Both kids are bathed, hair combed, teeth brushed, dressed and fed breakfast. I’m still in my pajamas. My son and I crafted this awesome car out of a cardboard box while I fed the baby. Laundry is done and I’ve folded it twice to have it dumped out by the toddler each time. It’s not even noon and I’m ready for nap time. I won’t get to take that nap, however, because my breasts are so painfully engorged that I have to pump. I also have to wash the bottles, fold the laundry again and pick up the toys. Oh wait! Stop everything! Newborn is up again. I have to feed him, burp him, change his diaper and lay him down to sleep in his swing.
Okay, maybe now I’ll have a break to eat.
Nope, toddler is awake. Take him to the potty, put on his favorite show and make a snack for him.
Did I eat yet?
I can’t remember. Oh well. Time to start supper.
Supper is ready. The baby is awake, and my oldest son and husband eat. I feed the baby. Supper is over. I change the baby and put him in his swing. No time for me to eat, I still need to pump. I pump while my husband cleans up from supper and bathes our oldest son. Pumping is done! I pick up toys, wash out bottles and settle in with my husband to read the toddler a bedtime story. Baby is awake and crying so I feed him while we read.
It’s 8:30 p.m. and everyone is finally asleep.
Did I eat yet?
Did I mention I’m also recovering from a c-section?
This is just a tiny snapshot of what I do every day as a stay-at-home mom. I’m doing my best to keep all of the spinning plates up. It’s a crazy balancing act that I love, but when someone asks me what I do for a living I find myself sheepishly saying, “Oh, I’m JUST a stay-at-home mom.”
Why do I downplay this role?
Maybe it’s because my career once defined me. I used to be a leader in Louisville, Kentucky’s nonprofit community. I led an after-school program in my childhood inner city neighborhood that was recognized for its success in shaping and changing the lives of many people. And, as someone raised in that very impoverished community, I’d become a poster child of success for the children we served and the donors. I had gotten out, only to return and help better my community.
I loved working with children, loved helping them recognize their potential and watching them achieve it for themselves. Few experiences have given me more joy than seeing the children I worked with grow from learning to read for the first time, to graduating high school, entering college and becoming successful adults.
To say this was a career is to understate things. It wasn’t just a career, it was my life. My day did not end when the after-school program ended. Teenagers would come over to my house afterward for dinner, to bake treats, to do homework or just because they were bored. I truly loved them as if they were my own.
A little later into my career I felt that the community needed more than an after-school program. I knew from experience that education can save a person (it had saved me) and I began to dream of starting a private school for low-income children in the neighborhood. It was a dream that many in the community and city were excited about, and one that I was determined to achieve.
I worked hard to realize this next step in my career. I have two master’s degrees in education, and was on my way to begin a PhD in urban education at Columbia University. But I didn’t go. I didn’t further my career. Instead I met a man five months before I was planning to move from Kentucky to New York for Columbia. I knew immediately that he was unlike any other man I had ever encountered. He was intelligent, compassionate and genuine. I wanted to stay and take the relationship further, but I worried that emotions might be clouding my judgment. I wanted to be smart, so I put my admission at Columbia on hold for a year, just in case the relationship didn’t work out. Within that year he and I traveled, got engaged, bought a house and were married. We then set out to start a family immediately. I quickly got pregnant and knew that I wanted to stay home and raise our child, to be present for his first laugh, crawl, walk and words, and to contribute to that development.
Did I waste my education? Did I waste the time that I had poured into my career?
For the first few months after my son was born, I watched in awe as he slept for the majority of my days. Wasn’t I meant for more than just changing diapers? Wasn’t I going to change the world, or at least my small corner of it? And during that first year, when people who knew me as Angel from the after-school program would ask me what I was now doing, I would sheepishly say, “I’m JUST a stay-at-home mom.”
The pride of my new role didn’t come overnight, but grew as my boy grew. I came to understand everything this new role entailed, and the complexity of it. Now, two years into my new life as a stay-at-home mother, I’m here to say with pride that no, no I didn’t waste anything. I had poured so much of my self into other people’s children, but now I have the opportunity to invest all of my time and energy into my own. Being able to stay at home with my children is a privilege that I don’t take for granted. And though it’s exhausting, it’s even more rewarding to watch my sons grow into intelligent and compassionate little people.
I know there are many other women who still struggle with the decision to stay home with their children. They say, when asked, that they’re JUST stay-at-home moms. It can be difficult to take pride in a role that often isn’t recognized by others as work. There are no accolades or recognition for the labor intensive job that we do, not even from the little people we pour everything into!
Instead of getting a “good job” from our kids, we get meltdowns. But don’t miss the moment that will change how you feel about being a stay-at-home mother. Whether it’s when your child spells a word for the first time or walks up to you without being prompted and says, “I love you, mommy,” there will be a moment that will lift the shame that others have placed on us. That’s the moment you’ll realize that all of the hard work will be more than worth it, and you’ll be proud to call yourself a stay-at-home mom, changing the small corner of your world.