I knew when I married into the military that my life would be transient -- that while there would be many exciting hellos, there would also be tough goodbyes; while he would continue to advance his career at each new station, I would have to continuously re-invent mine.
As we packed up our belongings for another move -- with growing baby in tow -- I put my search for another 9-5 gig on pause. There was a career opportunity right in front of me: stay-at-home mom. I took it.
I felt good about this decision, but I also felt guilty about it. I fell victim to common stressors about the sacrifices of staying home, but now that I am living it firsthand, I realize that these fears are conquerable. As with most things in life, it is what we make of it.
Fear No. 1: I'm wasting my education
Thousands of dollars in student loans, years of competitive work, only to put my skills on pause. Will I be a desirable hire when I return to the workforce? People often say that motherhood is the hardest job, but behind this praise, do they really believe these words?
I don't know what the landscape of the workforce will be like when I return, but the amount of new skills I'm gaining as a mother has given me confidence to confront whatever challenges are ahead.
This fear rests on the notion that I am "just" a mother, but there is nothing easy or stagnant about being "just" a mother. If a future employer does not see the value in this aspect of my life, then it is not an employer I want to work for.
I'm not wasting my education; I'm living my life. There is so much more to accomplish than sticking to one rigid path that we've decided for ourselves at age 18. I've learned that I need to stop worrying about what I can offer a single employer and instead focus on what I can offer the world.
Fear No. 2: I won't be good at it
My husband didn't marry the traditional 1950s housewife, but we are choosing to build our family on the traditional breadwinner model -- him being the breadwinner. That leaves the role of homemaker to... shit, me. I've never changed diapers or rocked a baby to sleep, and I can't bake bread from scratch. How will I do at this whole housewife gig, and most importantly, will I find it fulfilling?
This fear is rooted in my weakness of being a "people pleaser," and being a homemaker is rooted in pleasing others to the point of total selflessness. But, I judged it before I even tried it. Turns out, I didn't have to revert back to the 1950s or learn how to bake bread from scratch. We're doing just fine on store-bought goods. Just as any new job can trigger feelings of inadequacy, we learn as we go.
The beauty of being a "homemaker" is that I am self-employed. I am defining my own role as wife and mother to be fulfilling to me. Staying true to this freedom is empowering; only when I let others tell me how to do this job do I start to doubt myself.
Fear No. 3: I won't be seen or heard
When you are part of the traditional workforce, you are seen and heard in a respected and admired light. You are looked up to, relied upon and called upon. Motherhood doesn't come with the benefits of networking or community collaboration as found in other careers. We are glued to our tiny humans. Will I be isolated?
The old saying "it takes a village" is true. But, in modern times we've drifted away from this mentality, and motherhood can be dangerously isolating. While this fear is valid, it is possible to overcome. I have to purposefully come out from behind my closed door and be part of things bigger than myself and my family. Whereas working with a team simply comes with the gig at the office, finding a support network as a stay-at-home mom is all on me.
It is hard, but it is worth the effort. No mother should feel alone or somehow less important to the daily workings of society, and it is through building up our communities that gives us a foundation to contribute regardless of what we do for a living.
Despite putting these fears to rest, I still catch myself whispering "stay-at-home mom" when people ask what I do, followed by a clarification that I plan to return to my field - as if I'm somehow not enough. This is because I have defined success too narrowly for too long. I'm working on gaining confidence in my new role as mother so that the pride and passion I hold in my heart is not something I keep within, but that radiates outwardly to enlighten others. Because the truth is, no one will value my role as a mother if I don't first give myself the credit I deserve.