Tales from a reluctant stay at home mom

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Are you a happy or a reluctant stay at home mom? This decision hits all of us differently. Here’s CityMom Cynthia’s account:

I quit my job when I was 26 weeks pregnant with my second child.

I had a 2 year old daughter already and my husband and I decided to make some financial sacrifices in order for me to be able to stay home.

The truth was, even though I had a good job working as an air quality inspector for the state, the financial reality of putting two young kids in full time daycare pretty much desecrated my salary. But that’s a story for another day.

I was excited to be a stay at home mom but at the same time I was nervous: I’d never considered staying home before I had kids. Most of my life I had worked through my educational goals so I could work in the environmental field.

I really liked my job.

It was challenging, both physically and mentally. With the exception of one alleged murderer, most of the people I worked with were great and I would miss the social aspect of working. I was anxious that I would lose part of myself and the career goals that I had worked so hard to achieve.

But at the same time it was getting harder and harder for me to balance work and being a mom.

reluctant stay at home mom - theCityMoms

My job required travel so sometimes I was coming back late to pick my daughter up from daycare. Once the new baby came, this travel would make it difficult to schedule breaks to pump milk while most of my salary would be going toward daycare costs. It was time to start a new chapter in my life as a stay-at-home mom.

Even though I was happy to have the opportunity to stay home, I continued to drag my feet when it came to quitting my job. I was anxious about quitting. I had worked my whole life toward having a career and worried about who I would be after I quit. Much of my self-esteem and self-worth came from being productive at work. Would I have that same satisfaction staying home all day with a 2 year old and a baby? I didn’t know, but I was worried about the transition. So I delayed it until finally my husband asked me if I was ever going to quit. The day had come. So I scheduled a meeting with my supervisor to give him my resignation letter.

As surreal as it was for me to be quitting my job, my supervisor was even more surprised. He was a trained negotiator but when I first presented him with my resignation, he stared at me, mouth agape, trying to comprehend what I was telling him. He quickly recovered and I could see him doing the math in his head. Another significant part of the reason that I was quitting was because by comparison, I had the largest caseload of any of my coworkers, which along with my regular inspection workload and a couple of side projects was a substantial amount of work. I could see that he was concerned, and rightly so, about how this caseload would be resolved in my absence. But being the negotiator that he was, he offered me a deal. “What if,” he wondered, “instead of quitting right away, you stayed on until the caseload was finished, but did not have to take on any new projects?” He floated this idea, unsure of how I would respond. I was reluctant to quit anyway, so to me this seemed like an ingenious solution. I quickly accepted. I went home and told my husband that I would be quitting work in six weeks with a smile on my face. He looked at me, shaking his head, aghast that I had managed to quit while not quitting. He definitely did not see this outcome coming. Sometimes it is fun knowing that even though someone knows you so well you still have the ability to surprise them.

Reluctant stay at home mom - theCityMoms

Trying to grocery shop with two kids while a baby steals my ham = life.

Those six weeks came and went, and pretty soon {actually in only three hours of labor!} my second daughter was born. The transition from working mom to stay at home mom was difficult but I began to adjust. I was lonely with just a baby and a toddler to talk to, so I began arranging playdates with other moms, at the time I said it was for the kids but the reality was the playdates were for me. I missed the adult interaction that I used to get all day at work. I was also seeking mommy friends for advice, how did you potty train your kids or my kid is going through this phase, how did you handle it? I was covered in poop or spit up most of the time and I needed a mama tribe who understood. My husband and I debated, this seems like its going well, should we have a third child? Three kids seemed like a daunting number of kids and the more I thought about it, the more the world didn’t seem set up for a family of 5. Most tables, recipes, hotel rooms, etc are set up for a family of four. Even our car would not fit three car seats in it. Plus, my biggest concern of all, which was, could our family handle another child? While many people handle having larger families in stride, having more kids than hands was intimidating to me.

OTHER SAHM THOUGHTS: I knew full-time SAHM life wasn’t for me… or was it?

While my husband and I debated adding to our brood, the question was answered for us when I became pregnant with my third girl. An easy birth and a healthy, happy baby, the third child fit right in. Given that she was an easy baby and that I had been a stay at home mom for 2.5 years by the time she was born, you would think this adjustment would be easier than going from one child to two. But nothing could be further from the truth.

I now had three children four and under. I was completely overwhelmed.

