I had it all, as some would say--a loving husband, wonderful children and a successful career. As an executive at a large luxury hotel, I was rewarded with status, a healthy paycheck and a generous benefits package.
I still remember, so vividly, speaking to my boss on the phone to set the date that I would come back to work after my first baby, Amber, was born. This dreadful day was over twelve years ago when Amber was 14 weeks old. The incoming call from my boss caught me by surprise. I had forgotten that there was another world outside the bond between my daughter and me.
It was official. When my daughter turned 16 weeks old, the day would be noted as the day we would be taken away from each other. When reality sunk in, I cried as I had never cried before. My dream was ending and a short chapter in my life was closing. The precious baby who was with me 24/7 would spend approximately 50 hours per week with her grandmother.
As the woman who conceived and gave birth to Amber, I felt that it was my right to nurture and raise her on a full-time basis. Instead, I was forced out of the home and into a work environment that did not coincide with my new priority in life. Amber was a gift to me that I did not want to relinquish, and my overdeveloped maternal instinct was crushed.
I worked outside the home to supplement my husband's income, which allowed our family to enjoy such luxuries as food and utilities. Despite living in a two-income family, we were always broke and did not have much of a savings account established. If we were going to be broke anyway, why couldn't I just stay home?
I resented stay-at-home mothers immensely. I was downright jealous and the envy inside me scared me. All I wanted was to raise children, my children. Nothing else mattered to me. Feeling cheated in life, I realized that if I didn't do something to land my dream, it would never happen.
Somehow, other families were surviving on one income. It can be done and I knew that our family could do it. I don't need to spend money on exotic vacations or extended shopping sprees. If I were home, I could clean my own house instead of paying a housecleaner. Paid trips to the car wash would be obsolete because I would have the time to wash the car myself. No more dry cleaning bills or the need to update a business wardrobe. With the omission of the aforementioned expenses and some creative budgeting, I knew that I could follow my heart and give up my career.
The day came. I gave ample notice at my place of employment that I would be leaving to become a full-time mother. Some major changes occurred in my life to support my new status--mainly, moving.
My husband and I owned a beautiful home with a high mortgage. We could not afford the mortgage on one income, so we put the house up for rent. We now live in a house which we purchased as a bank repossession and our new mortgage is a fraction of what it once was. We didn't buy our new house because we liked it, we bought it because the price allowed me to stay home.
After a year of being home, I became pregnant with my fourth child. I was exhilarated with excitement knowing that after giving birth my new baby would be with me always, the way it should be. Now, I have to deal with the guilt that I feel for not being able to give my first three babies the time with me that they deserved.
My days of assuming that my children made it to school safe are over because I am there, with them, exchanging kisses at the gate. After school, I get to hear the day's events right away, instead of half-listening while preparing dinner after an exhausting day at work. Instead of wondering what my children are eating for lunch on a Wednesday afternoon, I am with them, pulling them in a wagon to our picnic site. I am fulfilled; I am a stay-at-home mother.
Sharon Waldrop is a stay-at-home mother of four children, married to a Deputy Sheriff. They live on a mountain. She is an active member of La Leche League and Moms Club, a PTA volunteer and Sunday school teacher.