s the best of both worlds.
I am sensitive to the fact that not everyone’s experience is like mine. Some of you feel called to your career and the workplace. Some of you feel called to be at home full-time, focused solely on your family. Some of you might not know what you want or need yet. I’m here to remind you that no matter where you find yourself–a working mom, stay-at-home mom, or somewhere in between like me–remember that your work matters and the decisions you make about work and home are just that, your decisions. You have the privilege to choose what’s best for you and your family.