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

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When I started to think I might be ready to have a baby I was working at a job I loved. Iโ€™d always assumed that, when I became a mom, Iโ€™d stay home. Itโ€™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 wasnโ€™t that the job was easy, it was that it was endlessly challenging and intellectually stimulating. And I wasnโ€™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 Iโ€™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 Iโ€™d made up my mind.

I think that for many women, myself included, the modern notion that women can โ€œhave it allโ€ 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 weโ€™ve been told that we can โ€œhave it all,โ€ 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 wouldnโ€™t presume to judge. But that kind of scenario wasnโ€™t for me. When I imagined myself at work while my child was somewhere else, going about his day without me, my heart broke.