When I decided that I would be a stay-at-home parent for the first few years of Max’s life, a few people commented “sayang”. Sayang, I suppose, because I am an able bodied adult who could have a job. And maybe because they thought that I was wasting my (relative) youth as well.
At first, a part of me felt bad. I was also afraid that when the time came for me to go back to work, I would not be able to keep up with my peers. I thought about all the conferences, seminars, and projects that I usually made up my time—these professional development opportunities that I would now miss out on, and how this inevitably meant that I would be behind.
Ultimately though, those fears weren’t enough to change my mind. I wanted to dive into motherhood and focus on that for a few years. Again, I’m very fortunate that Mikey and I found ways to make this work. And I completely understand that our set-up isn’t for everyone.
Soon enough though, it became clear to me that I had so much to learn. That the time that I’m spending at home with my child isn’t a period of stagnation. It was actually a season of unbelievable stretching.
You know how they say that a baby grows at a tremendous rate in their first year of life? I think this kind of carries over to their parents.¹
Being the primary caregiver of an infant (and now toddler), has taught me so much and I’d like to think that I’ve grown in ways that I’ve been able to avoid in my carefully curated career.
I’ll admit that in the past, I’ve been lucky enough to pick and choose career opportunities that have kept me well within my comfort zone. But you can’t do that as a mom. Your child’s need will fling you into many unplanned uncomfortable zones and you just have to go through it because it’s not just about you anymore.
And now that I’m slowly easing my way back into the world of employment, even if it’s mostly work-from-home gigs, I can already tell how motherhood has impacted the way I work.
Most glaringly, I’m just more grateful. And it makes a world of difference. I didn’t realize how entitled I used to feel in the past. Even if I didn’t express it to others, if I felt like something was unfair at work, I would let the negative feelings fester and marinate in my heart.
Now, it’s so much easier to overlook imperfections because I’m just grateful for the opportunity to contribute to something and earn money AND take care of my kid at the same time. I found that feeling bad and ranting is a waste of energy and mind space. For as along as I can continue working, I am grateful.
I’m also more mindful of my time. Because any time I spend working is time away from my family. I force myself to focus so that I make the most out of it. I really can’t believe how much time I used to waste at work. I could’ve gotten more things done.
And soooooo, as my son unlatches and I’m finally able to get back to the work that I’m ever so grateful for, I’d like to say to this my imaginary audience:
If you choose to stay at home with your child, it is not wasted time—not for you and definitely not for your kid. And if or when you feel like it’s time for you to work again, you may need to learn new things but don’t be surprised if you find out that you’re a better version of yourself. And that’s not something that’s easily gained from a conference or week-long seminar.
1. I think this is true for all parents—regardless of their employment set-up.