As a teen, I had a friend who insisted she wanted to be a mom when she “grew up.” A mom and what else? I wondered aloud. My own mom was, of course, a mom. But she was also a successful business owner, I guess what we would today call a “momtrepreneur,” long before that was a thing. She consulted with international clients, was published in other languages. Yes, she was a mom and damn good at it.
My mom dried our tears and cooked homemade meals from scratch and heaven only knows how she got all that laundry done but she did. She also had this big, important career that I much admired. Into my twenties, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be “just a mom.” Didn’t want to imagine it, really.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember my cold feet about the circumstantial housewife-and-stay-at-home-mom-ness that I feared toward the end of my pregnancy. A series of cross-country moves and the timing of several freelance projects ending right around the due date of my first-born loomed large. I was terrified that being a mother would not fulfill me, that I would be itching to work.
I’ve always been a work horse, it’s just in my DNA. In school, when the homework was finished, I went for the extra credit. I babysat and worked in a shoe store, volunteered to do hair backstage for college theatre. I spent my first summer after graduating hunched over the computer looking for any internship I could get my hands on, while also doubling up on nannying gigs and conceptualizing my first blog.
Before Josh and I started moving all over the place to advance his career, I had one of my own. As an editor, then a publicist, and later as a freelancer who paid her bills working retail. In Dallas, I found a new home in the world of corporate copywriting — it was the first time in my life I’d worked only 40 hours a week, so naturally I had between three and five freelance gigs going at all times. I was planning my wedding and this blog was starting to take off at the time.
I’m scrappy. I love to earn my own money. I am okay leaning on Josh and having him lean on me, and they don’t always have to be for the same things. But I grew up proud of my mom who could afford her stuff. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, and I’m proud of it all. I’d be lying if I said there aren’t days home with Willow when I crave more money, a solid, full-time income that could accommodate my wish-list for her. But something else happened between that last post on this subject and today:
I fell in love with being a stay-at-home mommy.
It was the one thing I never thought I wanted, but every time I’ve come close to letting it go, I’ve dramatically steered back this way. Since Willow’s birth, I’ve been fortunate enough to maintain this blog and a few other steady writing gigs, and I’ve realized my years-long dream of opening a headband shop. But my income, while helpful, doesn’t do a whole bunch for our bottom line. What my limited work hours do do though, is free me up to be what I love most of all. Willow’s mother, the central caretaker of this happy home.
Gag on your chai latte that you earn enough money to justify purchasing every day. I will totally understand. This is not the me I imagined I would be. There might be a day, a few years from now or ten, when I throw in the towel and say this is BS and I’d rather earn enough to pay someone to take care of the things that need to happen here so I can go out and be in the world. But today, I am good. I am happy. I am okay with not being able to afford the full-time nanny or the big house on the hill that we might want. Okay with saving dinners out for special occasions and getting by more modestly. The gift of staying home with Willow is worth everything I am not able to buy. It just is.
I want to be the one who cuddles her when she has four teeth breaking through the surface and she needs to be held. I want to be the one who separates the lights from the darks from the pinks from the what-on-earth-is-this-stain in an endless sea of laundry. These are the clothes of my people. We are fortunate to own them, to wear them. It is okay that I am not sitting at a desk doing someone else’s bidding because I am instead home running my household. It is okay that it is not the dream I had, because dreams change and bottom lines morph.
I will write that novel, no matter how many more years it takes me. I will not, however, get these years back. Willow’s first birthday is less than a month away. I have to actually see that written in order to believe it. I never wanted to be a yoga pant-wearing, Target coupon-cutting, healthy cooking-obsessed housewife and stay-at-home-mom. But sometimes life throws you something you didn’t expect, something you thought you never wanted, and it works. These are the moments you have to stop justifying and apologizing and need to start ignoring the rhetoric.
I respect that there are women who prefer to work outside the home and those whose circumstances don’t offer another choice. All moms deserve to be respected and you’re all doing it your way. I am also okay with accepting and living my happy even though it isn’t what I thought I wanted. Keeping active in my field and making pretty things to sell on the Interwebs is how I remain relevant, how I keep a few toes outside our sweet cocoon. But whether you do it like I do, or just go all the way in and hide, this post is for those of you who are at home and seeking meaning. Being “just” a mom is a pretty damn beautiful thing. Consider yourself lucky for it, even if your pockets are emptier than you’d like them to be — I’d bet my last dollar your hearts are pretty full. And I know your days are, too.