Finding the Balance Between the Opt-Out and Stay-at-Home Experience of Motherhood

Since childhood, I have had a very clear idea about my future and my priorities. I knew I wanted to be a successful professional and that a man would never lead my life. When many of my friends and classmates were dreaming of the perfect guy, I was against the submission that happens after falling in love. I never dreamt of staying home to raise my kids, serving my family like others did. I didn’t understand the need others felt to be on top of them 24/7, giving up on your own dreams. I grew up watching my mother work long hours every day. She divorced when I was only 3 years old, and for my whole life, I never saw her complaining or facing a hard time because of money. She was always independent, clever, and self-sufficient. That was my role model and the person I wanted to become when I became a mother. For me as a child, it seemed to work perfectly, so I assumed it would for my kids as well.

Life is totally unexpected though, so when my kids were born with Down syndrome, my whole soapbox broke in pieces. I became the full time mother who gave up on her professional dreams to be sure the kids wouldn’t have a diaper rush and would grow up with a perfect routine and ideal stimulation. I became the perfect mom who would keep her home spotless even with two young kids. My professional background gave me the skills to manage a family with two kids with special needs. I had well-planned schedules, preventive medical appointments, long chats with other parents, and endless nights of reading medical books and writing about my experience and personal conclusions.

I started blogging and doing videos, supporting families and volunteering for many different organizations. When I realized my life was busy, but I was happy and proud for having chosen to care of my kids and to have found a way of using my talents to make something worthy from this experience.

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Motherhood seduced me and made me think I was irreplaceable, and that nobody else could ever do it better than me. On the other hand, being a mother is not a simple task, and doing it well makes you feel powerful and proud. This is not a marketing project; you are building the future of your children. It was simply awesome.

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Still, I have to admit that by pursuing my came-out-of-nowhere dream of raising my kids full time, I betrayed my previous goals of being a strong and self-sufficient woman. I gave someone else the power of managing my life, and it wasn’t good, not at all.

For me this is not about discussing what is a better choice, to be a stay-at-home or working mom. Some women are born to stay home and that’s their dream, but others are not and either is a respectable decision. Motherhood doesn’t change anyone, you are still the same person, and sooner or later, you’ll face the burning desire to go back to your childhood dreams, just because that’s who you are, and to be a good parent you need to be happy as a person.

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I have a very dark memory from my marriage, a day that made me reevaluate my life and I finally understood that I never was the docile housewife that I was trying to be. I’m a mother and my kids will always be at the top of my list of priorities, but I am also the woman who would never accept being mistreated for the sake of maintaining a broken marriage.

My kids started school and I regained my independence. I’m who I always dreamed I’d be. I’m proud and happy to have a career, not as big and ostentatious as I always dreamed of, but a career that allows me to give my kids my full attention without giving up on my dreams, that allows me to take two months of vacation to be with them for the whole summer, that covers our expenses and has lead me to unbelievable satisfaction. While my dream career is much more than getting paid, it is helping me to make real changes for the benefit of my children, financially and otherwise. 

I’m not the same child who used to talk about the importance of being an independent woman, destined to become a successful professional, bringing home tons of money. Now I’m just a woman, a middle class citizen, who doesn’t consider herself mediocre for having decided to work part time just to able to be there to pick up the kids from the school bus and have time enough to help them with their homework and to cook for them every night.

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I realize now that my mother wasn’t perfect and neither am I. I see that there’s a perfect medium point where everything seems to work fine and it’s different for everyone. For me, I can be a good mom for my kids, and at the same time pursue my dream and feel satisfied with my professional career.

Could I earn another 10 or 20k if I committed to it? Yes, I could, but I’m committed to my kids and turning the work phone off by 3pm is priceless. Maintaining the independent, professional side of me is critical to my happiness but I feel the true blessing to see my children grow and to feel part of it. I’m grateful to have both.

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