My ideas regarding motherhood have changed drastically over the years. There were my teenage dreams of my little cherub, surrounded by her (because I had to have a girl) foster brothers and sisters. My future husband and I would have one of our own, and we would fill our house with foster children who came and went as necessity demanded (I was considering a career in social work at the time). Then there were my college and graduate school ideas, where I would home-school our four to six children as a stay-at-home mother. Then I got married and found myself pregnant for the first time. At that point, I was entertaining the idea of three to four children that would be sent to Catholic school while I worked part-time as a Director of Religious Education or Youth Minister. After John was born, there was a short period of time where I was convinced that he might be an only child, because sleep deprivation left me utterly exhausted and overly anxious about everything. In time, I got over my fears, and now we’re expecting our second child, our little princess Felicity in August, just a week before Andrew begins working as a professor at Christendom College. Just a few weeks prior to my due date, I will finish my fourth and final year at St. Ignatius and begin my new life as a full-time stay-at-home-mom.
My life as a working mother has had its ups and downs. When John was born, I knew that I had to continue working full-time. Andrew was still completing his doctorate, and my income was vital. We knew that we would not be able to consider other options until Andrew had been hired as a full-time professor, at the earliest. Even then, it seemed likely that I would need to continue working part-time, at least for a few years. And I was okay with that.
I have loved my job. I have loved youth nights, and Confirmation classes, and retreats. I have loved weekend conferences, and social outings, and ice cream socials. I have even loved the quiet hours spent in my office, answering emails and writing lesson plans. I haven’t minded the quiet hour that I get to work while John sleeps in the afternoon, or the hour or two I get after he goes to bed. I have a lot to balance, but I have always managed to keep all the plates spinning from day to day. It has helped that Andrew’s work schedule has permitted me to work in my office three days a week, giving me just enough time to cross off every important task in my planner.
I didn’t even mind that I had to balance home life with work life. In the first few months, I relied on those days in the office to keep me sane. I looked forward to being out of the house for a few hours, just by myself, even if most of my time was occupied with work. I looked forward to the peace and quiet that my office provided, even if I continued to hear phantom cries for hours after arriving.
I relied heavily on those days in my office to have some quiet time, but working from home also meant that my quiet time had a singular purpose: work. When I finally got John down for a nap, I would let out a long sigh of relief before settling on the couch for 30-60 minutes of work, depending on the day. Early on, I also tried to squeeze showers in during nap time as well, but now I’ve taken to showering before John wakes up most days. And when I wasn’t working, I was tackling any number of household tasks as quickly and quietly as possible- running and folding laundry, cleaning the bathroom, the kitchen, or any other part of the house, emptying the dishwasher. During those first few weeks after John was born, I was told to sleep or rest while the baby sleeps countless times, and all I could do was smile and nod as I mentally listed everything that I needed to do during John’s next nap.
Those first few weeks were especially difficult. I had six weeks of maternity leave, but I still found myself working for a few hours every day. I had prepared all the necessary lesson plans, secured countless volunteers to fill my position, and rearranged my calendar to make sure I didn’t miss any major activities, and I still found myself sending emails on a regular basis, just to make sure that everything ran smoothly while I was away. That remains my biggest regret as a mother, that I didn’t get to spend those first few weeks really enjoying John. When he was awake, I was either feeding him or trying to get him to sleep, and when he was asleep, I was scrambling to get as much work done as possible. I know that I didn’t have much choice in the matter, but I still wish I had had some more time to just enjoy John’s entrance into my life.
As I really got a handle on our life together, and our days settled into a beautiful sort of rhythm, I really began to regret that I had to spend entire days away from my baby. As much as I loved my job, I hated that I had to spend so much time without my son. As much as I enjoyed my days in the office, I loved my days at home more. As the months passed, I began to envy the lives of my stay-at-home mom friends more and more. For half the week, I got a taste of that life, and I just wanted more. I wanted it all, all the time, without the struggle of attempting to balance my home and work life.
As much as I love my job, and my students, my longing to be at home with my son has only gotten stronger with time. But for the past two years, working has been an inevitability for me. Even as Andrew applied for jobs, we weren’t sure if we would be able to manage on just his salary (or salaries). But then he was hired by Christendom College, and I was faced with the absolute fact that my time at St. Ignatius was going to come to an end, regardless of my feelings on the matter. And with that knowledge, suddenly my desire to be a stay-at-home mom became all-consuming.
Circumstances have finally enabled us to live on one person’s salaries (since Andrew will continue to work part-time from home), and for the first time, I do not need to work. In the past, I’ve said that I would continue to work even when I didn’t need to, but if I’m going to be completely honest, I don’t want to work anymore. As much as I love being a youth minister, I don’t want the responsibilities that come with the position anymore. I don’t want the long hours in my office. I don’t want to scramble to get work done while my children nap. I don’t want to feel like I need to split my time between my family and my career. I don’t want to have to close that door in the morning, leaving my husband and son behind as I climb into my car and begin my commute. I just don’t want it anymore.
I have been given a beautiful gift, and I have no intention of taking it for granted. I have the chance to stay at home with my children full-time, and I’m going to take it. My time at this beloved parish will come to an end on July 20th, and when that day passes, my time as a working mother will pass as well (though I do intend to volunteer in some capacity, to stay active and involved in the Church). I am eagerly awaiting late-summer days with my son as we adjust to life in western Virginia together, as well as those first few weeks home with our little girl. I might actually be able to rest during those first challenging weeks with a newborn, even if it just means snuggling with John on the couch while we watch a movie and his baby sister naps.
I have had a taste of the life of a stay-at-home mom these past two years, so I know what it’s like. I know that life can be demanding, the list of things to do endless, and the battles over meals, sleep, or any other thing can be daily. Every type of life has its challenges, but I have chosen to exchange the tiring life of a working mom for the tiring life of a stay-at-home mom because this is what I want. I know that things will get more difficult once Felicity arrives, but more than anything, I am looking forward to spending my days with my children, sharing countless moments with them, as well as the occasional cup of ice cream or a pork fried rice dinner (John’s current favorite food).
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!