I never planned to be a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM). I taught for 5 years and felt lucky to have a career ideal for raising children. While they were at school, I’d be at school. When they were off, I’d be off. Right?
I had my SAHM revelation at the end of a typical stress filled 12 hour work day. I regularly arrived before sunrise and left in the dark of night. I was breaking. I saw a “Wellness Coach” because of my stress. No one was getting the best me, especially me. I couldn’t strike a healthy balance, and we didn’t even have kids yet! Counseling helped me learn how to make myself a priority. However, I still struggled to live my priorities. In a moment of clarity, or insanity, I realized that I would never be able to strike that balance. The instant I realized I wanted to leave my job, it was like a weight was lifted from me.
I felt physically lighter.
I couldn’t stop smiling.
I was excited to go home and tell my husband all about it! I needed to appeal to his logic. This fluffy “sense of balance” wasn’t measurable. It wasn’t quantitative. I would need to show him. I needed a visual aide!
I created pie charts to show him the glaring contrasts between what I SAID I valued, and what I SHOWED I valued (what I spent my time and energy actually doing). This was an exercise I did often with my counselor. I also made a list of items I would give up and jobs I would take on if I stayed at home.
I felt really good about my list.
I mean really, really good.
I printed it, poured some wine, and met him at the door after work like an overly excited puppy. I basically pounced on him. The poor guy was blindsided.
I cheerily announced, “I’ve had an epiphany!” As we clinked to toast I said, “I want to be a stay at home mom.”
*Cue spitting out his wine*
15 minutes later, my husband held me as I laid devastated and ugly crying in his arms. He had to, for maybe the first time in our relationship, say “no” to something I really wanted. He felt like he was letting me down. In his mind he wasn’t just disappointing me, but he was a disappointment to me. Making him feel this way made me cry even harder.
I felt selfish. I felt guilty. I felt unkind.
It was one of the more raw moments in our marriage.
He knew we couldn’t financially handle cutting our income in half, and he had to bring me (and my pie charts) down to reality. We both went to bed that night feeling like we had let the other down. We laid in silence. It was heartbreaking. I decided to let it go.
Little did I know, over the coming months, he was secretly manipulating our budget and creating charts and spreadsheets of his own. One day, while helping him pack, I pulled something from his sock drawer. I looked down and saw my tear stained pie charts from a year before.
“You kept these?” I asked.
He admitted that he’d spent the last year trying to make my dream into his dream, and turning that dream into a reality. He kept my charts hidden in his bedside dresser as a reminder.
I didn’t even care if he had come up with a solution, it was the thought that meant the world to me. Once his secret was out, it was all he wanted to talk about.
“What if we did this…would it be crazy if we….but what if we…”
He’s an analyst by trade, so I think know he actually enjoyed it, but I couldn’t handle the constant money discussions. We agreed to start “quarterly meetings”. He would simmer down on the daily money talk, and I would give him my undivided attention during our meeting.
I got carried away and suggested that he dress up and take me out to happy hour like a client. He not only agreed, he showed up with a laminated presentation. There were charts, spreadsheets, and graphs. We talked about possible sacrifices and non-negotiables. We worked together to find our solution.
I’m still working on finding a balance at “work”. I have times where I long for my 12 hour work days again. My boss can be needy, volatile, and egocentric. I spend time in awe of moms who find that balance while still working. Awe is the wrong word – envy might be more honest. Sometimes I feel like a failure because I couldn’t juggle a career and motherhood simultaneously, but typically that feeling is brief (usually because there’s a mommy-mergency).
Fortunately, my “What I SAY I value” and “What I SHOW I value” charts are almost mirror images now, and that feels good.
Really, really good.