When my first child was born, I will admit that I didn’t feel prompted with the most challenging decision many women face when they have their first: the decision to pursue my career or to be a stay at home mom.
It wasn’t until the birth of my second (oldest son) that I felt an uncontrollable urge to face the most challenging question I have had yet.
Do I continue my career, working in the Department of Defense, in a job that I not only loved, but took pride in going to on a daily basis? Or do I make the move into being a stay at home mom? Is that even a possibility?
In high school, I was a wonderful student – I participated in cross country, spent a few years in, and went to college my junior and senior year where the state of Minnesota paid for me to accomplish college earlier than many other kids. I then went on to the military where I spent time serving in southern Arizona, Egypt and Kuwait, while working my way towards my Bachelor of Science Degree, and eventually met my husband.
Following that time in the military, I went on to finish a Master of Arts in Elementary Education – my goal: to be able to one day teach my own children.
Following my military and education, I started working for the Army Corps of Engineers, and later the Army Recruiting Mission. At each job, had a fancy job title, amazing salary, and incredible benefits. A government position with government benefits. I had my own office, with a huge window to look out onto the city of Phoenix and the opportunity to travel up to 3 weeks each month.
When people asked me “What do you do?” I was able to answer without question… I help contribute to the Army’s recruiting mission.
Then, I became a stay at home mom. A stay at home mom who works from home full time, but still to most, a stay at home mom.
Many parents would probably agree that a parent is one of the most important jobs in the world. One of the biggest problems comes with the common question “what do you do?”
I tend to get quiet, feel doubt, I feel unsure… and in the end, feel an incredible amount of confusion.
There are times I’d love to respond with “Hi. I’m Sheryl. I served in the military, and finished my Masters while working for the Department of Defense”… because face it, it sounds much more insightful than telling them I stay home.”
I absolutely love my 5 kids – I love snuggling up to them at night in bed, and I love making blanket forts with them at home in the living room and watching movies with them while we eat popcorn. I love nursing my baby girl over, and over, and over again.. I love her pudgy little face and being able to see her crawl from room to room without being able to say a word.
My kids give me more joy than anything else in my life, more love and affection than I’ll ever know what to do with. They also present me more challenges than any full time career position ever did – with them I have learned patience, persistence and gratitude.
Those real life experiences that happen right here in our house have been a far greater learning opportunity than any career position – but in the end, being a stay at home mom is an entirely different world.
Instead of getting awards and accolades from your employer, a pay raise or a bonus, or even a celebratory form of recognition when the job is accomplished… a stay at home mom doesn’t get a weekly paycheck.
In most cases, you don’t get any type of recognition – not even on your very best mom day. If anything, you get to deal with that ugly tantrum from your 3 year old, in public, when you are standing in a crowded store. You might get scolded when you take all 5 kids to Costco and the cashier notices that your 5 year old has mismatched shoes or, on a rainy day, forgot his jacket at home.
You might even get a foot in the face at some point in the night if you co-sleep with your littles.. or the opportunity to clean up a pantry well decorated in blue and silver glitter.
Our kids are loud, they fight to no end, and they love to spin the racks in the post office so hard that the cards fall off. They have thrown their shoes on the roof of the house, let bumble bees fly on in to our house, stuffed empanadas in their pants pockets and put in the washing machine, hid the television controllers in the box of rolled oats, and had #1 and #2 accidents on the last 3 road trips.
There are so many times when I feel utmost frustration – I feel defeated, exhausted, and aggravated. There are, however, many moments in between those moments of joy and frustration where we laugh hysterically at something they are doing, something they say, or a story they have.
And there are also those times when we laugh hysterically at ourselves.
Just the other day, we had a friend ask us when we (just “we”) were going to go on vacation together – as a couple. And my husband replied with something so incredibly heartwarming… “It’s not truly a vacation unless I can take my kids.”
In the end though, I am so proud to be a stay at home mom. Sure, I work at home too, but I consider my job as their mother my first and foremost priority. This is the only job that allows me to be involved in the lives of those who are the most important: my kids.