Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Working Momma vs. Stay-At-Home Momma

I am now four months into this whole stay-at-home momma gig and here's what I know.

Being a working momma is tough stuff.

Being a stay-at-home momma is tough stuff.

Brilliant conclusion, right?

Honestly? I think both are challenging and rewarding jobs each in their own. 


Different. And hard for different reasons.

Here's what I think, as a seasoned 4-month-in-as-a-stay-at-home-momma pro novice and as someone who was a full-time working momma for nearly 3 years.

Stress level? Much, MUCH higher as a working momma. The amount of stress, worry, and work that goes into getting one, or in my case for about six months, two little ones up, dressed, fed, packed up, out the door, and dropped off at school each morning, all under the pressure of getting to work at a specific time, is really high. It's why I had laminated check lists for morning and nightly prep--because despite my perfectionistic, organized self, unless things were written down, I would forget them (okay...that's still true...). And don't even get me started on when I got the call that one of my kiddos was sick. Bring on the high alert, code red stress level. Because crap! I have patients scheduled all day tomorrow and my kid can't go to school. And my husband has appointments with clients. Double crap. So, the award for the most stressful job goes to....the full-time working momma.

Physical exhaustion level? Much, much higher as a stay-at-home momma. Now, don't get me wrong. Being a momma in itself can be exhausting, thanks to unexpected, late night awakenings, early morning risings, and children who have so much energy you want to bottle it and sell it to make a profit to pay someone to come watch your children for a few hours so you can, please dear Lord, get a couple more hours of shut eye. Yes, mommas always have an underlying layer of tired. It's part of the job description. But. As a stay-at-home momma, I am more physically exhausted now than ever in my life. It's because, for the most part, from the time my children wake up until the time they go to bed, I generally do not stop moving. There is no sitting behind a desk (and thus, getting a little rest for the weary). It's up the stairs. Down the stairs. In the car. Out of the car. Wipe a hiney. Change a diaper. Fix a meal. Clean up after the meal. Put kids down for naps. Do the dishes, laundry, chores, etc. Play, play, play, play, and play some more with my kids, because that's the sole purpose of being a stay-at-home momma. And it is absolutely exhausting, with little to no rest for the ol' body most days. But. It is also the most fun and rewarding kind of exhausting.

Intellectual level? Hmmm....different for different reasons. As a pediatric neuropsychologist, I exercised different parts of my brain on a daily basis. It was constant reasoning, understanding, searching my anatomical lexicon to understand the workings of the human brain and relate it to child behavior. It was exhilarating. But also, intellectually demanding. Being a stay-at-home momma is intellectually stimulating in a different way. No, I am no longer required to consider neuroanatomical correlates when talking with parents (who would probably find it weird, given that my conversations with other parents now tend to be on the playground, rather than during a feedback session). But. I am constantly wracking my brain about how to challenge my kiddos to stimulate their developing brains: whether it's practicing recognition of numbers and letters or stretching their imaginations or ensuring their language is developing within, or above, developmental expectations, my new role as a stay-at-home momma allows me to exercise a more creative component of my thinking that I wasn't always able to tap into as a neuropsychologist. So. I call this one a tie. 

Multi-tasking level? Total toss up. As a working momma, it would not be out of the question to be studying for boards while thinking about the results from a result neuropsychological evaluation while planning what to bring in for my child's Thanksgiving celebration and also beginning to think about Christmas lists and, oh yeah, wracking my brain for what we could have for dinner that evening. As a stay-at-home momma, it is common to be carrying on a conversation with my son, who may suddenly launch his 40-pound body on my back, while I am changing the diaper of a wriggling toddler and trying to think three steps ahead to ensure that everything we need for our planned outing is packed, a dinner plan is in the works, and the dog is cared for. Multi-tasking and mommahood are synonymous, whether you are a working momma or stay-at-home momma.

Emotional level? Without a doubt, with question or hesitation, being a working momma can be more emotionally one sense of the word. For me, I absolutely ached in my bones to be with my children when I was a full-time working momma. I missed them so desperately. As selfish as it may sound, I wanted to be with my own kids, helping them, teaching them, kissing their booboos, telling them many, many times a day, how much I love them. I loved my job, I loved helping other children and families, but I missed my own. Now, being a stay-at-home momma is also emotionally taxing in its own right at times, but only because I must be the bearer of discipline, and the soul care provider for two active kids, each and every day, which can take a toll at times. It is hard. But at the end of the day, I am with my kids. And even though it can be emotionally demanding and patience-stealing, it is worth it.

All in all, I honestly don't believe one job is harder than another. Each role is demanding in its individual ways. And I don't think one job is more important or more meaningful than the other. We need working mommas for the world to function. At the same time, I need, so deep in my soul, to be a stay-at-home momma right now, which is what makes my world go 'round. 

At the end of the day, we are all mommas, who love our babies, and want to do what's best for them, for our spouses, for ourselves, for our families, whatever that role may be. 

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