Saturday, March 27, 2010

SAHM acronym that I had no idea existed until after I had my daughter and is not someone that I thought I would ever be and nor did I intend to. SAHM is used on websites, by bloggers and in general day to day internet lingo (typically by women) and in reference to a particular aspect of ones life. SAHM means Stay At Home Mom and is something that for me, was hard to swallow, partially out of my comprehension and not something I planned for.

I didn't have difficulty understanding this because I didn't know any Stay at Home Mom's..quite the opposite. In fact, I am the product of a woman who stayed home with her children while her husband worked. Growing up, I felt this had it's pluses and it's minuses however it was not something that I aspired to be. Not because I thought any less of my Mother for not being a career woman but because I grew up thinking that I had to "have it all" or could do better by "having it all".

Having it all can be viewed in many different ways and varies depending on whom you are speaking to. To some, it means having a high-powered job and lots of very expensive material things, To others it means having less material objects and being more spiritually connected. Then there are those like me, who felt that having it all meant being both Career Woman and Mother and thinking that I could somehow give 100% in both areas. I believed it would be relatively easy to balance both of these things especially since I would be able to put my baby into daycare Monday through Friday and then really only have to parent in the evening and weekends. Keep in mind, this is back before I really had a full understanding of sleep deprivation or just how long it takes an infant ready to go out or how what seem to be the most simple of tasks can take forever to complete due to constant interuptions. In my head, I knew that I would still be a Mom while I was at work but that there would be someone else taking care of my child and felt that this would somehow make things easier or "ease the burden".

How naive I was. How little did I truly understand about the bond between Mother and Child. How immature and selfish of me to think in this manner. How did I not know then that when push came to shove and the thought of this was more than just that and a reality that what I had always believed and thought to be true would be tested. I didn't know that sheer possibility of this would (and still does) make me feel physically nauseous or make my heart hurt so much that I was in tears. I have never been much of a crier but since the birth of my daughter I have found that I can cry very easily at some things and ones that I never would have before...and then there are those that are unexpected and that catch me off guard. However that is now and this was then...

Still though, I wasn't ready to comprehend being a SAHM. In my mind, Stay at Home Mom's were women who had worked at some point but then decided not to pursue their careers further after their children were born out of some basic human instinct. In my mind, I didn't view those women as having a "job" and although I knew they were raising children to be good law-abiding citizens and successful adults I felt that they were somehow (and I am ashamed to admit)...yes, less. Less than someone like me because they had bought into some 1960's "Donna Reed" stereo-type that this is what they had to do. I pictured them at home cleaning house, doing dishes, folding laundry, watching the odd soap opera here and there and then driving the kids to and from school and then on to what after-school activity there might be for that particular day all to come home and cook dinner for their husband who was out in what I deemed as "the real world". I never realized that not only did they still have jobs but they were doing the hardest job in the world, making the least amount of money for it and that it was a 24/7 position. There are no nights, no weekends, no vacations and very few breaks for the SAHM in fact and as others have said before she is CEO of the family and perhaps this sort of position can't be given a monetary earnings figure because it is still so far out of the understanding of many...including who I was.

They say (whoever "they" are) that "life is what happens while you are busy making other plans" and that is what was happening to me in spring 2009. Not only was life growing inside of me during the times when I was still insisting that I had to have it all but it was changing all around me. The economy was suffering and the company I worked for was collapsing around me. Many times, I felt like I was on a sinking ship and before it all came to head and tipped from one end to the other and finally settled down into the murky abyss I remember wondering where my life preserver was and how we would "survive" things. Although, we saw it coming (the owners, my colleagues and even my husband and I)...we didn't really think it would and therefore we went on with the plan to find appropriate daycare for our yet unborn child.

In mid-April 2009, I sat in the living room of the woman that we were considering to look after our child. She herself was a SAHM who had been an Accountant in her pre-Mommy days but who was now home with her daughter and son and wanted to bring on a child during the day to care for as extra income for her family. I sat there thinking "wow, she's really nice and seems like she is pretty come she can't seem to get a job doing something else besides this?" In other words "how come she can't get a "real" job".

I write this and sit here shaking my head as I now know that this wonderful woman wasn't settling for "less" she was trying to do more for her family without making her children have to go without less time with their Mother. In other words and in her own way...she also was trying to have it all but without giving up what was truly important to her. In a way, she was a bigger person than I as she wasn't willing to sacrifice what was true in her heart and soul just for a much larger bank account, bigger house or nicer cars. She realized that what her children would value most about their childhoods in years to come would not be the material things but the actual time they got with their Mother, the things she taught them and the emotional connection they shared.

