This past week, we registered our daughter for kindergarten. Or, if I’m using the “marital we” accurately, my husband registered her because I had a client meeting. As another milestone passed by, I wondered for the 900th time if I was doing the right thing: Being a full-time working parent.
I’ve been talking to a lot of people in our industry about this theme and will feature some personal accounts of how they’ve made it work.
In this debut article, Britta Alexander of Eat Media, talks about her decision to leave the agency she co-founded with her husband to be a stay-at-home mom.
JS: Tell me about the recent events that led to your decision to be a stay-at-home mom.
BA: I’ve spent the past 5 years running a boutique digital agency with my husband. Since my sons (ages 3 and 2) were born, I’ve worked four days a week. I never considered staying home with them until last summer, when my 3-year-old started talking about it. When my husband suggested it as a real possibility, my first response was, “No way!” But by that fall, my adamant “no way” morphed into “100% yes.”
JS: What questions/doubts/considerations factored into your decision? Did you agonize over your choice?
BA: I think my big “no” reaction came from a place inside me that didn’t respect stay-at-home moms. It’s awful to say but was a good thing to discover about myself.
My whole identity has been tied up with my career, since the day I graduated from college and high-tailed it to the world of NYC advertising. The identity “crisis” hit hard with my firstborn (all you working/nursing moms can probably relate to sitting in client meetings and being WAY overdue to pump – talk about the work/baby pull!). But after the whirlwind of having 2 babies under 2, and fighting through postpartum anxiety, I started to ease into my new identity as a mom first, business owner second.
Part of my process in making the decision was reading the stories of the other moms who have gone before me. I read a ton about people’s experiences, like Finding Your Way Home: How To Become A Successful Stay-At-Home Parent, and Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood.
Another biggie: When wrestling with the decision, someone asked me to fast forward 10 years from now. What decision would I make then? And at that moment I knew I needed to stay home.
JS: Any second thoughts or times you ask yourself: “What am I doing?!”
BA: The first month, I actually dreamed up a new business plan. Then I started thinking about how to sell stuff on eBay. It’s such a shift to be ok with not earning money.
What helps me tremendously is to consider this a season. Right now, in this season, I’m home with my boys. In another season, I’ll have plenty of time to work.
JS: How has your life changed? Both your daily routine and big picture. What are you happy/stressed/etc. about? What do you miss and not miss?
BA: I have trouble remembering what day it is. That’s probably the biggest thing! Since the boys are not in preschool this year, I’m playing around with introducing some Montessori-type play into our day. It’s been a good stretch for me to learn more about teaching in a way that’s different from how I was taught.
Weekends can be tough if my husband has to work. So I’ve learned to carve out time for me. On Saturday mornings I go to a yoga class. That’s made a huge difference.
Also, I have a babysitter 1 day a week. That’s when I come to the office and check in on projects, oversee bookkeeping, etc. And also meet up with friends in the city.
I am fiercely independent, so I miss being able to be on my own timeline. I miss being able to concentrate on one thing for as long as I want to. I miss the ego rush of a client you respect praising your work.
I don’t miss the gut-wrenching pull of a client meeting running late and wondering if your kid is going to be the last one left at daycare. I don’t miss those days of rushing my babies out the door in the morning and rushing them home at night for dinner/bath/bed.
JS: What’s your advice to others considering the same choice?
BA: It’s so easy to push your underlying feelings away with “that’s just not a possibility for me.” Whether you’re home and you really want to go back to work, or you’re at work and really want to try staying home, there’s always a way to make it happen.
Read more about Britta’s decision to stay home on her Hudson & Hill blog.