BY SHANNON CIRCE
I quit my job as a stay-at-home mom, and finally, I don’t feel guilty about it.
Staying at home with our two boys has been the absolute most difficult job I have ever done. I’ve had difficult jobs before. When Blake was three months old, I took a full-time position as a visiting professor at a college 30-minutes away, while still completing work on my doctorate at another university an hour away in the opposite direction. I was never home, Michelle and I almost never saw each other, and Blake was in full-time daycare with a nanny who would pick him up daily and stay with him until I could get home. I pumped breast milk in random locked offices and while driving along the highway to and from work.
When Blake turned one, and we knew we would be trying to have another baby, I had to take a step back. I knew I was missing so much of Blake’s life, and the idea of having a second child go through the same meant having two kids, who basically would never see their parents. If I kept going with my career, our family wouldn’t be able to go in the direction we wanted it to, and staying home seemed like the healthiest, wisest option for our family.
It made sense for me to stay home. Financially, it couldn’t be the other way around. And, if I was going to be pregnant and possibly having another baby during the school year, I wouldn’t be able to finish the year of teaching anyway.
At first, staying home seems like a dream. All the time in the world, endless playing, getting to watch your children grow into amazing little humans every single minute and no stress of having to go to work. It is everything every parent on the planet wishes they could choose to do, and I will forever be grateful that I had the chance to do it. But if you’re like me, staying at home, just wasn’t “me.”
It’s one of those things you don’t ever want to admit.
“How could you possibly choose to go back to work instead of spending more time with your two sweet boys?”
It isn’t something to complain about to friends who wish they didn’t have to work.
“You’re so lucky. I wish I could stay home every day with my kids.”
Really, I couldn’t and shouldn’t have ever complained. My life as a stay-at-home mom was more than perfect. I was always around for my wife’s days off. We could travel whenever we felt like it, and we did. I’ve been more than spoiled. But it didn’t mean I was truly happy.
I tried to admit out loud for months how much it just didn’t make sense for me anymore. Each time, I was reminded of how I must have been mistaken. Each time, I was brought back to a place of just being silent, because how could I possibly ask for anything more?
As if motherhood isn’t filled with enough guilt and self-doubt, the thought of giving up on being full-time mom brought on more self-criticism than I could handle. How can I possibly admit that I don’t want to spend every minute with my boys, without feeling like a bad mother? I need to go back to work, for me. This decision has been selfish, and one of the first I’ve made that has been all about “me” since becoming a mother.
Staying at home has been dangerous, and almost toxic, to me, to my marriage, and to my family. I am in no way criticizing stay-at-home parents. Staying at home IS THE most difficult job I have EVER done and have EVER known. But it doesn’t work for my brain. I will forever be in awe of the parents who do it well, and make it look so easy.
I’m not the kind of creative parent to set up projects or space for imaginative play. I’m not the parent to teach all the right lessons, sing all the right songs or tell all the right stories. I can give all the love in the world, but when you live with a self-criticizing brain like mine, it just isn’t enough.
I began to resent Michelle. Resent. I resented her every time she could leave the house on her own. When she had stories to tell about work and conversations with coworkers. As if I blamed her for forcing me to stay home and lose all connections to friends, colleagues and adult interaction. I didn’t get married to live in a “traditional” family. I never pictured myself as a woman to stay home and let someone else support me. That isn’t me, and I allowed myself to be angry at Michelle for putting me there.
I love our boys with a deeper love than I ever knew possible. I loved my time home with them and the relationships and memories we built. I am forever fortunate for all the moments I shared in their young lives. Moments that no one can ever take away from us. But, for the well-being of our family, I’m here to admit, I’m going back to working outside the home. Somehow, for some of us, it just has to be OK to say, “I can’t do this 100 percent of the time.”
I’m a parent. It’s the greatest job I’ve ever had. But I need to be me, too.
Our lives are completely changing again over the next few weeks. The boys have just started going to “school,” and I finally feel good about handing them over to other loving, caring adults who will teach them so many amazing things. Work has begun for me, although at a much more manageable pace than before, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
For once, I’m letting go of the motherly guilt. There is no doubt in my mind that these changes are perfect for all of us.
Shannon lives in Rochester, New York, with her wife, Michelle, and two sons, Blake and Terry. She recently quit her job as a full-time, stay-at-home mom. Shannon and family enjoy traveling, rescuing dogs and cats, and tracking down trains, boats, garbage trucks or whatever the latest toddler fascination may be.