When I was in third grade, my teacher assigned us to make a report about what we wanted to be when we grew up. My list was a mile-long, but it started with #1. Mom.
During my pregnancy with Cecilia, I was asked countless times if I would be returning to work after having her. At the time I had two jobs: I worked at Saks Fifth Avenue as a makeup artist, where I met many, many women every day (all with lots of unsolicited advice on the matter), and I was the Beauty Editor of Verily Magazine. And I was so fulfilled in both of those jobs. I was helping women learn about how to cultivate their self-worth, and it was completely addicting.
When I was going over the pros and cons of staying home vs. working, I thought back to what my life was like as a kid. My mom stayed at home with us, and turned down a promotion and pay increase because it was what she felt was in line with the vision she and my dad had for our family. I had many friends who grew up with both parents working, and I remember how many times they told me how much they wished to spend more time with their parents. My thoughts always raced to: "but, you have an amazing home! And you get to go on vacations! There's a TV in your room that you don't have to share with a sibling! And, your clothes are soooooo cool!" I didn't have many "cool" clothes, but it taught me how to have style. We didn't go on vacations, but it taught me the power of a weekend by the beach. We spent so much time cramped in a little house, forced to share bathrooms and bedrooms and everything in between, with nowhere to hide when things were difficult, and I truly believe that is why we are still such a close family today.
There's no mistaking the weight of a decision like this, and for many of us, finances are the number one reason to go back to work. Even when I was working and we had two income streams, money was tight, and we regularly stressed about how much our hospital bill would be with the birth. I was distraught. I loved working, not only because it provided our family with financial support, but because it added so much meaning to my life and allowed me to use my gifts to bring joy to other people.
Stephen was 100% behind either decision, and left me a lot of space to think it over, without noting his own preferences. He knew we could work out being a family no matter what, and comforted me so deeply with a reminder that he was willing to do whatever it took to make sure we could pay our bills, even if that meant he had to have more than one job.
At that time, things with Verily were picking up-- we were featured in the New York Post, on a slew of other media sources, and made the ranks of getting sold in Barnes & Noble stores nationwide, so I quit my job at Saks to pursue the magazine.
And then my due date rolled around and our girl was born. As I pulled her teeny body up to my chest and kissed her forehead for the first time I experienced a new kind of fulfillment; something I had never experienced ever in my life, because the love of my life and I were cuddling a creature that was made out of love, and she was equal parts of us both from her nose to her toes. Many times I was brought to tears as I traced my fingers over her warm, fragile little body and I realized nothing in the world was more desirable to me than to love, care, and teach this tiny child how to live in this world, love others, and share her gifts. In the days that followed, we fell completely in love with her, and decided I could never leave her.
When I thought about what we would miss out on without my income, it paled in comparison to the bond that I was developing with my child. That bond is what makes or breaks us as adults. How many of us attribute our successes or failures to our upbringing or family of origin? I wanted to give myself wholly to the mission of raising our daughter, and I knew it wouldn't come without many sacrifices.
Since then, we have been in some truly difficult financial situations that left us eating mostly eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We have missed a lot of our friend's weddings because we couldn't afford to travel. We still haven't bought a house. And the last real vacation we went on was our honeymoon. But I wouldn't change it.
Being a Staying at Home Mom has been a privilege for me, because I have been able to witness every little milestone of our daughter's growth, create the environment in which she lives and learns, and maintain consistency in our relationship, which has cultivated immense trust between us, and is part of the guiding force behind her peaceful demeanor. In these formative years of her life, she is closely watching everything we do or don't do, and creating her worldview from that; the worldview she will take with her when she is ready to live on her own. I hope to teach her how to put others before herself, how to love with abandon, how to find joy in both the quiet and momentous minutes of each day, trust her gut, and that this life is full of fleeting hours we cannot get back once they're over (so, Carpe Diem!).
If you've gotten all the way to the end here, I want you to know that this is not a judgment on the choices other families make. In fact, I know many incredible families with wonderful, bright, loving children whose parents customize working structures that best suit them. We all make it work the best way we know how. I felt called to stay home and find unconventional ways to create additional income, though there are many who may find that foolish, but we all have different value systems that drive our decisions. I value quality time, communication, and physical closeness in my relationships more than any dollar amount in my bank account. And lucky for me, I have a husband who supports my crazy ideas that bring me joy outside of motherhood, like this website, my YouTube channel, and the 99 other things I want to create and accomplish in my lifetime.
The most repeated piece of unsolicited advice I hear from older women, is that they wish they spent more time with their kids, playing and cuddling, rather than fussing about dishes or worrying over nonsense. Our babies are only babies for so long, time flies, and I don't want to miss a minute of this stage in my life (even if that means I won't be able to get another haircut for the next 8 months).