I Never Thought I’d Want to Be a Stay-At-Home Mom… Until I Almost Was One
I go back to work next week, and while I’m excited about the show I’ll be working on, and know I’m making the right choice, I’m still absolutely dreading it. Every working mom I know warned me it would be hard, but I never expected how hard it would actually be. Just today I broke down in Target while shopping for my son’s daycare essential. And if “Remember Me” from Coco starts playing… well, let’s just say that brings out the ugly tears. I think what makes this transition particularly hard for me is I never considered the alternative of being a stay-at-home-mom until after my son was born.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed about being a writer. Part of being a writer (especially in television) is knowing that when you’re working on a show, you’ll be working long hours. Like, 12 hours a day. At least. And that’s not including the time you’ll need to work on your own material, which is usually time devoted before and/or after work. I’ve never had much of a social life when I’ve been on a show, and that’s been okay with me. But, having a family was important to me, so I always figured I’d find a way to do both. After all, there are successful writers I know that have an amazing family life— surely there’s a way it can be done! Admittedly, I thought I’d be much further along in my career by the time I had kids. Ideally, I would’ve had a script deal in place and would be able to write from home and not worry about money. But, I would’ve also “settled” for having a staff position with health insurance and enough of a paycheck that I wouldn’t be turning over the majority of it to childcare (and not even a nanny— nannies actually make more than I do!) Unfortunately, life is unpredictable and there’s no “right” time to have children. I’m 32, the clock is ticking, and the timing felt right to us, so here we are. Since the script coordinators unionized, going back to work will afford me health insurance. That’s a big incentive right there. But, in the week before most shows’ fates were to be decided, I seriously questioned whether that would be enough of one to convince me to go back to work.
…And then my show was canceled. I spent that day getting drunk for the first time since I found out I was pregnant, and crying over what to do. I sent emails to my mentors asking for advice. I felt stuck. That next morning, I woke up with a sense of calm. I told my husband that I decided I was going to take the next year to be a stay-at-home mom and write. We would figure it out financially. I took out a spreadsheet and looked for ways to save. We floated the idea of moving in with my parents. We were going to figure it out, but my priority would be my son and my writing career. I said the only way I would take another script coordinating job is if it met very specific parameters — parameters, that I’ll be honest, I didn’t think any show would meet. By that afternoon, I had a couple of job offers. I turned them down outright. “I’m not script coordinating anymore, but thanks for thinking of me. I can pass on some resumes, if you like.” It was surprisingly easy.
The next day was Mother’s Day and I happily assumed my “new role” of stay-at-home mom. It was easy on a day that you’re surrounded by so much love. My family was supportive, and it felt right, like this was the role I was supposed to play right now. And then the next day I got a call from the one show I was considering working on. For the first time in my assistant career, I said I had to think about it. As an assistant, it is terrifying to say those words to someone, especially someone you respect so much. I spent the day thinking about it and realized it was the only show that fit all the parameters I was looking for in a job. And it would enable my husband and I to not stress about money. So, I took the job. It also allowed me a fantastic opportunity to have another solid month with my son and be able to savor that time. I had a clock, but I was able to prepare both of us in that time. He went to his daycare weekly to spend some time with his new caregiver, and I started getting myself ready for my new routine.
And now the date is quickly approaching and I’m a mess. It’s not going to be easy. A friend of mine described being a working mom as splitting yourself in two, and that’s exactly how I feel. I have a ton of fears about what life is going to look like once I’m back at work. Like, will the bond my son and I currently have change? Am I going to miss out on his milestones? Will I be able to keep up my milk supply? Will I be a good enough employee when my focus is now split? I’m trying not to let these thoughts consume me, but it’s hard. Only time will provide answers. But, I also know I have an amazing daycare where my son will be supported and looked after, and I have an amazing group of co-workers who have been nothing but supportive and flexible with me, so I know that we’ll both eventually be okay. And I will be setting a good example to my son about the importance of hard work and pursuing one’s dreams. Because here’s the thing: at the end of the day, I wasn’t fully ready to be a stay-at-home-mom. I still have career goals I want to accomplish and so now I have to figure out the best way to balance it all. It will be different, but different doesn’t necessarily mean bad. I have to remind myself of that during the hard days. A there will definitely be hard days ahead, but that’s just part of being a mom now. And I think that’s something all kinds of mothers can agree on.