How I Decided to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom

mom playing with kids

When I started to think I might be ready to have a baby I was working at a job I loved. I’d always assumed that, when I became a mom, I’d stay home. It’s what my mother had done, and I believed in the benefits of having one parent available full time. But I loved my job.

I was a 3rd and 4th-grade teacher in a small independent school where I was given lots of freedom to write curriculum and teach content in engaging and exciting ways. It wasn’t that the job was easy, it was that it was endlessly challenging and intellectually stimulating. And I wasn’t sure, now that it came to it, that I wanted to give it up.

So I did an experiment. I pretended that I had a baby. Throughout the day, I thought about my imaginary baby, wondering how he was and if he was okay. I scoped out locations where I could pump, and watched the clock to see what would be happening when I’d need to sneak away. I imagined that I would have to leave at exactly 4:00 every day to pick this pretend baby up from daycare and tried to get out the door before then. I imagined what he might be doing all day long without me.

I did this for about a week. And by the end of the week I knew. I had to quit my job. There was no question about it, it was the only decision. And, having made that decision (and then, through a variety of circumstances having to wait a few more years before I could actually have a baby), I began to like my job less, and look forward to motherhood more. Because, for me, it was one or the other. And I’d made up my mind.

I think that for many women, myself included, the modern notion that women can “have it all” is somewhat confusing. When I began my experiment, I wanted to find out if there was any way I could be both a full-time teacher and a full-time mom. Was it possible, I wondered, given how often we’ve been told that we can “have it all,” to really do both? The answer, of course, is no.

For me, motherhood was something I wanted to do full time. I just wanted to teach full time too. And I recognize, of course, that for some people (many people, even!), continuing to teach (or do some other job) while their babies go to daycare, or stay home with a nanny or other caregiver, is a perfectly acceptable option. One that works for them and for their families in ways I wouldn’t presume to judge. But that kind of scenario wasn’t for me. When I imagined myself at work while my child was somewhere else, going about his day without me, my heart broke.