But I Used to be a Teacher! {Career changes of motherhood}

 

When I became pregnant with my first daughter, I knew if we could swing it financially, I wanted to leave my teaching career to stay home with her and I’ve never once regretted that decision. Even on the worst of days when we all end up in tears and time seems to go backwards, even when I’m covered in spit up and I’m running on three hours of sleep, I have zero regrets.

I Used to be a Teacher - Motherhood Career Changes | DMMB
Sure, it was hard leaving my professional career position as a kindergarten teacher and saying goodbye to all of my teaching friends, but I knew in my heart that staying home with my daughter was the right decision for our family. But even though I don’t regret it, there are times when I feel just the slightest inkling of self-doubt and, dare I say, shame, when a new acquaintance or a stranger making small talk inevitably asks,

“So, what do you do?”

It’s been three years, and I’m still not sure how to answer this question. I could give the long, drawn-out version: “I’m a chef, counselor, educator, coach, stylist, accountant, and personal shopper, what do you do?” Or I could give the shorter, more to-the-point answer: “I’m a stay-at-home-mom.” I’m not really one for small talk, so I usually stick to the shorter version, but I’ve noticed that most people aren’t super impressed by this or particularly interested in hearing about dirty diapers and the stresses of choosing the right preschool. (I don’t blame them.)

It’s usually met with an “oh, that’s nice” or “good for you!” and it’s at this point in the conversation that I always blurt out, “but I used to be a teacher!”

What I’m really saying is, “please don’t judge me for not having a ‘real’ job! I went to college. I had a professional career. I’m up-to-date on current events. I’m smart and interesting, I promise!” I know that telling people that I used to be a teacher is my way of saying that I know what it’s like to “go to work.” I may not have ever been a part of the corporate world, but I too used to make important decisions and lead meetings and head committees. Colleagues respected me and came to me for advice. I taught children how to read and write. Telling people I used to be a teacher is really my way of saying that even though most of my days are now spent kissing boo-boos, cleaning spills, and reading Dr. Seuss, I’m capable of doing more. I hate that I feel the need to say this. Why do I care so much about proving to people that I’m more than “just a mom?” It’s because in our society, success is often measured by income and, unfortunately, my job doesn’t pay very well.

I’ve realized these past few years that stay-at-home-moms tend to get a bad rap.

The world seems to view us as a bunch of yoga-pant-wearing, latte-drinking women who love to decorate and spend their husband’s money. Surely we’re not capable of making important decisions, discussing politics, or having opinions regarding global issues. Some actual responses I’ve received from people upon hearing that I stay home with my girls include: “Oh, fun! I wish I could color all day!” and “but do you work?” and my personal favorite, “I’m sorry.”

Hey random guy sitting next to me on the airport shuttle, pity me for the five pounds of baby weight I have yet to lose. Pity me for my ruined designer bag that someone (Okay, it was Rory.) decided to take a Sharpie to, but please do not pity me for making the choice to stay home with my children. Because that’s exactly what it was: a choice. Sure, there are days when my brain feels as if it’s turned to mush and I haven’t spoken to an adult in over eight hours, but it’s still a choice I would make all over again.

I’m a stay-at-home mom, but it’s only one part of what makes me – it doesn’t define who I am.

It doesn’t define who any of us are, or what we know or what we’re capable of. My neighbor and good friend has her MBA, but decided to put her career on hold to stay home with her three boys. Another friend graduated from an ivy league college and left a high position at a well-paying job after her second son was born, and the summer before Rory was born I worked at Starbucks with a former physician who chose to leave her position at a hospital in order to spend more time with her children.

I realize my insecurities are my own and obviously not everyone makes such assumptions about stay-at-home parents, but this stereotype does exist and I have experienced it first-hand. I’m sure my working mom friends would argue that the opposite is true – that they’ve experienced judgement for working instead of staying home with their children. My point is, don’t make assumptions about someone’s intelligence or background or abilities based on what they do or don’t do for a living.

My current gig may not pay much, but I’m still doing important work and contributing to society.

Like any mother, I would love for my daughters to grow up to be rocket scientists or neurosurgeons or even teachers, but if they are lucky enough to have children of their own one day, and even luckier to have the opportunity to stay home with them, I will feel just as proud if they choose to be stay-at-home-moms like I did. But unlike me, I hope that when someone asks them what they do for a living, they will simply say, “I stay home with my children,” without feeling the need to say anything more.

What about you? Has motherhood changed your career direction?

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10 Responses to But I Used to be a Teacher! {Career changes of motherhood}

  1. Michi August 2, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

    I appreciated reading this article and the comments associated, because on some level I have identified with each of them at some point during my motherhood journey thus far. I just moved to Denver two weeks ago, and along with this move am shifting into the role of being home with my kids. I have three kids and have thus far experienced working part-time, full-time, and balancing grad school while having my third baby and working. I have gone through a myriad of emotions while trying to balance it all and trying to live up to societal expectations, while fielding other’s opinions of my decisions (and there were many!). In the end, I have come to find that my journey is very personal, as is everyone else’s journey. I don’t think there is a right or wrong way, better or worse way to parent. I think it is very individual and I have great respect for either decision a parent makes. I believe we are all doing the best we can, we all work very hard, we love our kids, we all make mistakes and we all have more in common than not. But, I do have to admit that with my new change of not having a career, I have also found myself stating that “I used to work” at some point when introducing myself. I haven’t really reflected why I have said that, but I think that I will.

