Monday, October 15, 2007

How Can I Call Myself A SAHM If My Daughter Is In Fulltime Daycare?

I never planned on being a stay-at-home mom.

For many years, I had no interest in having children. I loved my job with the AP with a passion and was focused solely on building my career for many, many years.

Even when Scott and I got married in September 2001, we were both sure we didn't want kids. We liked our life together the way it was, with plenty of money and time for the hobbies and "toys" we loved.

Maybe it was my biological clock that started ticking. Maybe it was his. But somehow -- after going back and forth for awhile based on whether we'd most recently seen cute kids or screaming, tantruming kids at Costco -- we both got on the same page again in 2003 and decided to start a family.

Even then, though, I had every intention of continuing to work out of the house at least part-time.

Then Ellianna was born, and everything changed.

The AP had a very generous maternity leave plan (thanks to union negotiations!), and I had 9 weeks paid and then could take off up to 18 months unpaid and they would guarantee me a job.

Initially, I said I would take 6 months unpaid time for a total of the first 8 months of Ellie's life. And then Scott got laid off when Ellie was 4 months old and was off work for nearly 4 months. When he finally got a job offer, it was a contracting job that didn't offer benefits so we had to continue to pay $1,200 a month for Cobra benefits. That was a lot of money, so I started negotiations to go back to work.

The bureau chief refused to make things easy for me and denied my request to work only evenings and weekends so Scott and I would be able to juggle our schedules and keep Ellie out of daycare.

Finally, I was willing to relent and made an appointment to discuss my return. Still being difficult, the bureau chief made me wait nearly a week before he would see me. And the day before our meeting, Scott was offered a direct hire position at the company he was contracting for, and it included full benefits and a huge raise over his previous job. Boy was I smiling when I went into the bureau chief's office and said our need for insurance had changed and I was going to extend my leave to the maximum 18 months! Of course, then he offered me the evening/weekend schedule I'd requested initially, but I turned it down. And when the 18 months was up, I turned in my resignation. The job had stopped being fun when he took over the bureau, and I was thrilled we could afford for me to continue to stay home with Ellie.

And then I got sick.

And then when I got even sicker, and it was clear I couldn't take care of Ellie anymore, we had to put her in daycare. This was a child who had only been left with good friends as babysitters, and even then fewer than a handful of times. And now she leave by 6:30 a.m. and doesn't get home until nearly 5 p.m. And that's every single day.

Slowly, she's adjusting. Slowly, I'm adjusting. Slowly, Scott is adjusting.

But now when people (usually doctors or nurses since I'm not out-and-about anymore other than for medical appointments) ask me what I do, I don't know what to say.

Yes, I'm still a mom, and I'm still staying at home, but I'm not exactly a SAHM anymore if my daughter isn't home with me.

I hesitate to call myself a homemaker when my husband does virtually all the household chores, including the cooking.

So what am I now?

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