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A Different Kind of Mom Guilt

The last few months I’ve found myself in a different stage of stepmotherhood: the stay at home part-time stepmom. I lost my job at the end of March (though disappointing, not entirely unexpected, part of the transition of Indianapolis city government under a new mayoral administration). The first month was busy, the second month was sad, and the third and fourth months have been kind of great. With some promising opportunities out there at this time, it seems this period is coming to an end soon. That has caused me to reflect on the guilt I feel for just how much I have enjoyed this unique time in my life.

I was beyond blessed to grow up with a stay at home mom. I mean beyond blessed. But in the generation I grew up in, the thought of staying at home is very taboo. I grieve if the women’s rights movement gave us choices that we then judge harshly when exercised.

I find myself at a rare loss for words to explain my thoughts on my current situation. I have loved having the time to do extra things with the kids–more baking from scratch, no pressuring Tim for “his turn” to make dinner or do the dishes, and the comfort in feeling like I have the time to adjust to adopting a dog (oh yes…more on that later). I also feel incredibly guilty for how much I have enjoyed this time. Most of my peers who are staying at home at this point in our lives are doing so because they have a newborn or toddlers. Or they’re home because they’ve lost a job and are really angsty about getting back to work. Don’t get me wrong, I’m anxious to get back to a paycheck and to being more “in the loop” about what’s going on in our community, but I have truly enjoyed these months.

But shhhh. Don’t tell anyone. Because that may make me sound lazy or unmotivated. Or pampered and princess-y. (Great article in the Scary Mommy blog about this). But I choose to think of it as God giving me contentment for this period of my life. Not just contentment–but joy. As a woman who was driven by her career for the first decade and a half of my professional career, it never occurred to me that I could be unemployed and enjoy it.

Our house has never been so clean and our closets never so organized. But you know what else? I’ve developed an entirely new level of respect for my stay at home mother. There’s no paycheck for clean closets. There’s no thank you for clean laundry or appreciation for floors that aren’t sticky. Homemade food truly does taste much better than store bought/convenience things and my time invested in that this summer has renewed my commitment to it.

I envy my sister who is a teacher and has a chunk of time every summer to anticipate like this. My other sister recently decided to become a stay at home mom and braced herself from the backlash of friends and family who thought she was “wasting” her nursing degree. I vehemently disagree with that language, she has made a brave choice in prioritizing her role as a mom. But there are many who judge her for it and you would be surprised at how many of them feel incredibly comfortable to tell her so.

But without full-time little kids underfoot, I do feel guilty to confess my enjoyment of these last few months. Alas, the time will draw to a close soon enough, the kids will go back to school, and I will go back to work. There is a piece of me that dreads having to renew the balancing act of home and work (heartfelt post in the Indianapolis City Moms blog about this). In a new way, I find myself committed to supporting the diverse choices of women with and without small kids, all of whom do what they think is best for their families.

No words of wisdom here–just a reminder that we all make different choices and that it’s really. really. hard. when there is so much judgment about our choices and what’s best for each of us. It’s been a good summer of reminders to me to be less judgy.

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