The Courage of the Stay-at-Home Mom.

Via on Dec 14, 2012

Choosing to stay home with your child is a leap of faith that goes beyond simply leaving your job.

“Leap and the net will appear.”

~ John Burroughs

I have this quote stuck to the side of my fridge with one of my son’s Cars magnets. I’ve kept it with me for years to remind myself to take risks and not be afraid of unknown journeys. The quote was never more apparent than the day I brought my newborn son home from the hospital and my days as a stay-at-home-mom, or SAHM, began.

It’s been quite a ride. While I’d like to think mothering came naturally to me, it was more something I learned through trial and error—lots of them. By some luck, I managed to do a pretty decent job with my son and added a baby girl to the mix without too much chaos. I guess you could say I’ve found my groove as a SAHM.

But what I didn’t expect was the isolation, both socially and personally. I don’t know many other SAHMs. Most of my close friends are working moms and those SAHMs that I do know are busy shuffling their children from place to place, taking care of their families’ needs and, somehow, trying to squeeze in time for themselves. Attempting to coordinate a play date with another SAHM is like navigating a sea of nap times, preschool schedules and swim lessons only to finally come up with a measly 30 minutes in the weeks ahead. And I take ‘em! I snatch them up and treat them as if I have a treasured meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Life for SAHMs isn’t like it was in decades past.

Most parents work these days, primarily out of necessity, so many neighborhoods aren’t the bustling streets they once were. On my block, you’ll only find me, a few retirees and the OCD guy across the street who likes to wash his car on rainy days—twice. When I walk my kids through the neighborhood, it’s eerily quiet.

Often, the only greetings I dole out are to the landscapers and the mailman. On rare occasions, I may spot another SAHM, but resist the temptation to follow her home for fear of appearing to be a stalker. Likely, it’s a new mother on maternity leave who will rarely be seen on the block once she returns to work.

Then there’s the loss, or maybe I should say change of one’s identity. For a SAHM, once she chooses to leave her job to stay home with her child, she instantly becomes a “former” this or that. For me, the choice came after I had already made a career change a few years before I became pregnant. I had left my corporate job to become a yoga teacher, then spent years building a client base and small following.

That all disappeared once I left to become a full-time mom. That meant an identity shift, an about-face really. Sure I could return to the teaching circuit again, but it would take me years to regain my prior momentum. For women in the law, finance or sales it means giving up clients that will be all but non-existent when they decide to make their return years later. It’s a choice that means leaving your career and risking the possibility of never returning to your former self.

“Leap and the net will appear.”

Sure, after years as a SAHM, you’ll find a new identity and find comfort with who you’ve become, but every now and again you’ll run into that person at a dinner party who says, “Oh, you’re a stay-at-home-mom? Hmph.” Then…crickets. The conversation dies. I’ll usually make an effort to talk about the person’s own work, but if that fails then I’ll graciously take my place next to the inevitably interesting “shy new girlfriend” or “starving artist husband” who has been outcast too.

It’s a shame. Most of us SAHMs come from interesting places and have some amazing stories. Of the SAHMs I know, one was a high-school English teacher, one an accomplished yoga teacher and another an attorney. All are educated, well-read and fun. A sense of humor is a prerequisite in mommydom. We love what we do (on most days anyway) and despite popular conception, we are able to hold adult conversations. And we might, just might, make you laugh.

What I think most people miss when they see a SAHM is the amount of courage she’s had to muster to jump off that cliff, leaving her familiar career-minded, child-free self to dive into a new skin.

It’s a test of endurance and patience unlike any you will ever experience. It takes a great deal of self-confidence to emerge from the free-fall and land on your feet. There were many days I was certain I was going to end up splattered on the pavement, but somehow I found the courage to make it through another day. Unlike many other jobs, there are no manuals, no job reviews, no promotions that will tell you you’re on the right track. All you have are your instincts and the courage to follow them.

