The hardest phone call I’ve ever had to make occurred while I was on maternity leave with my second child. In the weeks following the birth my of daughter, my husband and I crunched numbers, discussed professional and financial goals, and ultimately decided that I would leave my job to stay home with our two kids. But before I could do so, I had to tell my job I was leaving, and that was hard as hell. Because on top of any big change being scary, I also really liked my job.
As all this was happening, I had a friend encouragingly tell me, “Leap! A net will appear!” I’ve thought of that a lot since, because, magically, one did. Things have worked out really well, and I truly believe I made the right decision for me. As it turns out, being a stay-at-home mom is something I genuinely enjoy and a lot of the things I worried about (boredom, my brain melting from inactivity, getting caught up in Real Housewives-style suburban dramas) have been complete non-issues. But even though I’m digging my new role, I must confess that there is so much about being a working mom that I desperately miss. They include, but are not limited to, the following...
Adult Conversation / Co-Workers
Sometimes, when my son is freaking out that I took away a toy after several calm and clearly stated warnings not to bop his sister on the head with it, and my daughter is wailing and trying to throw my iPad across the room because I put on an Elmo video for her, but not the right Elmo video, and she doesn’t speak well enough to tell me which one she wants, and everyone is communicating exclusively in screams, to the point that it feels like a really pretentious and annoying modern art installation about the futility of human sorrow… I really, really miss my co-workers. I even miss the co-workers I didn’t especially like, because at least they could talk to me like an adult (mostly). Even that one lady who always stole everyone’s lunches out of the fridge (WE KNOW IT WAS YOU!) could at least talk about her cats.
By and large, my former colleagues were and are amazing (I’m still friends with a lot of them) so they’re easy to miss anyway, but I really miss our break-room conversations. Believe it or not, my children do not have anything insightful to say on the films of Quentin Tarantino, the Syrian refugee crisis, Game of Thrones, or any of the Brontës (not even Emily!).
The Possibility Of A Lunchbreak
There were definitely times at the office when I worked through lunch. (We called those “sad desk lunches” and they were awful.) But I usually made it a point to step out for at least 15 minutes to get some food and fresh air. Knowing that a lunch hour was legally owed me and that my very cool boss encouraged me to take advantage of that provided some respite. As a SAHM, I haven’t had a decent lunch since becoming a SAHM. It doesn’t matter if I try to eat before, with, or after my children, they always interrupt or try to steal my food. It’s like living with great big sea gulls swooping in and taking all my french fries.
I remember the days when the loudest and most annoying sound I had to deal with was the overly enthusiastic typing of my office mate.
Long has paled that sunny sky; Echoes fade and memories die; Autumn frosts have slain July. – Lewis Carroll
A Space Of Your Own
I love that my children love to cuddle. If I’m sitting down, chances are one of them is going to plop down in my lap with a book, or curl up next to me for a hug, or ask for a piggy-back ride, or whatever. It’s mostly great. But oh my goddddddddd, my kingdom for a day when no one touches me. So the idea that, once upon a time, I an entire office to myself is mind boggling. I currently work part-time from home (doing this; you’re welcome) and, as such, have a little desk set-up that I’ve designated as my work space. But my one year old likes to watch me type (like she is now) and my four year old knows which drawer is the candy drawer, so...
Being Able To Complete A Task Start-To-Finish
I’m not claiming there are no distractions at work (I mean, emergency assignments and annoying co-workers aside, hello, the Internet. For all I know you’re reading this article at work. Get back to work, slacker. JK, no one’s here to judge you! You take a break. you’ve earned it.), but if you were so inclined you could probably start a task and see it through to its completion or at least until a logical stopping point. Most people can, say, decide to write an email, write that email, and send that email in short order. Some really lucky blokes might even be able to complete a whole project/assignment uninterrupted, day to day. For a SAHM, you’re always too busy putting out fires… sometimes literal fires (how did they learn to turn on the stove)? I’ve stopped trying to empty or load the dishwasher when my kids are around because it just. doesn’t. work. Usually one distracts me with something (a spill, a game, or a request to check and make sure he wiped his butt properly) and then the other climbs in when my back is turned. It’s a wonder the door hasn’t snapped off under her weight yet.
A Sense Of Accomplishment
When it comes to gauging your performance and success in an office setting, things are pretty cut and dry (unless you work in a toxic cesspool of vagueries, in which case you have my sympathy). When you’re a SAHM, there’s no annual review, no raises, no talking to your boss about how you can grow in your role by taking on more responsibilities, no kudos email from the CEO. Figuring out if you did well that day is often… sort of difficult to figure out. You’re like, “Ummm… the kids are still alive and… they didn’t cry themselves to sleep… and the house didn’t fall down around us. So… yay?” Being a SAHM mom means completely recalibrating how you define and measure success, which can be frustrating and liberating at the same time. How it works differs from person to person, so I really can’t offer any insights as to how this might ultimately turn out for anyone other than me (who, incidentally, decided to work part-time, so make of that what you will). So as much as I loathed those annual reviews back when I had a nine-to-five, in the hazy glow of nostalgia, it sounds pretty sweet.
Any day I don’t wind up in yoga pants before noon makes me feel as fancy as a Tang dynasty empress. Dudes, I really, really miss wearing tailored clothing, which just isn’t practical as the SAHM of two small, filthy children. Every now and then, when those grubby-handed goblins are sleeping, I’ll open my closet doors, sigh, and then hug all my old Banana Republic dresses while sobbing (think: final shot of Annette Benning in American Beauty).
Don’t get it twisted: I do not miss my commute at all. It was one of my least favorite things about working. That said, there were perks: As a rider of mass transit, this gave me a lot of time to read or listen to NPR. I could power through two, three books a month. Now? I’ve been re-reading Wuthering Heights since June. Of the 300 pages I’ve gone through, about 200 were read while on a 4-day, kid-free vacation. I am able to catch snippets of NPR when I drive my kids to preschool and sometimes on weekends when we make longer trips. But other than that? I’m totally less informed now than I was as a regular commuter. (Bonus: I feel less guilty about not donating to the pledge drive.)
A Simple Schedule And Solid Routine
Some SAHMs have the routine down minute to minute… I do not. As a working mom, I found this aspect of things simpler: go to work, leave at exactly 4:20, catch 4:35 bus, pick up son from daycare at exactly 5:40, get home at 5:50, cook dinner while he watches Sesame Street, husband gets home at 7, eat, bath, playtime, child in bed by 8:45. Now it’s like, “Ummm… OK, so… we’re home all day. So I guess… maybe we’ll go to the playground today? Or… shopping? I don’t know. I have to guess as to when you’re both going to want to nap and hope that coincides. Here: Watch more Sesame Street while I figure this sh*t out.”