“Argh!” I suppose each mother has her own version of this expression. But to me, it expresses my feelings of inadequacy, being out of control, confusion and frustration. This is how I felt by the end of my one-year maternity leave. I am totally stressed out and "pulled from all sides" deciding if I should stay home with the kids or go back to work? I don’t think I am the only mom to feel this way. This is my fourth time and yet I still struggle.
“Argh!” I wish my mom or mother-in-law was here. It would have been easier. I remember how they would scamper at the slightest opportunity seen to take home my kids with them. But since we moved to Canada, we've been practically on our own with no other family members to depend on.
So, how did I come up with the all-important decision? What better way to settle this dilemma than sharing it with my partner. My husband and I sat down and after much "what ifs" and "what nots", here are some points we thought were important to consider if you are deciding to be a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) or a working mom.
Our Finances – We went over everything from how much we would pay for childcare to how much we’ll spend on gas, dinning out and work clothes. Then we compared these numbers with my earnings to see if we would be barely scraping by, or if we’d be saving money along the way.
My Feelings – I came into terms with myself. I just switched off from the outside world and ignored what other people said about how a good mom stays at home. The last thing I need is guilt or bullying to push me into something I am not happy with. Every family is different and even with each child that I had, the decision was different because they were pretty much in different circumstances. Us, moms, have the intrinsic ability of seeing through the “magic ball”. I just followed my gut feeling.
My Energy - Staying home for a full year during my maternity leave made me rethink. Am I ready to dive into the all-rewarding career of being my children’s full-time cook, maid, chauffer, playmate and nap warden? Or if I go back to work, can I sustain the daily pre-dawn mommy chores, then get groomed and dressed, put in a full day of work, and then head home for round two of chores? Plus, I have to spend some time with my kids at night if I want to keep our connections (and again, there’re four of them now). I am not sure if it will feel the same as before but when I went back to work after my first pregnancy, I actually found the hours spent in the office rejuvenating, allowing me to come home energized. Either way, being a SAHM or a working mom requires plenty of stamina both physically and emotionally.
My Partner’s Feelings - I asked my husband how he feels about sharing some of the chores. Remember that it’s got to be a mutual effort. I was honest with him about needing his help, and we agreed that if we are to keep harmony in the house then we have to support each other. The first time I became a SAHM, I expected my husband to take over my shift the minute he stepped in. It was a mistake. Being partners does not mean either of you are off the clock whether you came from work or you’ve been doing the chores the past 10 hours. It's a give-and-take situation. It is when you give that you actually take something out of it. And I think I have mastered this art now.
Our Children’s Feelings – After much research and hunting for the right daycare, it’s time to sit down with the kids. My four-year old is actually excited because she’s with her baby sister now. She likes the feeling of being responsible for her. It’s my older kids who are a little concerned just because I have been there for them for quite a while now. But once I laid out to them the reality and the need to go back to work, they understood. My eldest son said, “whatever will make you happy, Mom, we will support you”. Kids love having happy parents and they would agree whatever you decide on as long as you are honest with them.
For the few times I’ve been a SAHM, I found myself always putting the needs of my family first because they’re my biggest priority. I used to think that if I did that, things would run smoothly. However, a lot of times, I’ve found myself tired and irritable. After this fourth baby, I realized I need to spend time with myself so I could continue to give to my family without running dry. The love I give myself will be mirrored in my relationship with others. Therefore, I choose to love myself in order to be a better steward of what has been entrusted to my care – my family.
“Argh!” It doesn’t matter what decision you come up with. Take time alone when you need it and do not feel guilty. Always run on full tank. If you do this, you will have an abundance of love and energy to give to your children and partner. And as I write this article, I had my tank filled up again. Thanks, KinderBuzz!