Women are doing amazing things in this world. They’re founding booming businesses, running countries, and making medical breakthroughs. Remarkable women are improving the world around them and setting inspiring examples for girls everywhere.
Despite the female success stories that surround us, our culture is one in which women often have to put in extra work to garner the respect they deserve. Sometimes there’s an unspoken expectation that women should be able to do it all: excel at work, raise happy children, and lead a busy life that looks effortless and beautiful.
As a young professional, I thought that building a career and raising a family would be a great balance. Once I became a mom, however, I realized that doing both wasn’t right for me, and I put my former career on hold.
Although choosing to become a stay-at-home mom felt like going against the societal grain, quitting my job to raise our kids has been one of the best, most rewarding decisions my husband and I have made for our family.
Ever since I was a little girl, there was one thing I knew I wanted to be in this world: a mom. Of course, there were also fantasies of becoming a famous singer or a large-animal vet or a biomedical engineer (nerdy, I know). Deep down, however, becoming a mom was my greatest, most consistent dream.
I’ve been fortunate to have been blessed with an amazing, compassionate, and selfless mother. My mom was my closest comrade throughout my childhood, and we continue to be the best of friends during my adult life. No matter what I would end up becoming when I grew up, I knew I wanted to offer my children the same nurturing and loving support that she constantly gave and continues to give to our family.
My Career Before Babies
As a young adult and budding professional, I was inspired by the girl bosses and female figures ruling the world. I allowed myself to dream big when it came to planning a career path. I went to a competitive college, where my classmates were working toward major gigs in business, education, and law, and I set out to pursue a profession in medicine.
In the back of my mind, though, I knew that my biggest dream was to raise some kids — which can be difficult to admit in such a career-driven climate.
During and after my undergraduate years, I struggled to see how some of my work ambitions would gel with the family life and mom role that I craved. I ultimately settled on getting my master’s degree as a physician assistant, a career that’s flexible and rewarding but still lets me pursue my passion for medicine.
Becoming a Mom
When I became pregnant with our firstborn, I was a full-time physician assistant. I worked for a well-renowned surgeon in a busy outpatient clinic, with normal weekday hours. I was thrilled to be starting a family.
My plan was always to continue working full-time after taking my 12-week maternity leave (which is a standard length for many jobs in the US). I delivered our son in March of 2020, just when the COVID-19 pandemic was throwing our world into chaos. My husband and I found an excellent hospital-affiliated daycare for our newborn, which he started attending at three months old.
As any working mom knows, fulfilling my job responsibilities while raising a new baby was hard. My job involved nervous patients with major surgeries and high-stakes outcomes. The work was rewarding, but it was stressful.
Meanwhile, our baby struggled with acid reflux. We navigated specialist appointments, diagnostic procedures, and medication trials to address his symptoms. Our son was often in pain, and he was uncomfortable lying flat, which made sound sleep uneasy to come by.
Not only was I busy at work and trying not to let motherhood impact my job performance, but I was also sleep deprived. My exhaustion showed.
Moving to a New City
When our firstborn was still an infant, we decided to make a move as a family from Philadelphia to the Boston area for an important step in my husband’s career. In anticipation of our move, I left my job when our son was nine months old.
Thanks to the pandemic — and a historically difficult housing market that pitted us against 20 competing bids for several suburban homes — our moving date was pushed back month after month. At this point, I had already left my physician assistant role, so the delays only gave me more time to care for our son. Fortunately, his reflux improved dramatically around this time.
After months of searching, we finally went under contract for a new home. We agreed to bypass inspection and contingencies, and we had the full intention of my bringing in some money from future employment. As we packed up our lives in Philadelphia, I started to look for a new physician assistant job in Boston.
Deciding Not to Go Back to Work
I interviewed with several practices and ultimately chose a great clinic to join. I became excited about a fresh role with new patients and new challenges, but ultimately I didn’t go through with the job.
The previous several months at home with our son had taught me more life lessons, surrounded me with more love, and brought me more joy than I could have imagined. This precious little boy was now in the early stages of toddlerhood, exploring his environment and soaking up his surroundings like a sponge. When I imagined myself going back to work, I suddenly couldn’t picture missing the majority of his daytime hours.
I wanted to be the one chasing him in the yard, feeding him lunch, and teaching him about the magic of the world around us. I wanted to read him stories before his nap each day and cherish the cuddles in his sweet bed. Every week, I wanted to plan my schedule around his enrichment, taking him to activities that would enlighten his mind and widen his smiles.
I knew this special boy had stolen my heart as a newborn, but the love I had for him had only grown as time went on. We only wanted our family to grow in the years to come, and I felt good about my decision to stay home. I was (and still am!) thankful to have the opportunity to do so.
As soon as I decided not to take the new job, my stress levels dropped. I was able to enjoy each day with our toddler, without the looming thought that my full-time days with him would soon come to a halt.
Fast-Forward Two Years Later
I’m now a full-time stay-at-home mom with our two children, and I couldn’t be happier. I sometimes ask my husband if he’s jealous that I get to play all day while he’s at work. He admits that he isn’t, but to me, it’s the most fun in the world.
However much joy I found with one child, it’s only multiplied by adding another one to the crew. The daily moments between our toddler son and infant daughter melt my heart. He tries to make her smile when she cries, copies her every movement to make her laugh, and holds the bottle for her when she eats. She reaches to grab his hand, pushes her face against him to give him a kiss, and rolls into him with a smile.
If I were working full-time during these magical years, not only would I miss the hours with them during the day, but they would miss the time with each other. They would likely be in separate classrooms in a daycare program, and we’d only see each other for a few hours during weekday mornings and evenings. My goal is to raise them as best friends with each other, and I’m thankful to be here every second to help make that happen.
The Pressure of Parenthood
In today’s world, I think some new moms can perceive it as a failure or an inadequacy if they were to end up staying home with the kids instead of working. Cultural norms and societal expectations put pressure on women to feel like they need to do it all. It’s as if juggling career, motherhood, and personal development is supposed to be a smooth, easy process that doesn’t slow us down or make us pause.
In reality, we are human. Sometimes we need to reevaluate our needs, take a few responsibilities off our plates, and (gasp!) even take time for self-care.
While staying home was the right decision for me, I realize it’s not for everyone. I have the utmost respect for all my working moms out there. I’m not saying that staying at home with the kids is easy, either. Working or not working, parenting comes with difficult days, unique challenges, and some unexpected tests of our patience.
I also realize that the financial burden of having one or both parents work ranges widely. Some families depend on income from both Mom and Dad to provide adequately, while for others the cost of childcare might be greater than one parent’s earnings. Making such a major parenting decision relies on thoughtful family discussions and varies in its impact depending on each situation.
I’ve been fortunate to have found a great groove between taking care of our children and working as a freelance writer at home. While my role as a physician assistant is currently on pause, I expect to go back to my career in medicine down the road, when the timing works better for our family.
The truth is, no matter how much we plan, we really don’t know what the future will bring us. We don’t know what decisions we’ll want to make as our families grow and change. All I can do is take this amazing life one day at a time, and try to soak up these beautiful moments raising some great humans.