Wednesday, May 21, 2008

To SAHM or Not to SAHM

That is the question. When I became pregnant with Katie, I was working at a hospice in the Roanoke Valley. I commuted, on average, 45 minutes each way, so was gone from home approximately 11 hours a day. I knew that once Katie came, I did not want to be gone those long hours from my little one. Yet I knew I needed income. And I needed mental stimulation. Thankfully, the perfect solution came along, I landed a client, started a business and was up and running two months after giving birth to Katie with my ongoing career in nonprofit management. I had a good setup - I worked from home, could flex my hours anyway I chose (within reason) to coordinate with her schedule, had college kids watch her and went to school full time. I even bartended on the side for a few months to make ends meet.

When we relocated, I took the business with me. I was determined to add another full-time client so that I could add the support staff I needed. I enrolled Katie in preschool part-time, which gave me just enough time to work in the morning, plus an hour or two while she slept in the afternoon and a few late-night hours. My day was work and childcare, and I didn't know many people in our area, so began to feel very isolated and alone. I wondered if I'd made the right choice. That said, Katie was blossoming, and I'm thankful I stayed with the business. My client was doing well, which was also satisfying for me.

Two months before Sadie's impending arrival, I took on a new client. The client was in a lot of trouble, and I knew it would be a rough transitional period. I hoped to have the files in place, history reviewed, finances up to code and standards and the office in good order before I left. I hired an assistant, who caught on quickly and felt confident it would be OK. I may even be able to take a week or two off work with the baby came. Then all hell broke loose.

The week before Sadie's arrival, my new client was having some major issues. My older client was in the process of obtaining an international contract and revitalization. The timing of these major events couldn't be worse. Then Sadie arrived with unexpected complications. Luckily, I had her on Labor Day, so I was off work, as was Jason. She was diagnosed with her heart defect that night, and the following day I was at UVA with her, miles from home. Unfortunately, she was a week early, and I had a major meeting that day. So I conducted it while standing outside of the hospital. I worked that night once her stats stabilized. I worked almost every day in that hospital.

When we got home, I continued to work, through the sleepless nights of withdrawal, through the days of ceaseless crying. I had thought she'd nap twice a day or so, so that I could use the downtime to work, and then work in the evenings when the kids went to bed. We all know how that turned out. I began to think that working from home was a terrible choice. Months went by, without a break until almost one year after I had her, when I took a week off and only checked email once a day. As a small business owner, and executive director of one international and one national group, there's no such thing as unplugging.

Now I find myself in a dilemma. I'm not looking for outside work - I enjoy being able to spend some time with the kids, but also work. The problem is I have little to no time outside of work and children. I'm suffocating in the confines of our home. And, I feel like I have less quality time with the children than ever. My time with them during the days is spent driving, eating, running errands. We rarely have the opportunity to sit and play until the evening. I feel like a bad mom, and guilty that I can't spend more time with them. At the same time, I feel like a failure as a business professional because I'm hitting a major burnout and am ready for change. I'd love to take a year or so off and just be a stay at home mom (SAHM), but I can't... the series of financial misfortunes we've suffered since Sadie's arrival have taken their toll on our budget flexibility.

So, I've kind of been watching for something outside the home. Not really actively looking, just watching. I don't want to give up things like taking Katie to her first day of school, afternoon gossip about what happened on the playground, random tickle fights with Sadie when I run in from the office to use the restroom during the day. But at the same time I feel like a shadow of myself, a flower that doesn't get enough sun, one of those kind of analogies. I miss the adult world, the mental stimulation of face-to-face interaction with colleagues on a daily basis. We do play dates from time to time, but I find that I have less and less time for them as the demands of my job seem to increase monthly. In a nutshell, I'm at a breaking point.

Today I came across MY job. That dream job I've been thinking of for months now. The new direction I want to take my career in. And it's only minutes from my home. I'm considering applying, but I'm torn... could I still be there for my kids as much as I am now? Would it be more or less time with them? More importantly, would the time we spend together have more or less quality to it? Do I want to really change my life this drastically? Then there's the company the job is with... there are some ethical issues they have, yet this job would be, in part, rectifying some of the problems (it's a corporate social responsibility position). What to do? What to do?

This post is way too long... I'm just wondering from my online friends out there, what do you think? I guess I can always apply... there's a good possibility I might not even get a call back on it. But if I did, would I want it? Could I be a good mom when working outside the home? I know many moms do it, but could I? Would the kids suffer? I just don't know... but I do know it's time to start looking for a change in my life. I'm wilting and my roots are dry.


  1. Hey nice blog my friend. There are indeed variety of benefits to working at home and there are many work at home
    business opportunities.For some people with young children or elderly parents that they must care for, working at home
    is the only way to have a career.I really appreciate nice info on your blog.Keep up the good work.

  2. This is the kind of dilemma that everyone will have a strong opinion on - and yet it ultimately comes down to what is best for you and your family. I made the choice when I was expecting my first to stay home. Though I am a piano teacher, so I suppose there again I am a work at home and stay at home mom. I do know that as our family and my needs have changed so has my piano teaching. Now days I have very few students and feel the focus needs to be on my children - mainly because I start teach when my kids come home from school - now if I had some homeschooled students I could teach more during the day.

    It sounds like you are thinking things through very well, and I know it isn't an easy decision to make. Is there a way you can cut back on your home buisness, spend time with the kids, and go out with friends a bit more? I know that when I am drying up and starving some time out with friends (not just hubby, though that is important too) really seems to help out a lot.

    As for the mental stimulation I work on my writing and take a class once in a while. There have been times when I was able to be in an orchestra or take private lessons. If you like to read, maybe you can organize some friends into a book group that meets once a month, or some other group depending what your interests are - gardening, scrapbooking. That way your friends that are moms, and likely feeling like you do from time to time, get a chance to get out too.

    Sorry this comment is so long. I truly hope you find the solution you are looking for for yourself and your family.

  3. Tarin7:15 PM

    Apply for the job. You might find in the interview process that the grass is not greener or you might find that you will be able to balance the work/family balance better. You won't know until you find out more and try. Also, no one says that you have to take the job, but it never hurts to apply and find out more about it. Good luck and let us know what happens. :)

  4. Definitely apply. I think a happy satisfied Momma is definitely the best kind for every family. Sure, if you get the position, there will be change. But change is a constant in life and learning to adjust and roll with the punches is an important life skill for all kids to learn. Don't torture yourself about these dilemmas, we all face them. And if you do find time for a playdate, we're around this summer!