I hadn’t planned on being a stay-at-home mom but when my husband was transferred to a new city while I was heavily pregnant, it seemed like a good time to take a career break. My plan was to enjoy the year and return to work but well, life. Fast-forward seven years to the arrival of our third child. A couple of months into life as a mom of three, with a husband working 12 hour days and no family anywhere near, I was exhausted. One kid needed a nap, another needed a ride to soccer practice and I needed help.
Through the grapevine, I found our babysitter, Patty. A longtime resident and sitter in our neighborhood, she came highly recommended by friends who had known her since their own childhood. She wasn’t the cheapest option but she had newborn experience, drove and did light housework. Basically, we bought a wonderful, patient aunt. After a trial period, my family loved her, I loved her and my kitchen was always tidy, so we signed her up to help me through the worst of the newborn phase. And let me tell you …
It. Was. Magnificent.
To paraphrase "Jerry Maguire," she completed me. She made me a better woman. My own reserves were more easily replenished and now I wasn't the only person tending to my children’s every need. Now, when tending to them at any given time, I was more often doing so with patience and a smile. (Patience, it should be said, is not my strong suit.)
The best bit, though, was that clean kitchen. Or perhaps the folded laundry. Or maybe just the fact that at the end of a long day, she’d been encouraging the kids to pick toys off the floor, hang up their jackets, put away their homework, step away from the screen and go outside, not let dog eat their sandwich, etc., etc., etc. She was an extra pair of adult hands, and more specifically, hands that were not mine.
When I thought of her leaving us once we had our feet back underneath us, my heart broke. She had quickly become family and to go back to before, when all of details and nagging were my responsibility and mine alone, brought tears to my eyes. I just couldn’t do it.
So I went looking for work. I was lucky enough to find an opportunity that ticked all of the boxes: a flexible job with people I like. I don’t make much money, but I make enough to pay for Patty. I’m less tired, more patient with my children and better able to enjoy our life.
Sometimes I feel like I should be better at housework; why, dear God, is it such a struggle for me to load the dishwasher and make dinner?
Do I feel guilty? Sometimes. Sometimes I feel like I should be the one greeting my 5-month-old when she wakes up from her nap or playing with the older girls when they get home from school. Sometimes I feel like I should be better at housework; why, dear God, is it such a struggle for me to load the dishwasher and make dinner?
But the mommy guilt is nowhere near as strong as the heartbreak I feel when I think of Patty leaving us to fend for ourselves. I love her, I love my job and I love not having to do all of the stuff around my home that, frankly, I’d come to hate. (If I never have to hunt down a mismatched sock again, it will be too soon.)
I have gone from being a stay-at-home mom to a working mom. And as long as there is life in my body, breath in my soul and Patty with my kids, I’m never going back.
*Editorial note: The writer name's is a pseudonym. The mom who wrote this post wishes to remain anonymous.