Stay-at-home mama or working mama?

Three months ago, I started working 25-30 hours a week. Up until that point, the most I had ever worked as a mom was 8-10 hours a week. More seasoned mamas who work full-time may find this wussy, but the weeks I worked 30 hours, I started to  feel a serious lack of balance in my life. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am a always striving to find balance. Although I was really liking my new job a lot (and still am), I could feel things on the home front starting to get more chaotic. Every one in our family was stressed.  Now that I am down to 19 hours, I think that I will more likely that I can find a good balance between family/work life. I actually gave up the opportunity to have needed benefits by choosing to go down in hours, but once I made the decision, it felt completely right in my heart. I think that in a couple of years, I may very well be in a different stage where I will be able to handle more hours, but for now, the right decision was made.

So is it possible for this balance seeker to be kind of a stay-at-home mom and kind of a working mom at the same time? I still want to go on my kid’s field trips, make them dinner most nights, and get them ready for bed. I still want to take them swimming and to spend rainy days at home reading book after book. I also want to be a good employee and follow through with what is expected of me at work. I have a pretty awesome job, and I feel like it gives me a great chance to make a difference in an area that I am really passionate about. This whole scenario gives Chris more time with the kids as well. Once school starts again and Gabe and Sofia are in school, Miriam will be at the babysitters for 10 hours a week at the very most. One of the conditions of me taking this job was that our kids would never be in childcare more than 15 hours a week, and so far we have been able to make that happen.

Am I crazy to think that I can keep the mentality of being a stay-at-home mom and also of a working mom? Can I really have it all, or will one or all of the areas  on my life suffer? At this point, I am feeling optimistic that I can, although things really aren’t exactly the same.  My kids miss me, and I miss them, but they are for the most part thriving. By the time I have been away from them for 4-8 hours, I am so excited to get home to spend time with them. I have always loved spending time with my kids, but I feel like I am trying harder to be present with them.

Another area of my life that has changed quite a bit is my mommy “play date” life. When I have days off, there are things to get done around the house and my main focus is making sure I have time with the kids, so many of my friendships are kind of on the back burner right now. I have to admit that when I hangout with a group of stay-at-home moms right now who are really close, I do feel like a little bit of an outsider. I hear them talk about the fun things they have done or the hardship they helped one of the moms through, and it does hurt my heart a little. A part of me wishes that I could linger at the park a little longer or be there for a friend who really needs me, but I need to get home and get lunch for the kids before I head off to work.

The work gig can be tricky too. I have ideas for so many things I would love to do in our program, but I have very limited time at work to get things done that I would like to. I am a yes person. It is hard for me to put up boundaries around what I do or do not have time to do, but I’m sure that this will be good for me in the long run. I have a life time of work a head of me, so I have to remind myself that I will have a lot of time in the future to work on career goals.

One thing I have learned for sure from talking to different moms is how personal the decisions we make are. We are all just trying to make the best decisions for our families, and that decision may be very different for each family. Although life isn’t perfect, I have to say that I really am feeling good about my life right now. I have so much to be grateful for. I’m far from perfect, but I am doing my best, and I think that my best is good enough.

What are your thoughts and experiences in regards to your choices with working or being a stay-at-home mom? I would love to hear your insights!

Kelly - July 17, 2013 - 9:54 am

Kara,
It sounds like you’re all really at peace with the decision which means it’s the right one! The best advice I got about working (but has extended to my personal life as well) is not to answer requests for 24 hours. I am a yes person as well and it’s too easy for me to bury myself in responsibilities that are not important to me. So, whenever a request or invitation can wait, I sleep on it and ask 1) is it something I would enjoy doing? 2) is it something that I will be able to do (time, skills, politics etc.)? 3) will it have an impact on things that are important to me? 4) am I the most appropriate person/only person for this task? and 5) what’s the cost/benefit ratio? In other words, if this is a committee that will take a lot of time and because I’m junior, I won’t have much of an impact on, I say no. Alternately, if something is really close to my heart and I am excited to do it, then the same amount of time invested is well worth it. However, you can’t do all this calculus in your head in the 30 seconds you have to answer someone in person so my stock answer is “I’ll think about that/check my calendar and get back to you”. I also postpone by asking more questions which also provides data for my calculations.

All that said, working definitely makes me a better mama. As you noted for yourself as well, it makes me more conscious about being present and makes me a happier, more fulfilled me. The flip side is that being a mama makes me better at my job, too. Kids provide much needed levity and perspective. Kids make you constantly strive to be a better you – such a challenge and a gift. Good luck in striving to be your best self in all your roles.

Sonia - July 18, 2013 - 7:43 pm

I can totally relate to this! I think the idea of constant balance is a myth. Some days in my work/family life feel more balanced than others. I try to look at it on a bigger scale: weeks and months. Fitting in time with friends on top of it is really challenging! I too have gone from stay-at-home to working-mama, and my relationships with friends have definietly been affected. It’s somehting I want to spend more time on, but there are so many things I want to spend more time on! It does get easier. : )

kara - July 18, 2013 - 11:08 pm

Kelly,
I love your checklist for answering requests. I will be using that. I am getting better with the saying no (especially now that I have less hours to work with), but I still have a ways to go!
Sonia,
Even though I miss friends a lot and wish I could see them more (and have my kids play with other kids more), the good thing is that I am kind of past the stage where I need as much social/adult interaction. When my kids were really little, I went nutso without my girlfriends. They saved me some days. Now the older my kids get, we have found more of a family groove, and although seeing good friends always helps fill my cup up, I don’t go thirsty without it. I’m glad it gets easier. It already has gotten a bit easier, but it still feels like a lot trying to juggle it all sometimes!