I became a stay-at-home mom in January 2010, when my oldest child was 14-months-old. My husband had already moved to Chattanooga that August, while the baby and I stayed behind and tried to wait for our house to sell. (It didn’t. That’s a whole other story.)
After five months of living apart, we were done, and that toddler and I packed up our lives and moved to Chattanooga. I had applied for a job there, but I didn’t get it, and there just wasn’t a lot in my field in the Scenic City compared to Nashville. That Christmas, my parents and in-laws bought me an iMac and the software I needed to freelance, and I set it up in our rental house bedroom in Hixson.
Since then, I’ve had three more kids, we’ve moved three more times, but I’ve never gone back to work in an office.
I’ve worked freelance jobs in some capacity the whole time, but not a lot. Mostly I’ve “just” been a mom.
For 10 years straight, I changed diapers.
For 11 years, I had a child in Mother’s Day Out or preschool.
I’ve buckled who knows how many carseats, put kids down for umpteen naps, and arranged a zillion playdates.
And then last year, my youngest child went to kindergarten.
I wasn’t weepy, like I had been for my third child. She, my baby, was more than ready, nearly six and a social butterfly. I was ready. So ready.
But ready for what?
I’ve never felt like I wanted or needed to go back to work full-time. With my husband’s job as a teacher, where it’s pretty hard to leave in the middle of the day, we’ve felt like it’s really beneficial for me to be at home and flexible to pick up a sick kid or run to appointments. With four kids, it feels like hardly a week goes by when one of them doesn’t start running a fever or needs to go to the dentist, eye doctor, therapist, pediatrician…
Suddenly alone for hours, I’ve had to think about something that had barely crossed my mind for years: what do I want?
I’m still very much in the process of finding myself in these years where I have a first grader and a high schooler and two more in between. But in the last year:
- I’ve amped up my freelance work for a fantastic boss and loved it. I work a very flexible 16-20 hours from home each week and get a lot of joy out of what I do.
- I’ve auditioned for four theater productions and made it into two of them.
- I convinced my husband to finally get a puppy in March and realized why people are obsessed with their dogs.
- I’ve done a lot of managing of one of my children’s physical and mental health needs, which would have been really difficult if I were at work full-time.
- I’ve welcomed other kids into my home when there are weird half-days or random Tuesdays off school and the parents need help with childcare.
- I visit with my parents and sister and niece during the day because I can!
- Started going to a knit and crochet group on a weekday morning.
- Scheduled a morning to volunteer at a clothes closet housed at our church.
- And just yesterday, I actually secured an Instagram name for an outlet to talk about my intense love for YA books as an “old adult.” (@yaforoldadults)
Of course, there’s still a lot I’d like to do. Like keeping my house clean, getting to the gym on a regular basis, and actually figuring out how to do social media well for my job and myself.
I wonder, sometimes, if I am still a “stay-at-home mom” in this phase of life.
Two weeks ago, I traveled to Ohio for my grandfather’s funeral and left my husband with the kids. After the first morning he got them all to school, he texted me, “I don’t know how you do this every day.” (And he said my 14-year-old made all their lunches the whole week, too, which she normally doesn’t do!)
There’s still a lot of my day occupied with the “mom stuff.” I don’t know whether I qualify as a stay-at-home mom, work-at-home mom, or just as a busy woman with a family. But the best part about being over 40 is that I really don’t care. Call me whatever you want.