As I prepared to leave my job before the birth of my first child, I was surprised at the questions and comments that were directed toward my decision to become a stay-at-home mom.
Giving up your career seems risky.
What if your husband loses his job? How will you support your family?
I wouldn’t want to rely on someone else to provide for me.
Don’t you want to have your own money? A sense of independence?
Can you really depend on your husband’s income? What if you get divorced? You’ll have nothing to fall back on.
What will you do when your kids get older? It will be difficult for you to find a job once they are in school full-time.
And I suppose those were valid points. With financial security, career opportunities, and my sense of independence on the line, choosing to become a stay-at-home mom was risky.
It was risky to give up my full-time job and rely solely on one income. And while I fully trusted my husband to be the sole provider, I suppose it was risky to do so. What if we got divorced? What if he was injured, or even killed? Depending on how long I had been out of the workforce, there was a real possibility that if tragedy struck, I would have nothing to fall back on.
I suppose it was also risky to forfeit my supposed independence as a working woman, but the truth is, I hadn’t been independent in a long time. I had given it up years earlier when I made the decision to get married. My life was already fully entwined with that of my husband, and even more so after we discovered we were expecting our first child. Neither of us had been living independently, and in my opinion, independence within a marriage is non-existent. But, in a society where men are often viewed as being untrustworthy, many thought I was being irresponsible, even foolish in my decision to stay home; to choose to rely on a man.
And it hadn’t escaped me that quitting my job in order to fulfill the requirements of motherhood, a job that theoretically takes little skill, might leave me lacking the real-world career skills I might someday need—or even want. I risked not being able to find a desirable job if and when the time came for me to join the workforce again. And I knew that it would be difficult to compete with others who had consistently worked outside of the home.
But there were also risks in continuing to work after my children were born. Some more significant than others, but risks all the same.
There was risk involved in leaving my children in the care of another. As far as I was concerned, there was no safer place for them to be than with me. I didn’t care how many references and recommendations a daycare provider could produce. Those things did not guarantee that my children would be well cared for. While I didn’t mind relying on someone else to be financially responsible for me, I did have a problem with relying on someone else to responsibly care for my children. And I felt more comfortable giving up my paycheck that giving up my ability to personally ensure their well-being.
I would have also risked missing my children’s “firsts” that both come and go in one brief moment. The first smile and first laugh. The first words and first steps. The first day of school and first field trip. And the list goes on. I wasn’t willing to risk missing those once in a lifetime experiences for a sense of independence or financial security. I didn’t want a secondhand account of those milestones, but instead wanted them to be etched into my memory.
And I would have risked missing the fleeting moments that only happen while my kids are young. Mid-morning cookie breaks. And post-nap snuggles. And afternoon adventures in the backyard. And summer picnics. And grade school performances of childhood’s most loved tales. I wanted to experience the full extent of their childhood right along with them. I didn’t want to risk missing any of it.
It doesn’t matter if you stay home or return to work after your children are born. Either way, there is risk involved. And the truth is that becoming a parent is risky, no matter what choices you make along the way. There are always financial risks, safety risks, and risks to the heart; they just look different for different people.
Motherhood involves making the decisions that will leave you with the least regret. And for me, that decision was to become a stay-at-home mom. Just like any other decision, there was risk involved, but I don’t regret it. And that’s how I know it was the right one.