  2. Amy July 23, 2016 at 3:12 pm #

    When I’m asked what I do, my answer is “Everything. I do EVERYTHING.” I didn’t plan to be a stay-at-home Mom, but some major medical scares early on ended up being a rare gift and here I am almost seven years later. No regrets. I’m fortunate to have a choice. I realize most don’t. I try not to take it for granted. And now that my daughter is older and in school full time, I don’t feel guilty about want to go back to work. Best of both worlds.

  3. Erin July 20, 2016 at 8:47 pm #

    Would you ever question if a daycare provider worked hard, was valuable to society or deserved respect? No? Then why should doing those things for your own children be any different? You would never wonder what a daycare provide does all day or criticize her for wanting a break every now and then or tell her what she’s doing isn’t important. So don’t think for a second that you (not you, you. But “you”) can get by with doing that to me.

    Someone has to teach my children how to be functional members of society, I choose for that person to be me.

  4. Sara July 20, 2016 at 6:24 pm #

    I think it’s a wonderful thing to be to stay at home with your kids. It’s also wonderful to have a job outside the home for multiple reasons. My issue is when stay at home moms say they are a “housekeeper, chauffeur, educator, coach, accountant, cook, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum”. I am also all of those things, and I work outside the home as well. My husband is also all of these things, and he works outside the home. So that part really irritates me. I do everything a stay at home mom does…. Just with less time.

    • Ellie July 27, 2016 at 11:06 am #

      I was thinking this same thing as I read the post, and was going to make this comment and saw that someone else shares the sentiment! I choose to work outside the home at a very demanding job, yet I (with the help of my husband) still have to get dinner on the table, clean the house, make sure the kids have everything they need for school and activities, etc. No one doubts that being a stay at home mom involves a lot of different things. So let’s stop listing them all; these are things EVERY mom has to do.

      • Liz July 27, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

        I think it’s fine she listed all the things she does throughout the day (even though I too do all of these things on top of working two jobs), because when someone asks me what I did all day — I just have to say, “I went to work” — and that’s enough of an answer for anyone.
        I commend stay at home moms for doing all the things we all do each day AND for doing the things I don’t have to do Monday – Friday like . . .
        1. Entertain my toddler
        2. Snack time . . . twice
        3. Battle through lunch
        4. Plan activities that are educational and entertaining
        5. Battle through nap
        6. Seek opportunities for social interaction (because someone else makes sure my toddler is around other children and behaving in an acceptable manner)

        For me, I like working. I like the intellectual stimulation. I like the challenge. I don’t want to stay home at this point and to me, the idea of giving up my career feels like losing a very large part of my identity.

        Being a mom – working or otherwise – takes a lot of work, and time. Let’s all just let each other live and share our own stories.

  5. Susan
    Susan July 13, 2016 at 6:55 am #

    I agree with what Katie said above! Honestly how I feel about my answer depends on who I’m talking to. If I’m telling a group of moms who stay home that I work, I feel slightly judged for working. In the early days of motherhood I felt pressured by even some extended family members that I should be quitting my job. But if I’m talking to a group of moms that work or people who are in my working / professional networks, I feel supported. Maybe I’m completely projecting these feelings on others and it’s all in my head!! Either way it’s a really great discussion and I really enjoy hearing from your side of the table. We all deal with negatively no matter what decision we make. We have to do what’s best for our families and ourselves. Thanks for your post!

  6. Vanessa July 12, 2016 at 7:52 pm #

    When I had my first son I used to say I was a retired lawyer so that people would respect me. Yes, stay at home mothers get the bad rap of being lazy, unambitious, or simply that we do it because we are not able to keep a job. I was still not comfortable with portraying myself as something that I had done and was not doing any more. Since everybody always had professional presentation cards to give I ordered my own, but with the right tittle this time. I am a professional stay at home mother and that is what my card says. I manage the house and everybody’s schedules. I am the chauffeur, the maid, the chef, the nurse, EVERYTHING and that is what a professional does. I do not stay on the couch watching TV all day. That is why I added professional to my tittle. And let me tell you, not only it is a conversation starter, it also gave me the respect I deserved. I also learn to respect myself more because I am not a simple stay at home mother, I am the house and family manager.

  7. Katie July 12, 2016 at 6:41 am #

    You think it’s hard to tell people your a stay at home mom, try telling people you work full-time and gasp…send your child to daycare all day! Oh and that I travel often or work. Believe me, it’s full of assumptions too, I typically immediately jump into a discussion about how great daycare is for development and how traveling for work is awesome because my husband and daughter have such a strong relationship. I feel like I’m constantly defending my love for my little one and my choice to support my family (and continueto do the impactful work I do. Believe me there is a flip side to this coin. I think it’s about comfort and relationship. We all need to ask more questions and listen for understanding instead of giving into judgement.

    • Allie July 18, 2016 at 11:22 am #

      Katie, I totally get this! I went back to work after 6 weeks maternity leave both times (by choice, I could have taken 12 weeks paid at 80%) and I travel overseas 4-6 times a year. I assure you, you are not alone!

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