My two year old, bless her heart, loved her new sister but did not adjust well to having a new sister. She was up at night more than the newborn was. And my four year old would often have nightmares. It was not unusual for me to see at least two kids multiple times during the night, and on my worst nights I would see all three. This went on for over a year. I started to wonder to myself, “Wait, isn’t sleep deprivation a torture tactic?”. There were days that I could barely make it to the 2pm designated naptime before collapsing in exhaustion. My house was in a constant state of disarray. I began to use my counter as a metaphor for how my day was going. A cluttered and overwhelmed counter was the sign of a cluttered and overwhelmed mind. Not being able to keep up with the household chores became a source of loneliness for me, because I was too embarrassing to invite anyone over with my house in disarray.

Reluctant stay at home mom - theCityMoms

All three of Cynthia’s girls smiling for the camera, ages 7, 4, and 2.

Some nights I had to take a nap after dinner so that I would have the energy to do the dishes. One night my husband came home to find me nursing the baby and all I could muster for dinner was to boil hot dogs in a pot. My husband began wondering why these hot dogs were taking so long. I didn’t even notice it was taking long. He discovered that while I had the fortitude to put the hot dogs in the pot with water, I did not have the presence of mind to turn the stove on.

As each day passed I was losing more of myself and more of my identity.

I didn’t have the time or energy to do the things that I enjoyed. I was beyond exhausted each night and could barely stay up until 8 or 9 pm at night because I knew that I would be seeing a toddler or baby in the wee hours of the morning. So I would wake up with the kids and go to bed with the kids and the educated professional that could handle a larger than average caseload slowly deteriorated into a stay at home mom who was not capable of remembering to turn on the stove.

I felt lonely and depressed. I started to feel like I was failing. While I was feeling this way, almost no one in my life knew I was struggling. How would they know? My Facebook feed was happiness and sunshine. And even I didn’t realize it. But my parents knew. When they would visit they noticed how overwhelmed I was and they did everything they could to help. However, the feeling of being overwhelmed and depressed persisted and the outward way I portrayed these feelings was through irritability. I am normally a positive person but I mostly took out my feelings on my husband. I would snap at him or be irritable whenever he asked me for anything. It was like I could not handle one more thing. I am able to look back now and know that I was depressed and overwhelmed but at the time I thought I was fine. I had no idea that anger can be a symptom of depression. I thought only sadness was and I wasn’t sad. My husband did not know what to do with this new crabby wife. He started walking on eggshells around me. He was as exhausted and overwhelmed as I was (or maybe because I was?). It took a major toll on my marriage because I gave everything to the kids and as a result I was too exhausted to have anything left for my marriage.

CAN YOU RELATE? I’m a full-time working mom. And yes I’m proud.

This went on for over a year. Then, once the baby turned two I began to adjust better. My kids were all older {2, 4 and 6} and while they still needed me, they needed me… less. I could shower. I put on make-up. I began to feel more like myself and less like a human burp cloth. I joined a moms group. I began to have interests outside of mothering again and I began to be less overwhelmed. I was getting more sleep and the fog was starting to lift. I was depressed less often and I learned more about myself and what my limits were. I found out that knowing my limits is an important part of being happy and that it is ok to say no. But in learning that, I discovered that more important than saying no is the freedom to be able to say yes.

I had heard about a book called Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes. I had not read this book but I understood the summary of it to be that for an entire year, Ms. Rimes said yes to things that she was scared to do, things she normally thought she couldn’t do. She was conquering her fears and learning about herself. This sounded like something that I wanted to do. I had not done anything outside of caring for my kids in a long time and I wanted to re-invent myself. I wanted to see who I was now as a mother of three kids and what I was capable of accomplishing. So I decided that 2016 would be my Year of Yes. I decided that if an opportunity presented itself to me, no matter how afraid I was or if I didn’t think I could accomplish it, I would try anyway. In my next blog post, I will talk about my Year of Yes and the adventures that it took me on.



Cynthia Holladay - theCityMomsCynthia Holladay is a former state air quality inspector turned Stay-at-Home mom to 3 precious girls. ​She was named Mom of the Year in 2017 by Fishers Magazine.

When she is not busy explaining to strangers in public that yep, her hands are full, Cynthia is obsessing over true crime stories, playing trivia, or drinking chardonnay and eating tiramisu.

2018-09-04T16:48:26+00:00August 4th, 2018|
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