Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Great SAHM Debate

I have a wonderful mom who was able to be a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM) until I was about 12.

She came on field trips, kept the house organized and clean, volunteered, made dinners, knew our friends, greeted us after school, helped us do homework, and did a million other things I was blissfully unaware of.

It was wonderful.

I always pictured myself doing the same thing as my mom.

Then my parents divorced and she had to try to find work. She started out making something like $5 an hour standing in a cold, windy field holding a surveyor's pole for a civil engineer. She did that bravely and went on to find gradually better jobs and now has a wonderful job. My mom is my hero for so many reasons.

In the midst of all this, Mom made me swear I'd go to college and graduate.

True to my word, I went to college and I graduated. I married Isaac the next day. I got a job as an RN.

A little later, we started talking about kids.

My friends, this is where things get complicated. Do I stay home with the kids and live the SAHM dream like my mom's first 17 years? Or do I work and keep up my license in case, like her, I need to be the breadwinner some day?

As it happened, I didn't get pregnant that year. Or the next. Or the next. Or the next. Work gave me something to do, social interaction, and a way to feel useful, and it helped get Isaac through grad school. I kept working until I was utterly burned out. Meanwhile, after 3 failed rounds of IVF, we decided to adopt. Feeling tired of putting my life on hold for kids that didn't seem to want to come, and knowing that adoption can take years, I decided that I wanted to go to Nurse Practitioner school.

I've blogged about this--applying to school, getting accepted, finding out I was pregnant (we ended up doing one more round of IVF, but that's another story), agonizing over what to do, finally deciding to go, and leaving Mary with a babysitter.

I took my last final a few months ago on a Saturday night, and on the next Monday morning began studying for my certification exams (this made finishing school feel a little anticlimactic...). Four days later I was in the perinatologist's office talking about the problems with Sarah, and four days after that I spent a Tuesday trying to study in between increasingly forceful contractions. That night Sarah was born.

My review books sat untouched in the hospital room for 3 days (I think I was delusional when I packed my hospital bags). Sarah passed away, we planned a funeral, family drove back home, I figured out how to function, and then I was back to the books.

I took and passed my certification exam about 3 weeks after Sarah's funeral.

That sounds insane, but I needed something to do with myself. I'd been in school Mary's whole life, and after Sarah's passing, with school finished, I faced a string of empty, obligation-free days with a sense of gnawing dread. Studying was familiar, even comforting. It gave me a job to do every day, besides keep Mary alive.

A month and a half later, I officially have a job seeing urgent care patients at a family practice clinic. They need someone to do some evenings and some Saturdays and occasional day shifts--in other words, perfect Mommy hours.

Where once I felt vaguely guilty for wanting to go to school with a baby on the way, now I find that I need an identity outside of being a mother. Rather than dwell on the feeling that bringing kids into our family doesn't appear to be my strong suit, I have found a place to progress, to learn, and to help people--while doing something I genuinely love.

I hope no one that is a SAHM feels guilty reading this. Nor do I want any working mothers to feel guilty reading this. We all have to choose what is best for us and our families. For me, for now, my work schedule is conducive to motherhood and, well, work helps make my loss bearable. After it all, I feel like I was guided here, to help me with losing Sarah, but hopefully for more than that as well.

So for now, I'm a little bit SAHM and a little bit working mom. I'm grateful to be both.