All in a Day’s Work: From Career-Woman to Stay-at-Home Mom

This past Wednesday, I went in to Mountain View to pack up the last of my things.  I wept my way through the San Gabriel Valley, grieving my many losses.  Each August for the past…well… 22 years, I have been starting fresh with new notebooks, new pens, new books, plans and goals for what I will accomplish in the coming year and how.  And now, instead of the blank slate of a new school year looming before me, I am shutting the classroom door (at least for the time being).

Now don’t get me wrong, every year that I have taught has been difficult in some way; there have been days, though fewer each year, when I wished I could find a way out of teaching.  The first few years, I dreamed of the day when having a family at home would keep me out of the classroom, anticipated the glories of stay-at-home-motherhood.  I imagined taking an eight- to ten-year sabbatical in which I would shine in all my domesticated ways, baking daily from scratch, filling our home and our children’s closets with home-made-ness, volunteering in our community, gardening, and being satisfied.  There would be no hurry to get back into teaching, not in this imagined world of mine.

I do exist, for at least a portion of every day, in reality, however.  And in reality, being a SAHM, at least for one, eight-month-old angel, does not fulfill the fantasy that I had dreamed of.  There is a lot of laundry, cooking, washing dishes, calming a crying child, nursing a hungry child, and other duties to be done.  And not so much time and energy for the other stuff.  And when I do have a moment, I often find myself asking, ‘now what am I supposed to be doing with her again?’ 

What I am realizing that I am giving up is much more than I ever expected.  Even in college, while I was in the heady waters of my teacher prep program, eager to get into the classroom and change the world through public education, I never imagined that I would for a second want to trade my time raising a family for my profession.  What could be more important than raising your own children?  But what I am losing is not necessarily more important—it is just something that I cannot get in the same way at home.  I am losing daily interaction with my colleagues, like-minded people with a passion and energy for their subjects and education.  I am losing my need for professional growth—for the past five years, I have relished the day my English Journal would arrive, reading through it quickly and thoroughly, marking it up and trying new things in my classroom.  I am losing the relationship-building with children outside of my family and church, many of whom have felt let down by the education system in the past, many of whom simply need an adult in their lives who is interested in them.  I am losing what has been a great source of identity, accomplishment, and purpose that has shaped my days, my thoughts, and my energies. 

In light of this, one of the things I would like to spend time considering on my blog this year is: as parents who sacrifice our careers for our children, what are the things we replace them with to fill similar roles? (accomplishment, purpose, identity, relationships… etc.)  And I’d like to ask any readers who stumble across this post, how do you fulfill these needs as a stay-at-home parent?

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3 Comments »

  1. Robin Mohr said

    How have I done this? Let me count the ways…

    I discovered a leading to invest in children’s religious education – not just my own, but the ones in my local and regional communities. I developed curriculum, taught, improved the facilities, organized other teachers, advocated for children. This is basically over for me, for now, but it was very important to me for a few years.

    I became available for coffee, conversation, meeting at the park or in my home, at first with other parents who had small children, but later also with other adults who needed to talk and think about a project they or we were working on. I met for lunch with other interesting women who were available during the day, some my age with kids and some retired.

    I signed my kids up for a co-operative nursery school where I worked one morning a week and volunteered to serve on committees and the board of directors.

    I cooked better. More healthy, more variety, more from basic ingredients. I gardened a little.

    I read a lot of interesting books. Eventually I started writing essays. I wrote more on my blog. I made up business cards with the name of my blog on them.

    I cried about losing my identity. I whined to my husband about the perils of patriarchal society. I redefined my vision of myself and my definition of success. Over and over again.

    I volunteered my skills to a wide variety of non-profit organizations. I wrote grant proposals, drafted personnel manuals, worked at special events.

    I didn’t fret so much about what to do with my kids when they were sick or on school vacations. I was really flexible about making doctor appointments. I volunteered to drive carpool to choir and soccer practice.

    And now, ten years later, I’m on the other end of this spectrum, facing a new life as a working mother. That’s scary too.

    I will hold you and your family in the Light.

  2. lisa said

    Oh my goodness, I could have written this myself except I taught college English rather than high school. I too was blindsided by the real demands of SAHM life! I found quickly that while women re-find themselves in myriad ways, the thing to NOT do is look to your spouse to fulfill what you are missing.:) it sounds like you are sidestepping that minefield by being aware of yourself in your new situation. I have enjoyed networking with other mothers in my work from home. I teach now for some online colleges, which allows me to stay connected with my field and with my family. One thing moms are great at doing is adapting 🙂 Cheers!

  3. edaniels said

    Thanks, Lisa. Amazing how things change… and stay the same… over time. It has been three years since I wrote this and now I have three-and-a-hel and one-and-a-half year-old girls and mothering is so busy. And so fun. And I still deeply miss the professional world of teaching. But I also still feel it would overwhelm me to re-enter and try to keep balance here with my girls. Anyway… thanks for the advice. I think the struggle of who am I apart from my spouse and my familial responsibilities is constant, and I am working to not lean to heavily into him for my identity.

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