To Work or Not to Work

Even before my baby was born, I knew I was going to have to quit my job and stay home to care for him. That decision was made out of the lack of having somebody we can trust to watch him, not really because I wanted to.

I honestly never imagined myself staying home to care for my kids, not until I had to live in another country, away from extended family. Plus, growing up with a working mom, I always envisioned myself as a career or business woman, leaving my kids to be watched by nannies – just like the way we were raised back home.

But because these were the cards dealt to me, I gave this SAHM (Stay-At-Home Mom)/housewife thing a chance. After several months of my identity forming into “just a mom and a wife,” my depressed self was convinced I really am not the stay-at-home-mom type.

“You’re blessed to have a choice not to work, especially in this economy.” This is what I always heard, and while I acknowledged that, the NJAM (Not Just A Mom) in me constantly screamed in agony for being ignored.

Finding work always seemed so tempting. Every time I got e-mail alerts of high-paying job opportunities where I was qualified, I quickly imagined the adult conversations I could have again, everyday lunches with new-found friends, gossip and TV show discussions – not to mention my purchase power: I could buy my own pair of shoes without having to tell my husband!

I got really excited, but very guilty. Like I was somehow committing a sin for even thinking of going back to work and leaving my baby to be raised by someone else, missing his milestones… missing him, period. But NJAM just wouldn’t shut up: I felt I was letting the achiever in me just die a painful, slow death.

So, I decided to compromise with myself: I found a part-time freelance gig that lets me work from home so I can fulfill my need to earn money (and not allow my creative juices to dry out) while staying with my baby. Still, that didn’t quite work for my social needs: I still felt isolated, yearning for some grown-up interaction.

For a while, I doubted the choice I made. It was a difficult choice to begin with, and being a depressed SAHM made me question my decision. I felt that strong tug-of-war between my need to be a productive, money-earning member of society and my priority to be a mom and a wife, taking care of my family’s needs. Before my son’s first birthday and around my 30th birthday, right at the height of my depression, I felt the NJAM was winning.

I’m a mom – wasn’t I supposed to be fulfilled? I felt so guilty for even questioning myself, but I had to admit to myself that I did not feel “that” fulfillment from being a SAHM. After talking it out with hubby, I decided to start finding work after coming back to the US from a month-long vacation with my family in our homeland.

And then, all of a sudden, I realized how much my baby was communicating with me, through signing, babbling and his attempts at actual speaking. He interacted with me more, showing me how quickly and eagerly he learned what I tried to teach him, showing me how proud he was of himself each time I was pleased.

And then it hit me – while it is true that being a SAHM is often a thankless, sometimes brain-numbing job, the “fulfillment” that comes from spending time with one’s child is real. I feel it each time he hugs and kisses me, each time he signs “sorry” when I show disapproval and each time he does his funny little tricks. Every time I see my baby happy and content, this rewarding feeling hits me, along with the realization that the biggest investment we can ever make in his life is our time.

“It” just came to me later than I expected, but as they always say, better late than never. And I’m glad these hit me before I made the choice to go back to work, a choice I may later regret.

Now, I have decided to embrace this homemaker role and apply whatever skills into it to make NJAM happy. I will blog more often. I will volunteer my skills in our community (among others) and design personalized chocolate bar wrappers as souvenirs for friends’ events.

And because I finally decided not to spend all my free time trying to find more ways to earn money, I will now be able to knock out all the projects I’ve never really made the time to do, like touching my son’s baby book and making an organized system for my recipes, meal plans and grocery list.

Who knows, maybe I can even make money out of it in the future. How’s that for extra achievement?

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I’m a new mom and this is my story. I’m sharing with you my moments of joy, tears, excitement, and every other emotion that comes with being a mom, whether you’re a new mom yourself, a veteran mom, a mom-to-be, even a dad-to-be. Learn from my experience, or reminisce about your own. Welcome to this mom’s world!