I am not bashing daycare providers or those that choose to or have to put their children into these types of facilities...we almost went down that path but while we were planning to do this, our life was changing around us and it wasn't until about three months ago that I began to come to this understanding and ultimately realize the profound affect it had on my life. It has taken a series of events in our personal life to have me become a Stay at Home Mom and it has taken many conversations with other women (including my own Mother) to only begin to understand the level of responsibility this comes with or just how much of myself I will have to change. However, I have also learned recently that it does not mean that I need to "sacrifice" me, what makes me who I am, my core beliefs and/or the values, dreams and ambitions that I had prior to taking on this new role in my life.

I belong to a playgroup for pre-walkers and have met some wonderful women through this..some whom I am still getting to know and others who I truly believe are turning into wonderful friends. During these 2-2.5 hour weekly or bi-weekly get together's we talk as Moms and as women to each other while trying to wrangle the kids. Initially the conversations were pretty basic - getting to know each other etc. but recently and as we have got more comfortable with each other, we have all started to open up on deeper levels. We were talking the other week about going back to work and the when and hows of it when suddenly a few of us actually admitted (out loud) that this is not something we were wanting to rush in to. For the time being and the near future that we just wanted to be with our children and spending this valuable time with them.

I remember sitting on the living room floor and almost feeling myself exhale. I felt like it was all of a sudden o.k. for me to be thinking that I would rather be a SAHM instead of a Mom who also had a career and didn't immediately rush back to work after 3 months and put my baby in daycare just because that is what was expected and what has become more common than not these days. It was probably only then that I started to really relax around these women and let my guard down as I realized they were more like me than I even knew and not only did I not think any less of them but I was proud to be one of them.

With these thoughts running through my head, I then went to my bi-weekly MOPS meeting. The speaker who met with us discussed the transition from ones life before becoming a Mother to what it can be like after you are a Mother especially as one who stays home. Many of her points hit home with me and hard however I assumed I was the only one but as I looked around the room of women who I sat with, I saw many of them also nodding their heads in agreement with this woman and at the same points where I was also nodding my head. I finally felt like there was some sort of voice to this particular transition that I was going through and as if someone was saying to me "It's okay to feel this way, it's normal for some and it is also alright to embrace this new life of yours".

That was my problem...I hadn't learned to embrace being a Stay at Home Mom and nor was I necessarily comfortable with the acronym "SAHM". I felt like I was lost in this new ocean of Motherhood and that it was wrong to grieve about my life before compared to now and I felt guilty that I even thought this way when I had this beautiful baby to take care of and love and enjoy. Over the past week or so though, I have been giving more and more thought to this new chapter in my life and have realized that it is now time to turn the page and really immerse myself in this. I have come to understand that I am no longer on that sinking ship - that is over and done with. In a way when that "ship" did sink it was also my life preserver as it enabled me to have this new part of my life and tap into parts of myself that I never knew existed.

Looking at things now that I feel I have come through the dark waters and am on the other side, I can see how being a woman who is staying home with her daughter has made me more emotionally aware and sensitive to others needs. It has made me think many times before I act (or at least try to) and I don't feel like like I am going through my days in this rushed haze. I no longer feel like I have to fly through one task and another just to have part of myself appear in several different areas instead, I put all of myself into one task - complete it and then move on to the next. In essence, there is actually MORE of me in my day to day life than there ever was before and what I believe there would be if I were working.

While being a Stay at Home Mom was not something that was on the horizon for me or my husband...I believe we are both glad that I am. Yes, extra money is nice and having a bigger house would be great, especially on days when I feel like we are bursting at the seams. It would also be nice to be able to go on some of those wonderful vacations that we used to and to have that flat screen t.v. (that I know my husband would really like even though he will not admit it) but for us, that isn't where our hearts are at this particular time. For us, having the big flat-screen t.v. and the fancy vacation or bigger house at this point in time would mean me having to go back to work on a full-time basis and putting our daughter in daycare and to us, personally THAT is too big of a sacrifice to make.

10 or 11 months ago, I would have never thought that I would have this sort of thought process. I couldn't comprehend being a Stay at Home Mom and now not only am I that...but I am embracing it and learning to be proud of the acronym "SAHM". As irony would have it, when you pronounce "SAHM" as a word it sounds like the name Sam...which makes me smile on a completely different level and wonder if in the end this was all meant for me and part of my own destiny.

