I didn't officially become a stay-at-home parent until three months after I had my second child, three years after my first was born. It was a decision I definitely wrestled with because I loved my job and the flexibility of working from home. I was scared that if I dropped out of the workforce for a while, I would never find another gig I liked so much. But from a practical standpoint, my husband and I decided my staying home for a while made sense, and even more importantly, it was something that I really wanted to do. So I took the leap.
More than three years later, I've got the stay-at-home-mom thing down. I have embraced all the tools for survival: the gym membership with great child care, the occasional babysitters who give me a break, the similarly minded SAHM friends, and the oversize coffee mugs. Life is crazy but good.
But recently I decided I was ready to take on more outside-of-the-home work. My youngest child, my 3-year-old son, just started a four-morning-a-week preschool program, giving me an extra 12 child-free hours, and I was feeling the pull to fill that time with something more than cleaning my house, running errands, or overcommitting to the PTA.
I missed working, I liked making money (duh!), and always the forward-thinker, I was already looking ahead to a couple of years from now, when I'll have even more time away from my children when they both are in grade school. I wanted to lay the groundwork for a return to the workforce by getting myself at least partially back in the game.
Luckily, the opportunities have been there for me, and I've found myself with even more work than I expected — a good (if somewhat stressful) situation, considering what revisiting my career life has also taught me: that once you're a stay-at-home parent, it's pretty much impossible to give the job back, regardless of whether you take on a paying one.
See, in the years that I decided I'd be our home's CEO, my husband and I both got pretty used to the situation. He has a demanding full-time job and I'm a bit of a control freak, so it seemed easier to divide and conquer. He, of course, is in charge of his own work, as well as our family's financial life (I'm not a numbers person); I'm in charge of everything else kid- and home-related, including managing schedules; making endless trips to keep our fridge, pantry, and household supplies stocked; running to drop-offs and pick-ups; laundry; cooking; and cleaning. And guess what? My taking on more "real" work doesn't mean I get to pawn off any of those responsibilities to my husband or anyone else. Once you are a lead parent, you're most likely a lead parent for life.
Don't get me wrong; I love my full, sometimes crazy-making life, and I would rather be too busy now than not busy enough later. I'm grateful that I've been able to make the transition from a working mom to a SAHM to working again somewhat easily and painlessly. But let's be honest: I wouldn't say no to a cleaning lady.