What I Wish I had Known When I put my Career on Hold for my Kids

“Now, is not my time. Now, is their time.”

Those are the words that I have rehearsed over and over. Words that at times, I struggle to adhere to, to even desire. Some days I am able to fully convince myself that those words couldn’t be more true, yet I still struggle with an inner dialogue that says time is passing me by.

It wasn’t always that way. I worked for the first 9 months after my first child was born. I had always heard that dropping them off with the sitter would get easier, but it never did. When I finally got the chance to scale back my work hours to part-time, then part-time from home, I jumped on it. I was so excited to finally be a stay at home mom, thinking I could finally have it all.But little did I realize, I would soon come to miss many aspects of the working world that would no longer be a part of my life, aspects that had previously made me… me. 

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As a stay at home mom of two, now 4 and 2 years old, I have struggled quite a bit with putting my career aspirations on hold, stashing away hopes of figuring what I really want to be when I ‘grow up’, to focus on the two most important little people in my life. While I feel blessed to be able to work from home part-time (which can be a whole other post), my full-time job at the moment is to provide love, comfort, support, and guidance to my children. And that it is — a full. time. job.

For the sake of sounding like a disgruntled mother, the fact is that it couldn’t be further from the truth. I cherish each and every day that I get to wake up to my children’s beautiful faces. But, I would be lying if I said that motherhood has every aspect of me completely fulfilled.

Being a mother is self-less work. Each day revolves around constant giving, physically and emotionally, with very little validation that what you are doing is absolutely amazing (because honestly, it is). There are no promotions, no accolades, employee of the month, or a fat bank account (can we dream?). There is no camaraderie, peer to peer support, the bouncing around of ideas, and light bulb moments that leave you yearning to explore new ventures.

Instead, there are days that I often feel unproductive. With barely a second to sit down from sun up to sun down, I still end most days feeling defeated. Dishes need to be done, toys to be found in every nook and cranny, apple juice spilt and left to stick, laundry overflowing, appointments still to be made, and milk to be bought. And while I spend the days trying to be as purposeful as possible to make it a great day for my kids (and myself) — books were read, play dates were made with friends, arts and crafts were had, bikes were ridden, and plenty of laughs (the most heartwarming sound) were heard — it still ends with a feeling that next to nothing was done. No all-encompassing novels were read. Current world events were not discussed. No new skills were learned (except maybe a few new creative negotiation tactics with a feisty four year old).

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It’s a conversation that I’ve had with a few friends that also started a career prior to having children, worked hard to earn a degree (even multiple degrees) and then chose to stay at home with their children. It can be difficult to go throughout the day without holding adult conversations, using your mind to solve complex problems, learning, and staying in touch with growing trends in the business world, education, or whatever facet of your career that made getting up for work, day in and day out, tolerable… should I even dare say exciting? Being a former public school teacher, I used to be in on our current education system. I knew what changes were being implemented. I had formed opinions on whether they worked or not based on my own personal experience being in the classroom everyday. I felt like I had a grasp and influence on the current generation of students that would influence our world in years to come. I felt more in touch with society and our culture through the diverse classrooms I led and the issues that were dealt with year-in and year-out. I was in ‘the know’. And now, I’m not. 

It’s what I wish I had known before putting my career on hold for my kids: I would miss it. I would find that I lost parts of myself. I would second guess my decision quite a few times and feel real guilt for wanting more for myself than being ‘just a mom’. 

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Armed with this realization, my decision to stay at home wouldn’t change, but I think it would have helped on some very hard days in the trenches to know that those feelings would surface, only so that I could better reassure myself that my decision was for the absolute best. To remind myself that now is not my time; it is theirs.

For the first three years of life, our children’s brain grows the fastest. It is a time of rapid cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional and motor development. It’s the very time that their personalities take shape, their bonds are built, and the foundation for their future is being laid. A newborn’s brain is only about 25% the size of an adults, and yet by the age of three, their brain has already created billions of cells and trillions of connectionsFor every bit of love, nourishment, play, comfort, and attachment, your child’s brain grows. Each time you speak to your child, read to your child, sing to your child, feed your child, hug your child… his or her brain grows more and more. Over the first few years, our children will begin to draw connections, develop language skills, and solve problems all because of a healthy connection — healthy connections that have a lasting impact on how they relate and interact with others. According to some experts, a close connection with your child can even prevent diseases, boost immunity, and enhance your child’s IQ, and the amount of physical and emotional connection your child receives can actually influence his or her genes.

The first three to five years that our children are home with us are the most crucial years for establishing their future role in society. With a strong connection to care takers, children learn how to foster good relationships, how to care for one another, and most importantly, they learn the meaning of love. A strong connection also fosters a high self-esteem, confidence in themselves, and a higher level of resiliency. It is even said that a strong parent-child connection decreases misbehavior and increases the likelihood that they will do well in school.

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Memories will also be made that will come into play as our children grow. Little eyes are always observing. They mimic what they see the most and aspire to be like those who they love the most. It’s the moments in their lives that they see day in and day out and the special memories that they keep locked away that has the greatest effect on their future, whether positive or negative. These are memories that will shape the decisions they make, the paths they lead in life, and the people they choose to surround themselves with (a very important factor). 

How is all of THAT lacking productivity?

It’s not. It’s more productivity than I can get done in a day’s work in an office, or arguably teaching a classroom full of kids, as well. It’s work that lasts a lifetime; work that even without the accolades, promotions and fat (or maybe not so fat) bank accounts, rewards itself endlessly in other ways. Smiles. Laughs. Hugs. The dreams and achievements of my children. 

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No, now may not be my time. Reminding myself of this now has made my days infinitely better. While I still miss the ins and outs of the working world, I remind myself often that now is my time to help my children thrive. To help them grow and learn. Their time is all too short. One day these moments will be gone; it won’t be like this for long. So, when I look around the house and take note of everything that I did not do that day, to reflect on this point in my life, of how unproductive I might feel, I remind myself that I am exactly where I need to be, during their time. 

Disclaimer: I have a great admiration for working mothers. They are superwomen. On many days, I envy your corporate attire, brilliant minds, and changes that you are making in our world. I understand what you go through each day; texts from my working mom friends to the likes of “I’m dying inside. I just want to leave and pick up my child.” To which my response is, “Me. Too. My son is running around the house butt naked, my daughter just colored the couch purple, and the dog just ate a diaper…” Thus is life. 
For more personal stories of mothering in the trenches, check out our Mommy Moments category!
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Stephanie High
Stephanie High
Stephanie is a military wife, currently residing in North Carolina, and mama of two exceptionally curious little ones; a rugged pint-size princess and a mini Evel Knievel-in-training. When she isn't exploring the family's newest dwellings, running trails, and playgrounds, she spends her down time working from home, feverishly correcting "textspeak" in her college students' essays as an adjunct English instructor for a local community college. Her passion for writing and photography can be found on her personal blog Living Our High Life.

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