Choosing to be a working Mom or a Stay at Home Mom involves its perks, challenges and transitions. We interviewed our blogger of the year, Momma Braga, about what it was like when she transitioned from being a Stay at Home Mom for over two years to a working Mom. Melanie keeps it honest as always as she dives into what it is like to work for a new industry, balancing parenthood and a job and the inside scoop about the transition so many parents face.
Melanie, tell us a bit about your background and career before you became a Mommy…
I graduated with a Social Service Worker Diploma from Humber College with the aspirations of helping others in the community through the non-profit world. I held a few different positions in the social services world such as intake counsellor, employment counsellor and workforce specialist. Then a position came up in my last organization in the fundraising department and I thought it would be so intriguing to try something new and I applied for it. With my transferable skills from my past positions and volunteer experience in fundraising, I was given the opportunity to enter the field. It was an interesting field to be in and one that became a part of me, meaning I would take work home (almost always) with me on the evenings and weekends especially if there was a fundraising event coming up. I was a workaholic before becoming a mommy.
When did you decide you would be a SAHM?
In July 2015, before my maternity leave was up, my former employer called me to let me know that they were restructuring and my department was being laid off including myself. I did get offered a different position that would require to travel further and the pay was much lower than what I was currently earning. So that played a major role in my decision to become a SAHM. My husband and I also talked about it for days on what would work best for our family. The costs of childcare was extremely high for us and after calculating our monthly expenses it made more sense for me to stay home raising our daughter. This plan was only a temporary plan too. My mother has always told me that once she retires she would like to care for our daughter and since she was retiring in early 2017, we thought this is the best time to be a SAHM and we made it work.
What was it like transitioning to a SAHM?
It really wasn’t easy and I found it to be extremely difficult. I thought at first it wouldn’t feel any different since I was already on maternity leave for a year. There are so many feelings associated with not working outside of the home. You feel that you don’t have value, feel guilty and sadness as you are no longer contributing to society or to the economy. These are overwhelming feelings to feel and the factors that contributed to these feelings were the expectations through society, my own and how I allowed work to define who I was.
Don’t get me wrong as it is a blessing to stay at home to raise your children as it’s a time that you can never get back. But at first it was hard for me since work is all that I knew with the exception of my one year maternity leave. I felt that I would be judged by many on the outside and could hear the whispers under their voices, “They must have lots of money for her to stay home.” “She does nothing all day.” So you can say that I was feeling guilty and ashamed staying home and thought that I should be doing so much more than raising my daughter.
But luckily with time I transitioned and learned that people were going to judge or make insensitive comments no matter what I did and the most important lesson here is that these people don’t matter. What you think of yourself matters most. I also learned that I did have a job and it was the most important job in the world. It was one that required me 24/7. I was a caregiver, cook, nurse, teacher, planner, but most importantly I am a mother and wife. I did contribute to society and to the economy as I was raising a child; a future adult who will make her mark in the world.
When did you make the decision to get back into the workforce?
My mom’s retirement was the deciding factor to go back into the workforce. I am very fortunate that she has offered to take care of my daughter while I work. It makes me feel so much better that I am leaving my daughter with my mom as I know how well taken care of she would be there (and maybe a little too spoiled). I have always wanted to get back into the workforce as I feel like I have something to contribute to others so with the amazing help of my mom, I can! This is a great example actually of a mother’s love and how much they do for their children. Here is my mom taking care of my daughter on her retirement so that I can financially contribute to my family. Just amazing! I have to add that my mom has been loving retirement with her granddaughter as she stated, “I would have been bored out of my mind if I didn’t have Nikki.”
Was it scary after your few years gap?
It was terrifying! I actually had nightmares for months before my mom retired as I knew my time to work would be coming. Even though I didn’t have a confirmed job or start date, I was still terrified that I would no longer have this little boss who screams and demands the world from me. I was terrified that I didn’t have the skills needed to be successful in the workforce. I was terrified that I would fail and I think that is the biggest fear that I had. I didn’t want to fail as now I have an audience watching me and the most impressionable one by the name of Nikki.
What was your first day like?
