Since I had my first child 7 years ago, I have vacillated back and forth between being a SAHM, working part time, and working full time. Each time I was nearing the end of my maternity leave, I would debate whether I should go back to work, weighing the pros and cons for months, still never feeling satisfied that I had made the best decision. I would be at home feeling like I should be using my brain more, missing the company of work colleagues (let’s be honest, any other adults) and feeling a bit lonely and useless. Or I would be at work feeling guilty that I wasn’t with my kids, and being spread pretty thin both mentally and emotionally. I thought part time was the answer, but when I was working part time, I just felt less committed to my job as I was being paid less, and had to say no to opportunities that would came up for me to contribute more to the company. It was like I was in a serious relationship that I didn’t want to lead to marriage. There was a daily battle raging inside my head. To work or not to work. That was the question.
I bet almost every parent has had to deal with this conundrum, and sadly in today’s culture, the workplace doesn’t support family life balance, and most of the time without a two salary household families can’t afford the things they want in life.
But I can say that finally as a happy SAHM, I feel like I figured out a few ways that will help us as parents be happy with whatever path we choose.
If we look at how our thoughts affect our everyday lives, we can see how important it is to pay attention to them and to choose which thoughts we want to believe.
The thoughts I used to have when I was at work were “I would rather be home with my kids.” “I can’t really dig in here and I don’t really matter at work.” And “being a working mom is so stressful.” Thoughts that I had as a SAHM were “how can I be an independent person when I depend on someone else to support me?” , “I feel like every day is groundhog day” and “these kids are keeping me from working” or “no one notices or cares when I clean or cook a nice meal or take great care of the baby or do an awesome project with my son, why should I bother?”
When you actually take the time to write out the thoughts you are having on a day to day basis, you can see how they creep up and cause lots of negative feelings which negatively impact your actions on a regular basis. I was noticing how resentful of my job I was when I was working and how much resentment I felt towards my kids when I was home when I had thought like these. Negative thoughts can be poison.
Master life coach, Brooke Castillo, said something in her podcast that completely changed my perspective on parenting, regardless of my current employment status. She said, “You don’t follow your passion, your passion follows you.” Which if you apply that idea to the working vs. staying home debate, both situations are a win-win if you choose the right thoughts to believe. I now think about being a SAHM like it is my passion and I put my all into it. I even treat it as my job, and my boss is my husband (it helps me stay motivated and accountable). In other words, I am passionate about my job as a mom because I choose it and because I have made the decision to stay home. I have made a commitment to it. It doesn’t mean I will never work again, but focusing on the present and not questioning my decision every day makes me feel better. My new thoughts that I choose to believe are ones like “I appreciate the opportunity I have to be with my kids”, “I am happy to work hard and do my best, even if no one notices because it makes me feel good”, and “I am committed to making a significant contribution to my family in any way I can”.
Try it on your situation. Take the thoughts that you currently have about your employment status and write them all down on a piece of paper. Notice how they make you feel when you write them. Then cross off all of the thoughts that are stressful and not helpful to you. If there are any thoughts left, decide if you want to believe them or not. Then write new thoughts that you want to believe and that are helpful in cultivating more positive feelings. Make sure you can believe the thought, otherwise it won’t stick. Go to neutral if needed instead, like “I am a parent who works.” Then move to more positive eventually.
Keep a watchful eye on those automatic thoughts that arise during your day and catch yourself if you have negative ones. Let them leave your mind and replace them with neutral or positive thoughts and see how your perspective begins to shift.
Leave me a comment below on which thought you struggle with the most when it comes to your employment status as a parent.