I grew up with a stay-at-home mom. She made me a hot breakfast every morning. And I had a hot meal waiting when I returned from school. She kept our home spotless and clothes clean. My mother had everything under control. And while taking care of a household and raising three children (including one with special needs) was stressful, she loved being there for us.
Being a stay-at-home-mom was never an option for me. Not even after my son, Norrin, was diagnosed with autism at two years old, and required intensive at home therapy. It was only after his diagnosis that I felt guilty for working. Not only did I have to work, I wanted to work. Working a full-time job outside the home, while worrying over after-school child care and making sure that Norrin received all of his appropriate services was difficult but we always managed.
But every so often, I wish that I could quit my job and stay home with Norrin. I have this SAHM fantasy where I have my week to care for things around the house so my weekends could be free. I imagine myself becoming my mother, making hot meals every day, having time to dust and do laundry (and fold and put it away immediately).
Then there comes a long school break and the SAHM reality sets in.
This break felt like an eternity. And somewhere between Christmas and New Year's Day, I decided that the SAHM life was not for me.
This past winter break was two full weeks. I was able to take a few vacation days in addition to having company-paid holiday time off. Maybe it was because it was the first time we didn't have any therapy scheduled, or maybe it was because it was the longest time I've ever been home with Norrin ... but this break felt like an eternity. And somewhere between Christmas and New Year's Day, I decided that the SAHM life was not for me.
Since it was cold in New York, there wasn't much to do unless I had someone drive me. And I knew all of the museums and holiday attractions would be super crowded. Without an extra set of hands to help me, those kind of outings with Norrin are difficult. The one time I tried to take him to the local playground, it was closed. Talk about a mom fail!
I took Norrin into the office one day, which is always fun for him. He likes the train ride into the city, and our ritual of having breakfast in the cafeteria as he looks at the view of the park. We walk around the shopping center and I always treat him to some kind of toy or candy. And he likes just hanging out with me at my desk; him on his iPad and me, on the computer, trying to get my work done.
By the time my husband returned home from work, I was exhausted. I didn't want to serve him dinner the way my mother served my father as soon as he returned from work — I barely wanted to wash the dishes.
Photograph by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez
I spent my days at home cooking, washing dishes, doing laundry and preparing for the holiday. There wasn't time to clean the way I wanted to, or get organized for the new year. By the time my husband returned home from work, I was exhausted. I didn't want to serve him dinner the way my mother served my father as soon as he returned from work — I barely wanted to wash the dishes.
The only benefit to being home was that our evenings and weekends were free to go out, whether it was for dinner, shopping or other fun things we wanted to do together as a family.
I admire SAHMs, but I know it's not the thing for me. I love my kid, but I don't like being home all day and all night with him. I think that's OK to say. I like the routine of getting dressed and going out to work, of mingling with coworkers and having time for myself without the responsibility of housework or childcare. I like the relative ease of my day job and knowing that I could leave it behind at the end of the day. I like coming home from work, seeing my family and feeling like I've missed them.
When I finally returned to work, I had a greater appreciation for both my job and SAHMs.