My first day came with so many emotions and tons of butterflies. But all the feelings of nervousness went away when my boss meet with me to go over our first weeks plan and made me feel confident in what I can contribute to his growing company with my transferrable skills. This is exactly what I needed to hear on my first day to make me feel comfortable with this new step that I was taking. The rest of the day was all about learning, settling and accomplishing my tasks.
How did your daughter, Nikki react?
Oh! My Nikki is a little firecracker but very sweet. We had a lot of conversations about mommy starting work and she was slowly understanding that change was coming. The first week she was great and didn’t cry once. So I am not sure if she thought this was a temporary vacation away from me but the second and third week there were a little more bumps with our drop off.
There were some days that she was still sleeping so on those days when she would wake up at grandma’s house and not see me, she would have a meltdown. Luckily my mom has come up with some tactics to help her adjust and then soon after, Nikki would forget all about me since she was having fun. There were other days where the crying would happen before I would leave so I would talk with her to explain that mommy had to go to work but I would be back soon. In the meantime she could have lots of fun with grandma while mommy made some money. What worked like a charm was telling her that I was making money so that we can go to Disney which made everything in the world ok for her. This wasn’t a fib as we definitely want to take her there and that is why I didn’t give her a time frame of when we would go (hehe). But during the day she has been great with my mom but her sleeping routine is all off. She isn’t sure if she should nap at grandma’s house or wait to nap in mommy’s car (not ideal in my car considering it ruins bedtime).
Nikki’s reaction to when I go and pick her up is amazing as I am greeted with excitement and lots of kisses. This reaction helps heal my broken heart when I hear her cry at the beginning of the day on some days.
How did the dynamic in your house change? Who does the cooking, cleaning, etc?
My husband still works three rotational shifts so our routines are around his schedule. Due to his schedule, I take charge of the evenings with Nikki. I am the cook in our household but if my husband is home we do the clean up together. On weekends we clean together and we get Nikki involved so it becomes a family activity. So you can say that our household dynamic hasn’t changed a whole lot with the exception of me working and Nikki staying with grandma.
Do you have a schedule or is it day by day for your family?
We have always been a day by day family as we never truly know what a day will bring us. So we adjust our day and plans depending on what comes our way. We have found by doing this, it helps Nikki adapt to change when need be. But I do have a start time and end time which does give me a schedule to go around. My mom is also great at keeping Nikki on a schedule with play and eating time so that helps me a lot.
How do you feel now as a working Mom?
I feel great to work again. It’s still hard to leave Nikki but I know why I am working and that is to help support my family. So that reason alone makes it all worth it for me.
What advice do you have for SAHMs looking to get into the workforce?
Don’t be afraid of entering the workforce and when you feel like you are ready to look for work start off slow. First step is to see what you want to work in and take an inventory of all your skills. Skills are amazing and many of them can be transferable to a job that you never knew that could do. Once you know what you want to do and have the qualifications and skills to do it. Then it is time to refresh your resume. I kept my resume up-to-date even as a stay-at-home mom.
Always have confidence in your skills and ability. Never undervalue what you can offer an employer and when you do start work know that it is going to be hard at first. It takes time to settle and I am still settling and figuring things out slowly. You may even have some bad days but that comes with the working world. If you surround yourself with a great support system such as your partner, friends and family then they help you through those bad days. I know that my support system has helped me a great deal in my transition.
The hardest part of going back to work is leaving your little one and my advice is to not worry as it does get better. Everyone who says it actually means it. I didn’t think it would get better but it does and I am thankful for it.
Also don’t feel guilty for wanting to go back into the workforce. It does not make you a bad person or mom for it. We all do what’s best for our family and that is all that matters.
What advice would you have for working Moms who want to become stay at home moms?
Ignore the comments and any judging that you may hear. I was surprised to hear many negative comments when I decided to be a stay-at-home mom and mostly from other women. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to stay home to take care of your children. If you are able to then that is fantastic and enjoy it! The transition may be hard at first too but with time it does get better. Any change can be difficult but it is our ability to cope with change that can make us successful and I know we have it in us to succeed! J Be proud of yourself, have confidence and know that you are doing the hardest job in the world!