Today my almost five-year-old is sick and I’m praying her sore nose and tummy take a turn for the best as we creep into the afternoon. This isn’t the first time she has been sick of course, but I’ve noticed how much I dread her being sick and find myself wanting to drop her off at school anyway. It’s only because I’m mostly a stay-at-home mom who longs for the two days of freedom – time to work, think, run errands – I enjoy each week. A few years ago I worked full time at a local marketing firm until my little was 15 months old and, as bad as this sounds, I looked forward to when she was sick. I longed to let her sleep past 7:00 a.m. and wake up when her body said she was rested. I hated seeing her scream for me when I had to leave her at daycare. I was worn out from carrying the burden of knowing she needed me to be home more, but not knowing how I would be able to contribute financially to our bills.
Sick days were glorious for my mama’s heart, even though I knew I would still have to answer the dreaded emails that punctured my time cuddling with my daughter. I was still required to work 40 hours per week, or let the sick day (which was at least once a month) take the place of a precious vacation day. Choosing was brutal because I longed to have a full day going to the park or beach or just reading books and cuddling, but I had to pay bills too.
The stress of working full time and longing to be mommy full time became too much, but I didn’t realize this until after I had quit my job. I was setting my schedule at home based on my work schedule and meeting the needs of my adorable tot were often met with frustration. Getting her to bed as she screamed for hours because of extreme separation anxiety meant I had to stay up later. I resented my job because I knew that she would wake up a few times in the night and getting to work by 8:00 a.m. was hard – even though it was only a five mile commute.
Sick days – which were frequent – were long and exhausting too, but I didn’t seem to notice it until the day was over because the time with her was so welcomed. I lied to myself saying that all moms did this and I was doing a good thing. The little voice deep within knew better, but my mind couldn’t work out a strong plan of how to make life work if I cancelled my steady income. I went to two job interviews and didn’t get an overwhelming good feeling about signing myself up to work as demanding of a schedule as I already had. I didn’t get called back for either job – a first for me. I decided to start freelance writing and editing and quickly landed two clients. Frustration with balancing work and home pushed me over the top and I quit my job. My hubby fully supported this decision knowing how frustrated and worn out I was. We didn’t know how the finances would make sense, but I could breathe again. I cleaned my house and my daughter, who had been sick at least once a month while going to daycare full time, went a three-month stretch without a sniffle.
Sick days, and even snow days, are different when you are mostly a stay-at-home mom. There is more juggling and balancing and trying to get house work and work done and whatever else you were saving to do with the kid or kids out of the house. It takes being intentional to enjoy these days, but I want to be the mom who says yes to extra rest and extra play. I want to be the mom who can slow down, see the needs of my family and say yes – every time. Do I long to work and feel the satisfaction of helping a client write, edit and market their work full time?
Absolutely. But in five years after my youngest baby is ready to say yes to school.