“Leap and the net will appear.”

I’d like to think I’m doing a great job, that I’ve mastered all things that encompass motherhood and have earned a doctorate in parenting, but I know that it’s a never-ending education that changes with each child’s milestone.

I do know that my husband deeply appreciates my sacrifice. I do know that I have the special privilege of being with my children every day. I do know that despite all of the challenges of being a SAHM, I am happy.

I leapt. And I was caught.

~

Ed: Brianna B.

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About Amy Cushing

Amy Cushing is a stay-at-home mom and E-RYT® 200 certified yoga teacher pursuing her passion for writing. When she’s not chasing around two small tots, she can be found lost in a good book, cherishing quality time with her husband or having a much-needed laugh with her girlfriends. She’s on a mission to find simplicity in life so she can spend less time pulling out her hair and more time appreciating those who matter most. She loves yoga and music and has been known to bust out a mean rendition of Itsy Bitsy Spider in times of chaos. She holds a B.S. in Political Science and an M.A. in English from Northern Arizona University. Connect with Amy on Facebook or Twitter.

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9 Responses to “The Courage of the Stay-at-Home Mom.”

  1. [...] and marriage in the 1950s didn’t require dancing or debate. It was hard for my grandmother to transition into this new life, one where her opinion didn’t necessarily matter. She was to make sure the children behaved [...]

  2. DeDe says:

    This was a well thought paper. I have respect and admiration for the stay at home mother. It is a very special person indeed who can do such a feat.

    • Amy says:

      Thank you for your kind words! I do love staying home with my kids, but some days it sure does test my sanity.

  3. Gemma says:

    Thank you for your inspiring words. I am about to make the leap myself when my first baby joins us in June so this was really helpful and resonated deeply. Thanks again

    • Amy says:

      I'm so glad to hear I was able to give you some inspiration! You'll find motherhood to be one of the most incredible and challenging things you'll ever do. You'll do great! Congratulations on your new addition!

  4. Leane says:

    Thank you so much Amy! You describe it perfectly!
    “Oh, you’re a stay-at-home-mom? Hmph.” Then…crickets. The conversation dies. I’ll usually make an effort to talk about the person’s own work, but if that fails then I’ll graciously take my place next to the inevitably interesting “shy new girlfriend” or “starving artist husband” who has been outcast too.

    I always try to explain to my husband how I feel when we come home from a social gathering (usually with his work colleagues). I will definitely have him read this article!

    • @amydcushing says:

      Yeah, those social gatherings can be a bear to get through. I've found a few topics that most people relate to so I can make an effort to mingle a bit, then I find my spot in the corner ;). Thank you for your comments, Leane! It's good to know I'm in good company.

  5. Deb says:

    The headline threw me off a bit. Of course many women don't have the luxury of being a stay at home mom, so courage is needed for them also. I think it is best to find balance and try to keep a hand in the working world to ease an eventual return. In my own life I have found it more rewarding to go with the ebb and flow of motherhood and career. When my kids were babies I took enough time off to bond with them, found part-time work, never once felt like I didn't have a healthy influence on their lives. I didn't want to become outdated, be an outcast, lose confidence in who I was as a person. What I hear from many women is that when their kids grow into adults, they don't appreciate the sacrifices that were made. Many women give up their careers for their kids and live to regret it when empty nest syndrome sets in. This is the reality of it. My mother was a well educated stay at home mom, but women didn't have choices back then. Now we do. I respect your choice, but it is not for everyone.

  6. @amydcushing says:

    You're right, Deb. Staying home to raise kids isn't for everyone, and I agree with your point of finding a balance between career and family. I intended the article to show the difficult identity shift that happens when you become a SAHM, and for some women, the better option is to stay in their careers. I have much respect for working moms. It's such a challenge to manage work and kids. Really, it's a challenge for all of us moms. And we are lucky to have the choice…that should be celebrated! Thank you for your insightful comments!

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