Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom: What I've Learned
Giving up the city and a job was a seismic shift for this mom of three
Given the proximity of my kids' ages—I had three under 18-months-old in the beginning—finding a childcare solution became equal parts impossible and expensive. Despite having grown up in the suburbs, I felt no pull to return. In my 20s I had always imagined I'd make a family in the city work. I envisioned us all hitting up museums and brunching together and looking super glam as we did. This was before I knew that my diaper bag would be the size of a suitcase.
So we headed to the burbs. I could tell you the town and state we chose, but it doesn't really matter. If I had been following a moving truck to Jersey or CA, I would have felt the same—like I was losing my identity along with my zip code.
Also overwhelming? Leaving a full-throttle career for mommy-dom. I was never gunning for the top job anywhere, but I loved my work and thrived around smart people who upped my game. But every position comes with downsides. Waking up to a demanding email from a boss when you're trying to put a diaper on your baby is stressful in ways I'll never be able to fully explain.
The fact that these two life changes—a move to the burbs and early (albeit, temporary) retirement—occurred at the same time isn't groundbreaking. Lots of women have faced down this scenario. But surrounded by grass and friendly strangers saying "hello," I was out of my element. I had left all my best friends in the city and wasn't looking for replacements—at this age, I convinced myself, it was too much work to make new friends.
My new life also meant spending 24 hours a day with my three children, one of whom was an infant nursing on demand. No more heading out the door in the morning, even as a tantrum was brewing, or asking my babysitter to empty the dishwasher and clip their nails.
My parents and sister were nearby and offering constant assistance, which was a godsend, but I was in a sleep-deprived, zombie-like state in those beginning days and weeks. Even as I told myself these were first-world problems and I had so many things to be thankful for, there were days I escaped behind a locked door and cried.
And then one late summer afternoon a few months after we moved, I was sitting on my new patio, the baby was in a swaddled slumber next to me, my two other babies were chasing each other on the lawn, my parents came over for a glass of wine and it dawned on me: so THIS is what it was all for. Family.
Quiet happiness filled me from my head to my toes. No, it wasn't the most glamorous or hip lifestyle and no, I was no longer killing it in the workplace, but my little family was flourishing right before my eyes and I was lucky enough to be watching it happen.
I've since succumbed to the suburban friend-making machine and have landed myself some besties that make the long days of parenthood so much more fun than if I were doing it alone. I also started freelancing the minute I moved, to keep my head at least partially in a work state of mind.
People who know me always ask if I miss the city. Every day, I tell them, but I know what I'm giving my kids now is better than what I would have been able to give them in the city. And there are days we still even make it to brunch.