I have to admit that fostering kind of took over my life. I also have to admit that I didn’t mind one bit. It was a slow takeover, and one I almost didn’t notice, until I couldn’t NOT notice anymore. Two months ago I stopped going into the office and traded it for sweatpants and ponytails to stay at home with my kids.
I know there are discussions everywhere else in the world about working versus staying home. I’m not here to make a statement on either other than this: Congratulations to both working and stay-at-home moms for working hard to provide the best life for your child, no matter what that looks like.
For the last eight years, since I graduated from college, I worked at software companies managing relationships with our customers, training, selling and gaining industry knowledge. I have my Masters of Business Administration in Health Services. I managed accounts that were worth millions in revenue to my company. This world was one I was familiar with, and I worked extremely hard to be good at. I worked at night and on weekends. I always had my phone in my pocket (smart phones are a blessing and a curse) and I saw my 4-year-old son for only two hours every day of the workweek before he went to bed. We had one foster child placement, a little girl who was only a few months old. She got lots of hugs at daycare, too, and we spoiled her to death when we were home.
To me, this wasn’t a bad thing. I loved my job. I loved the people I worked with. I loved the daycare my son attended, and they were teaching him amazing things every day. But one day a few months ago, a strange series of events began that I couldn’t ignore.
At daycare, everyone knows that immune systems are stretched to their limits and kids are often sick, getting sick or getting over it. With two children this was somewhat manageable, but still stressful when both my husband and I worked. We dreaded that 101 degree fever on the thermometer, meaning one of us had to take a day off or struggle through working from home while caring for a sick kid. Then financially things started to look like I might be able to stay at home in spring. We evaluated that for a long time, and once it looked like it was actually possible, I had to really start soul searching.
My job was a big part of where I found my worth. I was proud of what I had accomplished and it was mine. Then I had a moment at 5:10 p.m. when I was standing directly in front of my boss’ office door looking at a colleague who needed my help, and I had to walk away because I had to pick my kids up by 5:45 p.m. at daycare. At that very moment I was torn in two. I was letting down my colleague and I felt badly that I had to get my kids. I never wanted to feel this way.
Deciding to stay home
Finally, we decided I would stay home. I was terrified of many things, including telling people at work. As a woman, the corporate world had little respect for those who said “I’m going to be a stay-at-home mom.” I worried about not being able to find work again, if I ever wanted to. I felt strong loyalty to my company, and my customers and my employees. But I am not arrogant enough to believe I am irreplaceable. I am, however, the only mother my children will have — and that is irreplaceable.
Since I made that decision, we got a call for another baby who needed a long-term home. He’s a baby boy only six weeks younger than our little girl. We said yes, and then it was final. I was a SAHM. Since then we added a fourth.
I’m on the board of Connecting Bridges, a group dedicated to supporting foster parents. I’m also on the Foster Parent Advisory Council for my licensing agency, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. I go to focus groups and I hope to teach training classes someday.
Why? Because I don’t want to be bored. I love the fast pace. I love the stress. I love the feeling of accomplishment that hard work dedication and throwing yourself into whatever you are doing gives me. And, these little lives are worth more than millions.
And the paycheck for a SAHM? Watching my children crawl, overcome delays, learn to smile, learn to bond. Watching a family reunited after overcoming large obstacles. Those are my paychecks, and I couldn’t be happier.