When I was 22, I made a commitment to myself that I would be a yoga instructor at 30. I am now 31, a mother, and the only pose I am ever truly comfortable and happy with is the shavasana.
I loved yoga. I loved having a job. It was stressful on the night shift but it was also financially rewarding. I was on an enviable income bracket, so I bought overpriced makeup. It was my personal golden age of wellness because I drank Fiji water and my selfies were publishable after only seven tries. Essentially, I was Kim Kardashian.
When I had that old job, I felt like I could afford to build dreams.
So, I built my dreams. I got married and felt confident taking on a new life. We said we'd postpone having a baby for five years, but my calendar method app mistook it for five months. As a Virgo, I planned everything and wrote it down. My job description at the time was to deliver projects to completion. I was basically trained to deliver a baby.
But taking care of a child required so much more than the must-have items I pinned on Pinterest. Breastfeeding! Attachment parenting! Personal abandonment issues!
With the abundance of nanny cam exposés, we had doubts about hiring a stay-in nanny. At the time, the law allowed new mothers a laughable 90 days (for Caesarian delivery) of maternity leave. You’ll never truly understand how insulting 90 days is until you are about 3 days away from the end of your leave with no one to leave your child with and a bad case of mastitis.
I had 90 days to hunker down and make a pros and cons list on stay-at-home-parenting. Making the decision to leave my job was a tumultuous time. We were barely sleeping. I felt like I was putting my college degree to waste and letting my parents down. As a proud feminist, I felt small knowing that I was trading ‘proving myself out there’ for staying at home with a baby.
Was I an insult to the women who came before me who worked hard so I could make this very choice? I worried about what kind of role model I would be to my kids if I didn’t inspire them to pursue a non-parenting related dream. Most of all, I worried about living on a single income.
But I also thought that the best person to care for our child was me. So, I exercised free will.
As difficult as it was to make, my decision was a privileged one and people never skipped on the chance to remind me. The word 'sayang' was also thrown around a lot and it always sounded like a cheap insight to a private family situation. I couldn’t believe that so many people thought childcare was unimportant work for the actual parent. The only person who empathized, understood, and supported all this was my husband.
Instead of letting opinions lead me to regret, I reveled in the privilege of being always first in line to my newborn’s constant fresh breath. I told myself and believed that I’m still the same person who is just doing a different, unpaid job.
Months of dressing exclusively in pajamas turned into years. If anybody talked to me about careers, I’d call the psychic hotline to recall my past life. I didn’t study for this. I even once hated children. I was learning about marriage, life, and kids all at the same time. It overwhelmed and humbled me. I have lost a lot of my old confidence because my eyebrows are never groomed anymore, but I’m not too worried about an apocalypse; I can pack a go-bag like a pro and carry two kids while running for dear life.
One-income families can thrive in being modest. You need to know where every centavo goes and take every opportunity to save. In this economy, we tend to chastise parents who leave the workforce, but we should not judge how other people value their families and careers.
Some have called me lucky for being able to stay at home, while others turn up their noses and ruminate on the mythical laziness that all stay-at-home parents possess.
It’s been four years since my last yoga class, and I have no idea whether I’ll ever bend my body again for reasons other than picking up a toy from under the couch. I have learned to chill out when people don’t find me interesting because I no longer have a job title, hobbies, or wear pressed clothes. In this new life stage, I get to express my individuality in different ways—and I’ll always be thankful for having a choice.
Are you a stay-at-home mom? Share your story by commenting here or tagging us on Instagram @iamclaireph.