Before Søren was born and I returned to career-land I worked as the managing editor of JENESEQUA, a fashion and lifestyle magazine started by my beautiful and annoyingly talented friend Melissa Middleton. Then, late one evening as I was sitting in front of my computer in yoga pants, nursing my baby while at the same time trying to edit a magazine article with one hand and participate in a conference call with China, I tearfully realized that I needed to give up the magazine and focus on baby and “work”. So I left my non-paying job that I loved and put my baby in daycare for a paying job that I definitely did not love. As much as I would like to contribute my full two cents to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s ire-raising article in The Atlantic last year, let’s keep it short and say that I mostly agree with her and six-months later I, well…I pulled an Anne-Marie Slaughter (except for that whole Princeton tenure excuse thing. My excuse was that I didn’t want to drive home crying any more).
Yes, I am a stay-at-home mom now. Two years ago I was a stay-at-home small business owner. I had my own custom clothing design business and I worked from 7 a.m. until midnight Monday through Friday and made almost no money. Being a stay at home mom is infinitely more difficult and the pay is worse. There is no such thing as sleeping in, and no such thing as a weekend because every single day feels just like the next. I am on call 24-hrs a day, 7 days a week, the same as any mother who has a career or doesn’t have a career, but since I no longer go to an office time seems to stand still while my son seems to move faster and faster every day. I can feel my brain begin to atrophy and my butt begin to expand.
Every day that I get to spend with Søren is a gift, and I instantly noticed changes when I stopped working. For one thing, the throbbing headaches and neck tension that I experienced constantly left almost immediately. My whole family is eating more nutritious meals and my couch is no longer invisible under a mountain of unfolded laundry and a tangle of laptop cords. But other changes also happened. I would try to find excuses to stay home from dinner parties or outings with other moms who work because I felt judged, embarrassed, and worthless. I turned into a ruthless penny-pincher since we went down to a single income. My self-esteem took a very sharp fall, which many would probably agree was necessary, but sometimes I find it difficult to hold my head high any more.
I’m trying to turn this slump around. I have become an obsessive consumer of podcasts and TED Talks so, at the very least, I can keep my mind engaged while I am cleaning soggy Cheerios and scrambled eggs off the kitchen floor. I take Søren swimming once a week, jogging to the playground every day, and if I can gather the courage I am going to attempt to rejoin the mommy group that I got kicked out of for poor attendance. And, I reached out to Melissa and asked if she would take my depressed stay at home mom self back again on staff at JNSQ as a writer this time, and the beautiful lunatic agreed. So, if you just can’t get enough Reluctant Matron and you also need an alternative to the mainstream glossy lifestyle mags out there, go to iTunes and download our free magazine app for your iPhone or iPad, or visit the website at http://jenesequa.com/
And last of all, to the working moms: you guys are amazing. I couldn’t pull off working and raising a child, and I am in awe of you. Stay-at-home moms, if you love being a stay at home mom and find it fulfilling, good for you – I’m glad you’ve found your happy place. But if you’re a stay at home mom who is experiencing a catastrophic identity crisis, don’t feel guilty…you’re probably just another Reluctant Matron like me.