I’ve had the urge to start a column about motherhood for a long time now, and I’ve finally gathered the courage to put some of my thoughts out there. It’s definitely not about giving advice; it’s about finding humor, positivity, and acceptance during the day to day madness. First things first, I’m sharing my journey to becoming a stay-at-home mom because it really is the reason why I write this blog in the first place.
I know it may sound a little bit strange but writing this has given me a level of self-acceptance I didn’t even know I needed. In all honesty, it took me a long time to own up to being a stay-at-home mom. I would tell people “Oh, I’m still working here and there” when in all reality I hadn’t stepped foot in a clinic in months. I felt so much guilt for not working because I had spent so much time in school to get my doctorate. My career had become my identity for the 5 years before I had children, so I had this cloud of shame hanging over me for giving up that part of myself for now. I know much of that self-doubt and internal criticism grew out of the situation leading up to my decision to be a stay-at-home mom.
We had just moved to Colorado one month before I found out I was pregnant with my first son. About three months after moving, my physical therapy license finally transferred, and I was able to get a job in Colorado. I started working when I was 13 weeks pregnant, and from the first interview I was 100% up front about my pregnancy and what I was expecting regarding maternity leave. My employer had been onboard with my desire for 12 weeks (unpaid, of course) of maternity leave, but they said that since I would not have been working for the company for a year prior to going on maternity leave I get no job security – yes, the legality of it is fair unfortunately. I wouldn’t qualify for FMLA yet, so they couldn’t “guarantee” me my job back but they were “certain I would have my position back due to my prior experience and excellent references”. I worked full-time up until the day I went into labor, and I had built strong rapport with the residents of the senior living facility. I had been told over and over during my time working that I was doing a great job, and I was given verbal confirmation many times that my job would be there for me after my maternity leave – even going so far as to plan with my manager exactly how much time I was taking off and when I would be returning. I brought my son into my office when he was about 6 weeks old to meet my co-workers and the residents, and even at this point it was my understanding that I was coming back in 6 weeks.
About a month before I was to return to work, I sent my manager an e-mail asking what my schedule was going to be and if it was possible to start at 3 days a week for the first few weeks to get back into it. I was sent back an e-mail saying that they weren’t sure how many hours or what days they would be needing me because they had to hire another full time physical therapist while I was out – what?! I had just been into the office and talked to her two weeks before this and had no indication this was happening. Apparently business was more important than morals and upper management didn’t get coverage for my whole maternity leave so they decided to hire a different full-time therapist (they had 6 months to plan this!). To say that I was livid would be an understatement. To this day, I wonder when and if they would have told me this information if I wouldn’t have reached out to my manager first.
I ended up working for them for a couple months after my maternity leave, essentially at a PRN (as needed) status because my husband was able to use 9 weeks of his paternity leave to stay home with our son while I was working. After the 9 weeks, I was told that I could stay on at part-time and “possibly” work up to full-time if caseload increased. Do you know how hard it is to find childcare for an infant part-time? Let alone when your work days are variable – it just wasn’t going to happen, and at this point I wasn’t mentally or emotionally ready to look for a different job. This is how I became a stay-at-home mom.
Reflecting on this whole situation, I know in my heart that God was giving me what I needed, but I still hold resentment. It left me with really hard feelings for the company I worked for, for the healthcare world as a whole, and for the way this country treats new moms. I hate having that feeling weighing heavy on my heart day after day so I was hoping that sharing my story would alleviate my negativity so I can cleanse myself of it once and for all. Seeing my first son grow everyday, and now bringing my second son home knowing that my only job is to be a great mom has helped me heal, and I am grateful to my husband for supporting us so I can take this path in life.
I hope this post is read with love, understanding, and maybe even some common ground with moms out there. It’s important to me to relay the message that sometimes when you see a mom who is staying home with her children it may not be as easy as “she wanted to”. It’s okay to feel grateful and blessed to be able to stay home with your kids but also to feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself in the process. Motherhood is about changing and adapting every day, sometimes it’s something small and sometimes it’s something that shakes you to the core but at the end of the day, you’re better for it, so here I am, a stay-at-home mom, and better for it. ♥