“I realized that being a stay-at-home mom was not all I had pictured.”

“I realized that being a stay-at-home mom was not all I had pictured.”

I’m excited to share Katie’s story with you today in the How She Does It series, because her story mirrors the story of so many of my personal friends. Usually these conversations take place over coffee, not on the internet. Not today.  

A year after graduating college, I was hired by my alma mater as an admission counselor. I was excited because it took me back to a place I loved and allowed me to work with an incredible group of people.

During my time as an admission counselor, I founded a student blog, aimed at prospective students and their families. I also helped run our office’s Facebook page. Those things coincided with my interests and abilities so it was natural for me to take initiative in those areas.

I loved my work as an admission counselor but when I became pregnant with my first daughter, I knew I wanted to stay home with her. I also knew the life of an admission counselor – traveling and working late evenings and some Saturdays – was not conducive to the kind of family life I hoped to cultivate. My husband and I discussed our options and reviewed our finances, then made the decision. Things would be tight, but I would stay home.

Shortly before my daughter was born, my boss asked me if I would be interested in working part-time from home running the office’s social media pages, working on special projects, and doing some writing. I was thrilled with the idea of keeping my foot in the door and expressed my enthusiasm.

After my daughter was born, I realized that being a stay-at-home mom was not all I had pictured. We were still several years away from the play dates, library story hours and zoo visits of my imagination. Additionally, my husband traveled for work and, even with a strong support network, I often found myself lonely and bored. New motherhood felt isolating. I struggled with the fact that being a stay-at-home mom was not what I’d pictured and I often didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t want to return to my pre-baby job exactly but I missed my co-workers, the office atmosphere and the sense of purpose my job had provided.

It took an entire year after my daughter’s birth for the position my boss and I had discussed to begin (proposals had to be written, money had to be found in the budget, and upper-level administration had to approve) but I finally began working part-time from home in September 2012.

I work approximately twelve hours per week. Although I used to work primarily from home, in January of this year I started working one day a week on campus, in addition to a few additional hours from home. Returning to the office, even for just one day a week, has been a huge boost for me, both mentally and emotionally. A friend watches my girls, just minutes from the university, and I’m able to devote an entire day to my professional life. It is a long, hectic day that requires advance planning on my part but it has been entirely worth it.

I am beginning to think of myself as a professional. I’m imagining what it would look like for me to turn my part-time gig into a long-term career that I love. I have become a self-feeder when it comes to continuing education, learning all I can about social media marketing from articles and webinars. I have taught myself new skills, like video editing. Recently I presented a seminar in the Career Services office at my institution about leveraging social media for career advancement. These activities have developed me as a professional and grown my confidence.

Working gives me a much-needed mental outlet. It gives me a sense of purpose that is different from that of being a mother, but so very valuable. Being able to contribute, even in a small way, to our family finances has lifted a burden and allowed us to take on projects that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do. It’s also important to me that my daughters understand that, while they are so important to me, my life doesn’t revolve around them. I love that I can cultivate a professional life and give them one perspective of how motherhood and a career can take shape.

Katie owns her own social media consulting business, On Target Media & Communications, where she specializes in higher education. When she’s not crafting the perfect tweet, she’s might be sautéing something in the kitchen, jogging around her neighborhood, or – most likely – chasing a toddler. Katie lives with her husband and two daughters in Ohio.

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31 comments

  1. Alison Pike says:

    I love the honesty here, “I struggled with the fact that being a stay-at-home mom was not what I’d pictured and I often didn’t enjoy it.” Amen, sister! I didn’t even make it through to the end of the 9 month maternity leave I had planned…

  2. Natasha says:

    Wow she really succinctly wrote almost my exact struggle. I work entirely from home and miss going to work and interacting with my coworkers (even if they annoy you lol).

    • Jill says:

      I also work entirely from home – my office is in another state! When we moved, they agreed to let me work from home. I also live in the country. I am completely isolated because I don’t want to drive into town all the time…we go in a couple of times a week for errands. I have realized in the year and a half of this that I was not cut out for this – homeschooling in the morning, working in the afternoon…I am learning more and more each day that I am starting to go stir crazy! It’s almost too peaceful out here…beautiful, and nice when you need peace, but man am I getting bored. My daughter has friends and keeps active, but not me. So, I need to change it up, and fast, but haven’t a clue where to start. Trying to figure it all out :). Great article!

