Every parent works. Whether it's in the home or out, paid or unpaid, professional or personal, continuous or fragmented, we all get up each day with a contribution to make, a challenge to solve, and a community to find. Today, we're launching a multi-part series on some of the different ways modern parents work, and how they've crafted a situation that works for them. First up is #MINDRMAMA Edil Cuepo, who left the real estate world to become a stay-at-home mom to gorgeous 18 month old June. Got questions? Join Edil on our Instagram Stories today for her #AMA about stay-at-home parent life.
Before my daughter June was born, I was convinced that I would go back to work. I was sold on the idea that modern and empowered women are capable of thriving in both areas of their life: motherhood and their professional careers. After all, this message is constantly being shared with women (especially millennials) like me in various ways and forms. The message is loud and clear: you can have it all. But resigning from your job to make space for motherhood sort of implies weakness and a lack of drive. Women before us have fought long and hard for the right to work and sustain a career outside of home-making. Why waste this opportunity away by staying home with the baby?
Despite the 1.5 hour commute to and from work, I was determined and certain I could make it work. And yet, as my maternity leave neared its end, motherhood unapologetically looked me in the eye and seemed to say “you should really stay home.” June looked so tiny and was dependent on me in all the ways. Even though the daycare we were looking at came with the best recommendations, I dreaded the thought of leaving her there and spending more time apart than together. For the first time since she was born, I felt relief from the pressure I had subconsciously put on myself to go back to work. How could I let this rare and wonderful phase of my life pass? Why not take this time to be home with June and watch her grow, if my family can afford it?
I sent in my notice to my boss with mixed emotions. I was happy that this meant I would get to enjoy June longer than maternity leave would allow; but, at the same time, I was overcome with guilt and shame. I struggled with the idea of “just staying at home all day.” I felt like I was betraying myself by putting my personal growth and ambition aside. I felt shame because everything I thought I knew about modern motherhood was immediately thrown out the window. I heard a lot about the guilt of working moms, but no one warned me about the guilt that stay-at-home moms carry in silence. I was torn and confused.
To me, the popular image of the “super mom” in the media and acclaimed books like Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In feels disempowering for women like me, who chose to take this time to focus on motherhood. I find that one’s ability to truly balance the early years of motherhood and their work depends greatly on the type of job one has, her position in the company, and whether or not she and her husband have family around to help care for the baby. Only a few women are already in the C-suite by the time they have a baby. Most are still working hard to perform and impress and asking for a flexible work schedule may not be very realistic.
I do get Sandberg’s point though. We must not let our role as mothers deter us from going after our individual ambitions. However, I also think there is a time for everything. Maybe for some women “having it all” means staying home. For those same women, they may feel differently as their babies get older, and decide to rejoin the workforce, or they may not. It can be easy for new moms to let the more popular idea of “having it all” make them feel like they don’t have permission to be physically present and take on the role of staying at home. The timeline of success stories simply varies for every mother and we must also realize that for some, their children ARE their success stories. Raising children to be kind and responsible future leaders is a profession in itself and must never be taken for granted.
I want to note that I fully support women who choose to go back to work. I am only talking from my own experience of choosing to stay home. I used to think stay-at-home-moms are old-school and lacking in ambition. Now that sits at the top of the list of things I said I would never do/become as a mother but I am now, a proud stay-at-home-mother. It makes me wonder how many other women are finding themselves in the same position I was in, or are bound to think and feel the same SAHM guilt I did once they become mothers.
After being home for over a year, I learned how much physical, mental and emotional strength it takes to care for a baby 24/7. Being isolated for days at a time and doing repetitive things such as changing dirty diapers, sweeping the floor after each meal and reading the same stories every night requires a lot of patience, courage, and self-awareness. You need ambition to get you through the mindless tasks of growing an infant, and to be able to look beyond that and focus on your main goal: to raise a happy, healthy and secure child.
Being a SAHM made me stronger and more focused than any role I have played in life. It made me more intentional and decisive with how I spend my time. It also challenges me to continually find ways to connect with people, to develop new skills and to find a creative outlet to continue to hone my existing skills. I have found Instagram to be a wonderful tool for me to meet other mom friends and discover events, products, and causes that I relate to. Meeting Sarah and the rest of the Mindr community is an example of meaningful connections that are available and important for mothers to have.
My motherhood blog, @rockawaybaby, is a passion project that sparks creativity and inspiration in me, especially when days feel long and too routine. Listening to podcasts such as TED Radio Hour, Optimal Living Daily and Jenna Kutcher’s Goaldigger keeps me motivated and teaches me things about mindfulness, technology and business. This is what I have made my stay-at-home motherhood to be about: simultaneously doing everything for June and nurturing myself in between, often during her nap time and after bedtime.
I love being home and I cherish every moment. While I used to be ashamed to admit how I truly feel about this, I am compelled to share it with you to offer an alternative success story. My decision to put my career on pause has blessed and enriched my family and I in ways I did not expect. There’s nothing I look forward to more than seeing June’s dark eyes look up at me each morning while she nurses in bed. I love our breakfast dates, impromptu adventures, and dance parties before bath. I love watching how her brain works, hearing her say words for the first time, and being her comfort and best friend.
Mama, there is no shame and loss in choosing to become a stay-at-home mother, even for empowered and driven women like you and me. Listen to your heart and do what your gut tells you to do. IF you feel the need to stay home, skip the guilt and embrace it. There could be as much growth for you in being with your baby full-time as in building your career. The bonus is that you also get to work for the cutest boss ever, which is not a bad gig at all!
Next up in the Ways We Work series, a work-from-home mama shares her insights, difficulties and success stories.
Cover photo by Max Flatow.