Before I had kids, I lived a drastically different life – and I’m not afraid to admit it.
Working in corporate finance, my days were spent at the office, talking to clients, fine-tuning reports, and having the occasional after-work drink with my coworkers. I’d come home to my husband and we’d cook dinner together or order takeout when we felt lazy.
Naturally, my world shifted completely after my sons were born. I’ll spare you the details (that would take an entire novel) but let’s just say that after having two babies in two years, I had to have an honest conversation with myself about how my career was going to fit into my new life.
A life that involved considerably less sleep and relaxation than before, making it more difficult to deal with the stresses and pressures of work.
Don’t get me wrong – I was never the type of person who only worked to make a living. Quite the contrary, at times I even enjoyed the stress at work as it kept me on my toes.
However, with two babies I was simply not able to keep up anymore. At work, I found myself anxiously checking my phone for updates from the babysitter and struggled to stay awake during meetings. I came to realize that I was phoning it in and sooner or later, things would come to a breaking point.
And, although I was surrounded by amazing working moms who were proof that it could be done, it soon became clear that juggling work and motherhood was not in the stars for me. Finally, I decided to take a career break and devote myself to being a stay-at-home mom, at least for a while.
“You can always find another job!” I told myself as I packed up my office and said goodbye to my coworkers.
Once I was finally at home with my kids, I began adapting to my new reality. Seeing my babies smile and grow every day made my heart swell with happiness, especially as I no longer felt like I was missing out on their early years. We played, read, and baked together, and when I went to bed every night, I felt at peace knowing that our bond was growing stronger.
But, to say that at no point did I start missing work would be a lie. Life with two boys is loud and as they got older (and gained the ability to get into even worse trouble), simply running around after them became draining, mentally and physically. Finding time for myself was a Herculean task, even though I never had trouble organizing before.
The repetitiveness of every day started to get to me too. While my former job was no adrenaline rush, I could at least look forward to some variety. At home, my days could be narrowed down to playtime with the kids, clean-up, meal prep, and doing laundry. So much laundry.
Sometimes, I simply missed being surrounded by grown-ups – I never would’ve thought I would miss carpooling or having lunch with my coworkers that much!
Feelings of loneliness would find their way in and I would catch myself being jealous of the fact that my husband had actual adults to talk to during the day. Irrational, as is often the case with difficult emotions.
But what I didn’t even dare to admit to myself at first was that when I was a working mom, I had the opportunity to be someone else other than mom. While I knew this was just an identity crisis and more common than moms like to admit, I still felt guilty for experiencing these emotions. After all, staying at home was what I wanted, right?
With time, I learned to live with these conflicting emotions. Writing became a way for me to express myself and rediscover my identity and I took up all sorts of hobbies over the years to socialize with people my own age. I decided I would rather focus on all the amazing ways the stay-at-home life has enriched my family rather than all the things I miss from my “old life”.
Besides, if my old life was that great, I never would have felt the desire for change. But when you have a bad day, it’s easy to reminisce on the past with rose-tinted glasses!
Most importantly, I’ve learned to accept that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed by parenthood and have periods of time when you miss the way your life used to be. Ignoring such difficult emotions just causes them to pile up but when I allow myself to experience them, I find that they pass much more quickly.
As my kids grow older, I realize every day that I made the right decision in staying at home. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make me immune to an occasional bout of the “what ifs”. But when all is said and done, I wouldn’t change a thing.