      • Katie says:

        Thank for your comment, Jill! My husband and I have a slightly-joking-but-actually-we’re-serious rule that we won’t live more than 5 minutes from a Wal*Mart. Just our way of saying we want to live in town! Best of luck as you work on changing up your routine!

  3. Courtney says:

    I really appreciate your honesty here. So many people treat kids like a sort of light switch; when they’re born, you flip yourself “off” and they become who you are now. I don’t think that makes for a healthy or happy family life. While children require some sacrifices, who you are as a person shouldn’t be one of them. I’m an independent being with other relationships, hobbies, dreams, etc. just like I’ve always been. Yet, why is it so taboo to state that fact?

    You’re doing yourself and the rest of your family a great service by taking care of your own needs and desires as well, and I commend you for it! I hope others will follow your example.

  4. I love working from home, but yes, it can be isolating. I’m working on trying to schedule in-person meetings and attending conferences and events even if it’s a total pain on the logistics front.

    • Katie says:

      Before I started working on campus this year, I tried to make it to campus once a month. It was such a treat! 🙂

  5. Clara says:

    I was a SAHM for seven years before I returned to work as an RN for financial reasons. I find working gives me more balance and perspective; it’s no longer the the end of the world if one of my children is struggling with a class.

    • Katie says:

      I love your perspective as a mom of school-age kids! I can imagine it would be hard not to get wrapped up in their troubles.

  6. Hannah says:

    I found staying home hard at the beginning, too. It didn’t stay as hard as it was in the early years, but I still think our culture gets it wrong in this area. Other cultures (some I’ve lived in) value and encourage built-in friend and family networks for mothers who are at home with their babies. This means that new SAHM’s are rarely without house and childcare help, and adult interaction, no matter their socioeconomic backgrounds. We try to go it alone in the U.S. It’s depressing and makes motherhood harder than it needs to be, I think.

    • Tori says:

      This is so true. I am lucky enough to have family nearby. My mom comes over a couple times a week so I can run errands alone or whatever. And we never have to hire a babysitter. But even with that, I would totally hire a mother’s helper if we could afford it. Because there’s still not enough time in the day!

  7. Julie says:

    I’m fairly newly married with no kids yet, and I found Katie’s honesty and perspective on the balance between career and children very valuable. Thanks for posting!

  8. Sarah R says:

    I love this honest look at motherhood. I also felt the same way. None of my friends had kids when I had my son, and it was isolating. I am also able to work from home, and it provides me the balance that I need. I also like that you hit on the topic of finances. My family could afford to live on my husband’s salary alone, but I enjoy contributing financially and I am glad that my husband does not have to carry the financial burden alone.

  9. I’ve heard a lot of young mothers from my own generation say that motherhood isn’t what they expected it to be. When I’ve asked them what it was they expected, they often cite the same things Katie did here: play dates, library trips, zoos, fun crafts, etc. It surprised me, because when I think of motherhood, I think of reading together on the couch, temper tantrums, watching them learn new things and reveal their personalities, needing to give them afternoon baths because APPLESAUCE, etc.

    However, I come from a big family, so I have many clear memories of what it was like to have babies in the house as a kid. I wonder, could it be that some of these mothers come from small families? If that’s the case, they might not have very many personal experiences to draw upon when developing their idea of motherhood.

    Which makes me wonder: is there a potential solution to this? Obviously we can’t add siblings to our families late in life just to get experience with kids. However, maybe we could try to babysit or do volunteer activities with kids, just to get a better sense of what it’s like to be around them.

  10. Jenn says:

    I’ve done both. Working 50 hours a week with a baby and staying home with one. Working was exhausting we were always in chaos and fights over whose turn it was to get up with her happened all the time. Staying home is just as hard. It’s very isolating. We live far away from family and friends are scattered all over. Most of them work, anyway.

    Having a part time job, volunteering, or having hobbies can make it a lot better. Just because you have kids you should not give up everything that makes you, you. I’ve seen the result, it’s not pretty.

  11. Janet says:

    Obviously everyone has a different situation and solution. I stayed home/worked briefly from home when my son was born. I stayed home for 15 years due to a combination of factors: no reliable relatives to help with child care, my office moved 45 minutes away and made the commute unacceptable (and they wouldn’t let me work from home, their mistake and loss), plus I felt like I had this kid, I should take care of him! There are good days and bad days in life, including staying at home and also at a paying job.Appreciate those good days! I was given an opportunity 18 months ago to start a part time job, and the timing and situation were perfect for my family and me. Well, as perfect as it can be, which is to say there are still days where juggling stuff does my head in.

