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Transition to SAHM

 Holistic Parenting Magazine

 

Decision

When Maya was born, I was finishing my 17th year of teaching, held two degrees and a National Board Certification in my field. I had spent my professional life encouraging kids to believe in themselves, fostering creativity and critical thinking and creating caring communities in my classroom. Being a mother was not something I'd considered seriously; I loved what I did and wanted to do it well.

Therefore, when my husband and I found out we were pregnant, we had some important decisions to make with regard to our daughter's daycare. We didn't have the financial resources, nor did I have the desire, to stay at home. I couldn't just drop off my four-month-old to a managed facility either. My husband arranged his schedule to stay home with Maya in the morning, then a friend would watch her until I could pick her up after school. While it was the best solution for us at the time, I began to feel a tug toward home. At the end of the day the sitter would report to me how many diapers she had changed, what Maya had eaten and any other basic information. The only time I spent with my girl was in the evening feeding, bathing, and playing for a short time before sleep. I craved a deeper connectedness and began to resent having to leave each morning.

 

I am the one who recognizes the cognitive shifts from month to month and have discovered that I never gave up teaching after all; I am teaching the most important "students" ever...mine.

 

By the time Kyra was born three years later, my husband and I had moved from New Mexico to northeastern Pennsylvania where he was in graduate school full-time. Looking at our budget, I realized that even with my salary, we would not be able to afford child care and trying to find someone in our community to take my girls all day didn't seem possible. Beyond the financial aspects and logistics, I simply could not give over the care of my girls to strangers regardless of our philosophical similarities. No one else could be the Mama. These girls had been given, not to a childcare facility, or a kind neighbor, but to me. These were my girls, my sweet cherubs, and the joy and responsibility for raising them lay in my hands; I needed to stay home.

 

Downsizing

As sure as I was about my internal desire, though, I was unsure about my husband's feelings on the matter. My salary was what was getting us through, it was our lifeline. However, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen."  This had been true for me in other endeavors in my life; I trusted it would be true again. I also knew my husband's heart; as my partner in this journey and in all aspects of our life, I knew he would at least be open to the possibilities. The result couldn't have been better; he agreed that I should stay home and that we would work out the details. He trusted me and that, for us, was key. 

 

Discovering the spectrum of philosophies from "crunchy" to "silky," I had to navigate my own path, landing somewhere in the middle.

 

Working out the details presented an enormous challenge. Where would our money come from? How would we buy groceries? We looked at our budget and figured out where we could trim excesses. We moved to a much smaller, more affordable apartment that was closer to my husband's school. I wouldn't be working, so fuel costs for my car would be significantly less. We slimmed down our cell phone plan and didn't have cable television. I took out money from my investments knowing that this investment in "us" would pay far greater dividends in the long run. Further, I put aside my pride and accepted temporary assistance from my parents until my husband had a job again. Miraculously, our needs were met: we received donated clothes from friends at work and church, people brought us fresh produce from their gardens and my husband received unanticipated scholarships for school. Little by little, we were making it.

 

Overall, I began to feel lighter; having fewer "things" gave us more room for play. Clearing out the clutter physically allowed me time and space to create meaningful experiences for my girls. I began to feel disconnected from the commercial clamor and began to feel at peace, better able to be still and listen. We began to make our own music, to sing, dance, to imagine rocket ships and sailboats at sea. I began to breathe a little easier without deadlines, lesson plans or meetings. Our schedule revolved around our needs of the day instead of an arbitrary agenda dictated by outside forces.   

 

There were times when I desperately missed adult conversation and the flurry of academia. I was sometimes jealous of my husband because he was in school; I was at home with smudges on my shirt and diapers to change. The transition was a difficult one, the learning curve was steep and I needed to find a different kind of support system.                       

 

Identity

To be clear, my decision to make the paradigm shift from working full-time to staying at home was not easy one; being "just" a mom was not part of my vision or identity. My colleagues, while supportive, couldn't fully understand how I could give up my career. Some were sure that I'd never find fulfillment at home and that I'd be back to teaching within the year. My working friends were often frustrated because I could no longer afford to have lunch as often and if we went to coffee I needed to bring the girls along. And there were times, days when the girls were crabby or I lost my temper with them or when the house was a wreck at the end of the day, that I questioned my decision too. There were times when I desperately missed adult conversation and the flurry of academia. I was sometimes jealous of my husband because he was in school; I was at home with smudges on my shirt and diapers to change. The transition was a difficult one, the learning curve was steep and I needed to find a different kind of support system.

 

Community of Mothers

What I discovered along the way is that there are numerous other women who have done this before me. I began reading blogs, books and talking to other women I met who were in similar situations. Discovering the spectrum of philosophies from "crunchy" to "silky," I had to navigate my own path, landing somewhere in the middle. I gleaned ideas that worked well for me: home-made recipes, the myriad uses of coconut oil, soap nuts for my laundry and DIY household cleaners. Other things didn't fit; I learned not beat myself up because I don't fit someone else's mold. The beauty of community is that we support each other, share wisdom gained from experience and embrace the opportunity to stay home with our kids. 

 

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen."  This had been true for me in other endeavors in my life;

 

Serendipity

I have learned that my intuition is a priceless gift; I know my girls better than anyone and know what they need. I do not rely on the "expert" opinion touted as the next best thing when it comes to raising my children. Clearly, I am able to sift through the enormous amounts of information out there and choose what works best for us. The true blessing is that I am there to see the subtle changes in my girls' faces each day because I am present with them. They respond to my touch when they are hurt, excited or scared. I catch the clever, quirky comments that no babysitter would ever think to report. I am the one who recognizes the cognitive shifts from month to month and have discovered that I never gave up teaching after all; I am teaching the most important "students" ever...mine.

About the Author
Kristi Mackey
Author: Kristi Mackey
Kristi Mackey spent 20 years in public and private education as a secondary English teacher to both hearing and Deaf children. She is the mother of three active girls. She is a life-long learner who is unafraid of challenge or change. She seeks to infuse her days with balance, sensitivity and humor and encourages her children to believe that all things are possible.

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