I’ve traded in my black business suits for shorts and maxi dresses.
My shiny patent high heels for flip-flops and mama Crocs.
My chic over-the-shoulder handbag for a very practical, industrial-designed khaki backpack.
My sleek updo for whatever hair arrangement is quickest to achieve, all the while accompanied by a halo of frizz framing my usually flustered face.
I’ve traded in 10:30 a.m. cappuccino breaks with intellectual colleagues for a cracker and watermelon food fight with an energetic and gleefully squealing toddler.
My 20-minute, quick-fix, power lunches for lengthy negotiations with a curly-haired little girl as to which non-carbohydrate items on her plate she will begrudgingly consume.
My after-work conversations with my husband about current events and challenges I’m facing in the office for a rambling update on how long the baby napped that day, the contents of her diapers, how tired I am, and how sore my back is, and seeking his take on whether or not frozen pizzas would be OK for dinner.
My billable-hour targets for guesses as to how many hours straight my child will sleep through the night.
My evolution into a stay-at-home-mom was not an evolution at all. It was an abrupt shift from one life to another. There was no lead-in, no transition; it was like suddenly a part of me that I had known so well, for so long, had disappeared. Instead, here I was, cradling a newborn in my arms on a Tuesday morning, wondering where on earth I was supposed to start.
We don’t talk about our previous lives so much, my mama friends and I. Sometimes it feels like our lives only really began once we became mothers for the first time. When we do have the occasional conversation about who we once “were,” it’s uncharted territory—getting to know a mysterious part of each other which we were not sure existed.
I’ve always known that I wanted to stay home with my children when they were young. For exactly how long? I don’t know. I didn’t think ahead that far. But in my visualization of how my life would look as a mother, eventually I would be back in the game at the perfect time, doing what I knew how to do, and doing it well. Slipping back into the rhythm of things seamlessly, reconnecting with my former life, largely unchanged.
But then you realize that it has been almost a year, a year and a half, two years, or five years straight of this SAHM gig. I find myself stunned at how quickly the time has passed and how dramatically my life has changed. And how, really, it is impossible not to change as a person.
Speaking truthfully, sometimes I miss the former “me.”
It’ll strike when I’m in the middle of performing an inane rendition of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” to my adoring daughter in a crowded mall elevator to keep her from screaming the place down. I’ll catch one of the glances exchanged between two very sophisticated and well-manicured folk off to what one can only assume is an extremely important business lunch.
It’ll strike when we have to make a mad dash to the grocery store at 9 a.m. because we’re out of something that the little one needs right now. There’s dried cereal on my face, spit-up on my shirt, and something suspiciously yellow-brown in my hair. Yes, this morning I’ll be needing a triple-shot caramel macchiato with extra caramel drizzle please, thanks. I’ll notice the looks my beautifully boisterous child and I receive from the more serious and focused mid-morning cafe patrons in their corporate attire. Ah, that disheveled mother and her noisy child are here again, disturbing my really important report-writing. I get it. No, really, I do. (But really, though, do you genuinely, legitimately think you’re going to be that productive in a bustling cafe? I mean, really).
Cue that feeling. You know, that feeling when your ego is feeling a little too pushed to the corner. When your insecurity that, post-baby, maybe your brain really has turned to mush kicks in. When you suddenly, urgently feel like you need to justify to society why you’re in the state you’re in, why you’ve made the choice you’ve made.
It makes me want to stop what I’m doing, turn to them and perform a soliloquy all about who I am. I have a brain, you know? I have a law degree, you know? I worked on multimillion-dollar cases, YOU KNOW? I’m doing this by choice, okay? I’M NOT JUST A MOM. I’M A FREAKING LAWYER.
Boom. There it is.
“Not just a mom.” Which begs the question: Why do we sometimes feel like being “just” a SAHM simply isn’t enough? Perhaps the question should be: Enough for whom? Enough for me? Or enough for them?
We all make the choices—to stay home with our kids or to go back to work—we make for our own reasons. I get that women have worked hard to get to where we are today. Sure, there’s still a long way to go, but we’re heading in the general direction of more female CEOs, managing partners, judges and presidents. So then, why is there now a new breed of mom guilt—that as a modern woman, you really shouldn’t just throw your career away to stay home and play housewife? In striving so hard to establish our equal place in society, we have forgotten that it is no one’s place to judge whether our decision to head back into the workforce, or take a break from it to raise our children, is the right one. When I hear that self-righteous voice in my head, the one that sternly warns me not to transform too much into “frumpy mom” or fall too far out of the loop with what’s happening on the legal scene (because watch out, in a split second, all of my hard work to get to where I did career-wise could vanish in one big bang), I have to remind myself to shut that voice up.
Because you know what? Becoming a mother has transformed me—totally, utterly and completely. It hasn’t forced me to permanently surrender just one aspect of who I am; it has introduced me to a new and fascinating part of myself. How many incredible lessons I have learned about not only the world in which I live, but also about me. Yes, there are rough days, but never have I felt more comfortable in my own skin, more content with the choice I’ve made. Never have I felt more right about where I am right now and what I’m doing. Being a stay-at-home mother, for me, right here, right now, is enough. In fact, on most days, it’s more than enough and brings me more joy and contentment than I ever could have possibly imagined.
I’ve traded in my flashy business trips for adventures with a small and excited little sidekick who has so much of the world to see.
My hours of researching complex legal issues for afternoons in the park as I watch the sheer fascination on her face as the airplanes fly overhead.
My 6 a.m. power workouts for a shower of sweet morning kisses from her tiny little rosebud mouth.
My burgeoning career for the privilege of watching a soul so new to this world flourish more and more every day.
And I wouldn’t trade any of it back, for anything.