    I will just say this about being a SAHM…they are only little once.Enjoy that time, even when it stinks (literally and figuratively). If you can work it out to stay home even for part if that time, do it. Jobs come and go. Validation should come from inside yourself, not from a paycheck. ok, off my soap box now..I have to get to work! 🙂

  12. Cat says:

    I thank you for your honesty and I am so in tune with everything you have written. I have been a stay at home mom for almost twelve years now. The first years with my first born was exciting and new. I was so happy to be away from the corporate setting that I had been in for almost 20 years. I began a hobby of jewelry making here at home. I was well entertained with both my child and my hobby. When my 2nd child came along, the sweetness became a bit bitter. I was exhausted, bored, yes lonely and anxious to do something more for myself. I then turned my hobby into a business and went corporate. It has been challenging to run a business, take care of kids, keep a house clean and do all the other extras but I believe it has made me the woman I am today. Although it was great to meet with coworkers at the office, I was happy to have been there for my two daughters in their early years. I decided that working for someone else would not be in my future plans. After opening Catilla, my husband and I purchased a commercial cleaning company that has grown slowly but firmly and has matched my current salary. I commend you for wanting taking care of your kids and also being able to keep your career as well. It is challenging but rewarding. Cat.

  13. Liz K. says:

    The thing I find most fascinating about this is the women in my life who profess to want to be The president of The biggest bank in The tallest building in The biggest city (my sister) or The CEO of The best fortune 500 company in The world (my niece) both worked for a time after their two kids were born before finding ways to work from home. They both seem to really love being at home. On the other hand, some people (me) profess to want to stay home only to find it isolating and troublesome. I stayed home for 3.5 years before the isolation, combined with the fear that my as-yet-unused masters degree was going to waste, pushed me to print my resume on cotton paper and make the job fair rounds. Seven years later, I sometimes think I’d like to stay home, if it meant sending them out the door to school so I could read the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog all day. 🙂 I do think going back to work helped give my life balance, even if I’m harried much of the time.

  14. Bethann says:

    Thank you so much Katie for sharing your personal story. So many women believe it’s an all or nothing choice about kids and working. Whether a mom is mostly working at home or mostly working outside the home, all moms need to hear your words “while they are important to me, my life doesn’t revolve around them.”

  15. Sarah says:

    Great article and perspective. I work from home too, but had taken a break right after my son was born. I was very glad to get back in to working – felt the same way!

  16. Beth Anne says:

    Well done, Katie! I know so many moms (myself included!) relate to this post. Even those of us who knew we wouldn’t return to work full-time… we feel that tension of being home full-time too. More of us need to admit that being a stay-at-home mom isn’t all we dreamed it would be. Is it wonderful sometimes? Yes. Is it difficult too? A definite yes!

    My sister and I are working from home (states away from each other!) and we dream of the day when we can set up some sort of office space to come to a few days a week and work together… maybe with a few other talented moms working with us too!

    My entrance into motherhood began with a 2 and a half year-old but even then, all the fun outings wore off quickly. What I didn’t realize was that even though Holden and I could travel and do what we wanted, many other moms had newborns, or a crazy preschool schedule to follow. It’s really hard to find those friends that you can really “sync” your life with. So again, we were back to having fun on our own…. Holden’s quite the conversationalist for his young age but still, it’s not quite the same, is it?

    Anyways, thanks again! I love this post and I love the way you’re making like work for you and your family!

  17. Sarah says:

    I’m so jealous of the way young mothers like this are able to really almost “have it all.” I was raised with the “you can have it all, just not all at the same time” approach and working moms were judged pretty severely, so working when I had young children was never an option in my mind. Because it was never an option, I didn’t prepare for it to be an option. Personally, I didn’t find being home with littles isolating. But I’m highly introverted and had a solid base of friends who were also having babies. I was glad to finally be able to just be home. Plus, I found littles so exhausting that I wouldn’t have had the energy to do anything else. But now, my littles are not so little and I’m starting from scratch. I don’t even have a college degree, although I went to five different colleges. Anyway, I’m so impressed with these confident, ambitious women! Great story, Katie!

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