Do I know if I will be a SAHM forever...that remains to be seen and if not that is another chapter of my life yet to be written but for now, I am getting to know myself in a different way and come to understand this new person that I am becoming. No matter what I know that Sam will always be a part of my life and I intend to be the best SAHM that I can not only for my daughter but also for me. As women, I think we need to learn to really be proud of who we are, embrace each other on a deeper level and what it is that makes each of us individuals. We need to realize that sometimes "less" or what we perceive as less can truly be more and that the term Stay at Home Mom needs to be said with pride and purpose as it once was. It should not be said in a shameful sort of manner but worn as a badge of honor.

Perhaps I should send a Thank You card to the Captain of that sinking ship known as my prior place of employment as in the end their demise allowed me to sail into calmer waters and have a greater sense of peace and tranquility than I ever knew possible.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In my "old life" or my pre-Mommy days..I was a recruiter. I found candidates, interviewed them and matched them up with the appropriate jobs to interview for where they hopefully got hired. I was GOOD at my job..I started with no experience in this field, quickly moved up the ranks to a Senior level in only 1 year and basically proceeded to put in 40+ hours per week for them for the next 3 years. I gave up evenings with my husbands, some Saturday mornings and even part of my own sanity due to the high stress levels but I figured that the "rush" I got from filling a certain number of jobs each week which in turn increased my monthly commission check and the continued praise from my superiors made this alright and also guaranteed my future with the company.

Little did I know that on April 12th 2009, the sales and recruitment staff would be sat down and told "sorry, the company isn't doing well - we are letting you all go in 4 days" and therefore, I was about to become a statistic of this current failing economy. Initially, I was okay with this and spent my time looking for jobs but was also very much focused on having my baby and then raising her for the first few months of her life. I didn't think this really bothered me and felt that I was lucky to come out of through this sort of change in my life without any sort of emotional breakdown or level of frustration assuming that I would be able to find something relatively quickly and telling myself that I was happy to be away from the high levels of stress.

Now though, it is almost a year later and I am realizing that this was not the case at all. Perhaps it is that my daughter is now 9 months old and I am for the most part out of my initial "baby blur", the holiday season is well behind us, winter is about to become a distant memory and we as a family have some what of a routine but whatever it is, I am beginning to realize that I am mad about the situation.

From the time I told my boss that I was pregnant, I dealt with a series of remarks on a fairly regular basis to the affect of "if you have a desk to come back to after your maternity" or "could you come to work looking less pregnant due to X client meeting" or others that I choose not to mention that I now look back and wonder if I was actually let go due to the economy or if it was more so due to my pregnancy? I will probably never know one way or the other but what I do know is that I was damn good at my job and therefore, did not have a valid reason for having lost it. I don't just say that, I have this in writing (so to speak) from both my former employer and clients that I worked with however comments made obviously make me wonder and as I am not the only woman that I know of who has had this sort of thing happen to her 6-8 weeks prior to giving makes me wonder.

I am not sure what irritates me more, the thought that this might be the reason or the fact that I am now looking for work and trying to figure out what it is that I want to be doing with the rest of my life all the while making sure that me going back to work actually makes sense. Daycare costs a lot - to say the least - and does it really make sense for me to go back just to pay for daycare? Probably not.

In Illinois, the current unemployment rate is 11% while the national average is 9.somethingorother % and the governor of this state just announced today that he would raise income tax by 1% all while many citizens of this state are struggling to keep their homes, pay their bills AND are also about to lose their unemployment benefits. It is just so incredibly frustrating to know that so many who have skills and are talented are in the same position as me and my husband. We know that we are more fortunate than some but we still wonder "when will this all end" so that our lives will get better and what sort of future does our daughter have for her in this country. We have seriously considered leaving altogether as the end does not seem to be in sight but we know that the grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side.

I guess what it comes down to is that I need to really figure out what it is that I want to do when I grow up. When I take a step back and look at this from a non-emotional angle, I am able to say "everything happens for a reason" and begin to believe again that I have had this happen at this point in my life because I am not meant to be doing what it was that I did before. I feel that I am meant to be doing something more creative as the hum-drum world of Corporate America did on some level always make me want to poke my eyes out and honestly the thought of going back into a cubicle one day and working for someone else ranks right up their with the enjoyment of putting myself in a cage and roaming back and forth across the same 3 feet of space each day all the while looking out from behind the bars longing for my freedom.

At the moment, I am enjoying my time with my daughter but it is time for me to set the wheels in motion for what it is that I am going to do next with my life. Perhaps, I should use this frustration, anger and general sense of irritability in regards to this subject to my advantage and channel it into a type of fuel that I can use to start on this new path in my life. While I might not have chosen to be in this particular position at this moment in my life, maybe someone else is trying to tell me something and whatever it is, is beginning to get louder. I can almost feel it brewing in me and need to seize this "gift" that I have been given as I also believe that if I don't, it might pass me by and perhaps never come again...