For ten years, I worked tirelessly at home as a business owner, freelance writer, mom, and wife, and I thought I was the happiest woman alive. As it turned out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Despite my insistence that my life at home was exactly what I wanted, it took a major shift to realize I’d actually been feeling rather unfulfilled for many years. Leaving the home to work full time made me feel like I’d taken a deep breath after years of holding it in. I had no idea how stifled I’d felt until this major change.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I loved being home with my kids. I loved being there when they were babies and toddlers, volunteering in their classes when they headed to school, keeping the household running smoothly. . . but somewhere in all the caring for others, I lost myself. The tasks I did were certainly fulfilling, but not in the ways I truly needed, and I didn’t even realize it until I removed myself from the situation.
At home, I felt constantly put out by all the work I did for everyone, but guilty for feeling that frustration. Dusting, cleaning, tidying, laundering, planning, grocery shopping—most of it fell on my shoulders, and I willingly took it on, feeling thankful I didn’t have to feel the stress of being the primary breadwinner. But it felt never-ending, all that work. And it dawned on me one day that with the kids in school full-time, I wasn’t happy being a stay-at-home-mother anymore. This wasn’t the life I had envisioned for myself when I completed two university degrees.
It started with the desire to just get out of the house more often and progressed to me working outside the home within a short period of time. I was lucky to find a job close to home that allowed me to drop the kids off at school each day, and be home for dinner. Within a couple weeks, my mood had changed, my anxiety had significantly dropped, I was sleeping better, waking earlier, and I’m actually far more productive now than when I was at home every day.
What’s more, I’m happier.
I now realize that life as a stay-at-home mother was far more emotionally taxing than anything I’d experienced before. Although I’m still responsible for the same household tasks as before, the insane pressure of doing it all has lifted. I feel I’ve got a solid reason for piles of laundry, whereas before I felt like I should justify how my six hours of “freedom” were spent each day.
I feel guilty for loving being out of the home. I feel guilty for choosing to work outside the home. I have guilt because I’m not able to be home for every vacation, and for being tired at the end of each workday. But I don’t for a second regret making the decision to make myself happier.
We live in a society that wants us to simultaneously manage to be a full-time mother with a fulfilling career, and the reality is that no such balance can ever exist. Sometimes the choices for what we do (or do not do) are a challenge, but when we choose the right path, everyone’s happier as a result.
I’m so thankful for my years at home, and I’m so excited for this next stage of my life.