Prior to being a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM), I was a nanny. For about 20 years, I spent my days taking care of other people’s children and homes, and sometimes their pets as well. And I loved it. Every single moment. After I got married and learned that I had some fertility problems, being a nanny filled the baby-fever void before I was able to get pregnant myself.
When my husband and I were planning our wedding, I remember discussing birth control with my Rav, and he said not to take it. I asked, “But if I have my own child, when do I get vacation days, sick days, even mental health days?”
Thank G-d, I have since learned that I don’t really get those days—and I don’t want those days.
At 35 weeks pregnant, I went on maternity leave, as I was having such a hard time working and being sick that it just got to be too much. I really missed my work baby, but I was pretty much bedridden.
I gave birth at 39 weeks and 6 days to my princess. For 13 weeks, we lived in a bubble of bliss. We went on road trips to New York, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Chicago. We went to museums, out to eat, and shopping. We enjoyed the freedom our flexible schedule allowed us to bond.
But at 13 weeks postpartum, my boss called me up and said it’s time to return. So I did just that.
I had not gotten the clearance from my midwife to go back. During delivery, I had torn, and I was not yet recovered enough to climb stairs or carry heavy things, but I didn’t see much of a choice. My job entailed carrying a heavy baby up and down a split level house’s stairs—along with my own baby.
I was lucky that my boss let me bring my daughter to work with me. I was so grateful. It seemed funny to pay for a nanny when I was a nanny.
But boy was that a hard job! Each time we wanted to leave a room, I had to go up and down, and carry each child. I also had double the diapers, of course. And I found myself not enjoying my days like I once did. I’d get home too tired to want to cook or clean. I didn’t get to hold my daughter and bond with her the way I wanted; she ended up spending a lot of time on the floor while I exhaustedly finished my daily chores.
At around 5 months after I had my daughter, on Erev Pesach, I had my first gallbladder attack. I was discharged that day, after being given a lot of pain meds, and I was told to schedule an appointment with a surgeon. We decided to go to my brother-and-sister-in-laws’ in New York for Pesach, as planned.
On the last night of Pesach, around 3 am, I woke up with another attack. I took my entire bottle of pain pills, but they didn’t work at all. So we went to the hospital. I ended up needing to stay for 3 days and having my gallbladder removed. This was the first time that I had ever left my daughter with someone that wasn’t me or my husband, but I didn’t have a choice!
After my operation, I needed 2 weeks off from work to recuperate. During this time, I realized how much I missed spending all day everyday with my daughter—and only my daughter. I loved the lack of routine. I loved the freedom to come and go as we pleased. We went out to eat, we ran errands, we went to appointments. And so, Baruch HaShem, my husband decided that we could survive financially on just his income.
We went from me having to wake my baby up at 7:45 am to dress and feed her to her waking me between 8:30 and 9. We went from spending our day cooped up inside someone else’s home to going out to mall play-places and park playgrounds. We signed up for mommy and me gymnastics, as well as mommy and me swim lessons.
And at 18 months, when despite all the tummy-time in the world, my daughter still wasn’t walking, we were able to devote our time to physical therapy twice a week. (It only took one session to get her to walk!) When, at 19 months, we learned that our daughter had a speech and language delay, I now had the time for speech therapy twice a week.
Being a SAHM takes a lot of work. When I am not cooking, I am cleaning. When my daughter is entertaining herself, and I get a moment to breath, there is laundry to be done. I rarely get a moment to go to the bathroom alone or to shower alone. I am my daughter’s babysitter, nurse, chauffeur, teacher, coach, chef, and so much more. And I love every single moment of it.
The other day, a friend said to me, “I don’t understand how teachers or babysitters can spend all day caring for other people’s children and then have to come home and do it all over again for their own.” I thought to myself, ‘Exactly—that’s why I quit doing that!’
Recently, my daughter had a stuffy nose and was slightly lethargic, but not sick enough for me to have to theoretically miss a day of work or keep her home from school. As we snuggled in my bed, I thought how blessed are we that when we want to, we can just stay home in bed for the day.
I know that being a SAHM is not for everyone. Some people need more adult interaction, or just a break from their kids. But for me, vacation means taking my daughter with me to get away. Sick days mean snuggling in bed together. And mental health days mean bringing her with me to get my manis and pedis. I am so blessed to have my dream job, even if I never knew it was my dream—being a full-time mom to my princess.