The other morning as I reached into the refrigerator to grab my son’s lunchbox, I heard him swoop in behind me (how could I not with his cool, clunky Spiderman shoes) and ask in such a cute, inquisitive tone, “Mommy, do you miss the old days? You know, the days when I didn’t have schooooool?”
My heart swelled, and I instantly thought, Oh. My. Gosh. I love this boy to pieces!
I whipped around and gave him a huge hug, soaking in such a sweet moment of recognition.
“Every day, baby,” I managed to utter, my arms still wrapped around him and my mind telling me to keep it together. He did not need to see tears in my eyes (I am such a sap). But the fact he brought up the “old days” (he even suggested we make a time machine to travel back to the good old days) made my heart swell and sting at the same time.
The brutal truth: I have missed the “old days” every single day since this past August when he started school and I returned to work. I loved being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM); I did it for nearly five years, so what a huge transition this entailed for us! In the nights leading up to both of our first days, I laid in bed sniffling, and not quite, but almost ugly crying. Ok, so there was some ugly crying, too.
All I really knew about before becoming a mommy was work: Working hard, working often, work, work, work. After college, I immersed myself in the insurance field for five years. When that career did not light a fire in the belly, I transitioned into teaching and coaching, and with that switch, I felt I really found my niche. I poured my heart and soul into the education arena for several years; I breathed it. Yet, once I became pregnant, and absolutely after I had my son, work took a back seat. I embraced the role of being a SAHM; it was as though I was destined for this special role. I had originally intended to return to teaching once having my son, but from the moment he came into this world, I never wanted to leave his side. I was ALL IN on being a SAHM; it was my calling to take care of this sweet, sassy boy all day, ere day.
So, returning to the working world by undertaking an exciting new role as a personal trainer was a little bit of a shock at first, yet, also thrilling in parts. I felt like I had graduated from the daily grind of tackling toddler tantrums and managing hordes of household chores to rejoining the “adult world,” making money again, making a difference in other people’s lives and feeling very productive each day in a work environment. It has been so personally fulfilling to help others and be immersed in the fitness and nutrition arena. Yet, with this new revitalization of my “real world” working spirit came new challenges: Multiple daily commutes from hell, household tasks still waiting for me when I got home, the need to juggle all the things I used to do as a stay-at-home mom, but now in conjunction with working five days a week (two shifts a day, because in my industry, most people want to work out before work or after work). Eek!
So, before I had my son, I really did not fully understand all the roles a working parent had to play. Sure, as a teacher, I had interacted with working parents quite often and was aware they were busy. Also, I had two wonderful parents who did a ton for me, and I saw what they did all those years I was at home, but I didn’t always know truly what they endured on a daily basis, the sacrifices they had made, all the money they had spent, all the time they had spent worrying, all of it. I never grasped it all…until I became a working mom myself.
In my first few days, besides my feet hurting so bad (lol) and me feeling worn out, I realized I still had to do ALL. THE. THINGS each day and night, even though I felt exhausted. Me working again was not a free pass; all those “things” were still waiting for me…packing school lunches, doing dishes, tackling laundry, making meals, taking the dog for walks, various side commitments I had enjoyed while being a SAHM and in general, just keeping in touch with family and friends.
What I have learned, seven months into this transition from SAHM life to becoming a working mom is I must accept I cannot do everything anymore. Ok, so I can still get it all done, just not perhaps all in one day like I used to, or not in the same timeline I had experienced when I was at home with my son. I have learned that despite feeling overwhelmed some days, it is all worth it. I consider each day a work in progress, and I am evolving and adapting to the changes, including juggling multiple schedules and commutes, adapting to this new limited “me” time (not that I had tons of that as a SAHM, but I have learned it’s even more crunched as a working mom), trying to maintain the balance between work life and family life and fighting daily “mom guilt” about not always being home with my son (since I was home with him ALL the time before…I really miss not seeing him more often).
Yet, I know it’s all a part of life, and in this particular stage, it’s working mom life. At least for now, that’s the plan; my son is still trying like heck to get me to change things. Yesterday he said, “Mommy, I have a great idea: Why don’t you quit your job so you can always pick me up from school and spend more time with me?” (Aaaaahhh! This sweet boy of mine!)
One thing that is for certain, whether a SAHM or working mom: We sure love and adore our babies, and the time we do get to share with them, whatever amount that may be, is priceless.