Up until a month ago, I worked as a full-time preschool psychologist for a public school system outside of Washington, D.C. Today, I am a temporary stay-at-home-mom in rural central Pennsylvania. Going from working to stay at home mom wasn’t the product of months of planning; rather, a good job opportunity came up for my husband, he applied, was interviewed, got the job, and here we are.
Since learning we were expecting baby number two a few months ago, my husband and I had spoken about moving back to our home state- we’d be closer to our families, the cost of living is lower, and we wouldn’t have to worry as much about the safety or quality of the public schools. But (there’s always a but, isn’t there?), jobs are fewer in Pennsylvania. We knew the possibility of us both finding good jobs, at the same time, was unlikely. Not to mention Pennsylvania does not recognize the national certification I hold in my field- I would need to jump through a bunch of hoops in order to become Pennsylvania certified. So, we agreed: if he (my husband) was offered a good position, we would pack up our little family, and move back to Pennsylvania.
I had about a month’s time to prepare for the move; my husband, two- he began his position two weeks before our official move. In those four weeks, I cried. In my five years in Maryland, I’d broken out of my rural comfort zone, made friends I’m confident I’ll have for life, and landed a pretty great job. The school system I worked for didn’t have the most money, or the best resources, but the colleagues I had were truly first rate- knowledgeable, supportive, thoughtful, an amazing bunch, really.
“How will I adjust?” I wondered.
“What will P (my 22-month-old) and I do during the day?”
All I’d ever known was being a “working mom.” Since P was 16 days old, I’d worked (it’s a long, sad, complicated story). Sure, there were days I hit the snooze button on my alarm (two, three..okay, seven times), rolled over, and griped about going to work, but most days, I enjoyed the work I did. This isn’t to say I wasn’t looking forward to spending more time with P, I just knew it was going to be very different.
And I worried about P. All she’d ever known was going to daycare. She loved her small, in-home daycare; she loved her provider, and the provider’s son. They were her family, too, and I was taking her away from that (cue insane mom guilt). It broke my heart to take her away from such a loving, supportive environment, one in which she learned and grew so much in such a short time. Daycare was an incredibly important, special part of P’s life. On P’s last day of daycare, I cried like a baby (pregnancy hormones+ major life changes + children = emotional wreck).
Now, here we are, one month post-move. The past few weeks haven’t been all smooth-sailing. There have been wild tantrums (P, not me) and sleep difficulties (P again), sicknesses and tears. P is adaptable, but the move took its toll on her; I know she misses her daycare friend, and the structure and routine her in-home center provided.
I will say, I am enjoying the quality time with P, both the happy and not-so-happy times. I think having to handle more of her challenging behaviors has brought us closer together. I used to think I was better at handling tantrums because I worked; my reasoning was that I had more patience because I wasn’t dealing with the behaviors throughout the day. Now that I’m home, I have a lot more practice handling toddler meltdowns, and surprisingly, more patience for them (maybe I’m habituating to the tantrums?).
Admittedly, I am struggling with a few things, namely, not providing financially for my family. While I fully understand I’m providing for my family by staying home, I just can’t shake this “I need to be bringing in some physical cash” feeling. Maybe it’s pride…my independent spirit, who knows?
I also fear re-entering the job market. Will my skills become rusty in the couple of months it will take me to get certified and get this baby out of my body? Or, what if I can’t find a job at all? At almost six-months pregnant, I’ve contemplated applying for positions in related fields (side note: interviewing and getting hired while pregnant- success stories, anyone?). The rational part of me knows the best thing for my well-being is to stay home for now, but I can’t help but think about all the “what-ifs.”
Since finances and my ambition require that I work outside the home, I’m confident I’ll be back to working mom status at some point in the (hopefully) not-so-distant future. In the meantime, I am making a conscious effort to enjoy this time I have home with P; while money is extremely tight (read: less take-out and more dirty dishes for this not-so domestic diva), and tantrum management has become one of my primary occupational tasks, I know there will come a time I’ll yearn for these days again.
So, wish me luck mamas, and if you have any musings/thoughts from a current or former stint in temporary stay-at-home-mom land, do tell.