As a single working mom, I once resented 'stay-at-home' parents.
From day one, I depended on child care to attend college and work full-time. Each day I raced against the clock, accomplishing all I could between day care hours and before putting my mom hat back on.
The gym became my sacred space for "me time." After realizing I needed to be more available for my daughter in the evenings, I started sneaking "me time" into my lunch hour. Luckily, this lead me to fall in love with BodyFlow and Zumba classes. The calming yoga and carefree booty-shaking were the stress releases I needed to break up my work day!
However, the late-morning timing of these classes also exposed me to another kind of life I knew nothing about; one of a 'stay-at-home' mom.
To attend class, I'd literally run into the building, whip into my gym clothes, run into class, rush out before it ended, and sprint out the door back to work. And in each [brief] moment of the locker room, I felt surrounded by moms chit chatting and taking their leisurely time before or after an unhurried workout while their kids played in the child care center.
"Wouldn't it be nice..." I'd bitterly think to myself while breaking a sweat just changing my clothes. "If only I could stay at home with my kid all day and not have to worry about working my ass off."
I put on a smile and engaged in the most brief discussions possible with the other gym moms, just barely giving them the time of day. I mean, I didn't have TIME for small talk! This was my ME time, and every second was ticking it away.
And honestly, on the most stressful work days, I wanted to hate these women. Although usually behind a masked smile smeared with pride for my engineer status, I was green with envy on the inside, wishing I could slow down and enjoy the gym as much as they did.
Maybe you were one of these women. Maybe you don't even know we crossed paths because I darted past like a flash. Maybe you experienced talking with me during my races in and out and felt impressed by my ability to be a single mom, an engineer, AND stay physically fit.
Trust me, my life was nothing to be jealous of.
What may have looked put together on the outside, was an anxious mess on the inside. I was ALWAYS in a hurry, never able to make enough time in my day, and wanted to kill every 'stay-at-home' mom I encountered for the easy, luxurious lives they must have been living.
Then I stepped off the hamster wheel of my corporate job and became exactly what I wanted: a 'stay-at-home' mom.
For the first time, I was free to create my schedule around my daughter, Jaelyn. She no longer had to spend 10+ hours at school and extended care every day. I finally felt like a real full-time mom and couldn't believe how much I had been missing.
Then school ended and we celebrated our first summer free from full-time child care. Jaelyn could sleep in and we shared breakfast and lunch together daily. I was even able to take her friends for afternoon beach visits! This was a part of mom life I never thought I'd experience!
However, it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows. I'm still a single parent; I still have bills to pay. Trying to get any work done AND be a full-time mom was a rude awakening. As parenting grew more challenging than my business tasks, I couldn't help but reflect on those 'stay-at-home' moms I was once so jealous of for having the "easy" life...
And seriously, my daughter is 11-years-old now! She can practically take care of herself and I was still exhausted by the need to feed, entertain, and connect with her all day.
I look back to the early days of constant diaper changes, feedings, carrying everything but the kitchen sink everywhere you go... and honestly can't imagine where my sanity would be if I didn't have the "escape" of my full-time jobs.
I suddenly realized that the moms at the gym were rightfully taking their "me time," too.
Those moms were racing and working just as hard as I was, if not harder, except they had to wear their mom hat around the clock through the long, sleepless, crying, screaming days and nights with infants and toddlers. Their "me time" was limited by the gym's day care hours, and shoot, I'd be soaking up every second of those hours every day!
This is an ode to all of you 'stay-at-home' moms and dads. To the parents that are working the hardest and most important job of human existence. The job that goes unpaid and under-appreciated in a world that pressures parents to "get back to work" to be considered a valuable part of society.
In this backwards culture where we work to pay others to take care of our children, I applaud the parents that are able to 'stay at home.' Your strength, patience, and love will be everlasting on your children, creating stronger bonds even through the worst of days. May you embrace your full-time job as a parent proudly and continue influencing parents around you, like me, to do the same for their own children.
And on those worst of days, we can be thankful for bedtime and our yoga mat!
Are you a 'stay-at-home' parent struggling to fit in "me time" and self-care? Your babies and children are welcome to my home and private yoga studio, where we can keep them safely occupied while you get your practice on!
Contact me anytime for more information.