Before I was married or had Kennerly, as a young girl, I always pictured myself raising kids. My mom stayed home with us until I was in school and I always just pictured that's how it would be when I had children. Cut to real adult life: I went to grad school, got a Master's degree and started my career. A career that I am very passionate about. A career that doesn't make me a TON of money, but that gives me a paycheck. I married a man who is passionate about his career as well. Unfortunately neither of us chose a profession that result in big paychecks, but he insisted that one salary can work for us. I love teaching, it is absolutely what I was meant to do. I love children, I love seeing them light up when they learn something new as I light up inside knowing I am the reason for their epiphany. How do you walk away from that? Being in the classroom is part of who I am. The amount of excitement I get in Staples or the back-to-school aisles of any store, and don't even get me started about the Target dollar bins around August. Using my teacher handwriting and decorating the classroom for the student's arrival. 22 little faces smiling in the morning, little voices saying, "I love you Mrs. Doenges," little pieces of paper with misspelled words and funny little pictures, little hands raised high in the air to answer a question or ask a new one. How do you walk away from that?
You have a tiny, beautiful, curious human being who needs you. Someone who could be with another caregiver, but would much rather YOU.
Someone recently said to me, "As a teacher, you are replaceable. As her mother, you are not." It resonated. Because it is true. There are plenty of qualified teachers to teach my kindergartners, but there is ONE person qualified to be a mother to my baby.
Oliver always assumed I would stay home to raise our baby also. It wasn't really a question for him, it's a huge responsibility and a bigger job than any that would give me a paycheck. He not only wanted me to stay home with our baby, he encouraged it, telling me that my "job" is to foster love, creativity, manners, everything for our daughter. All the while, making sure I knew that it was my choice and if I chose to continue teaching, he was behind me 100%. It's really an easy decision once it comes down to it. Stay home with this amazing little human that we created? Duh. Tell my principal and coworkers that I wasn't coming back to teach? That was the hard part. "Giving up" part of who I am? That's a little what it felt like, but why? I am not giving it up, I will teach again someday, I will get back in the classroom. I will miss it, I already do in fact, but what I am missing will be filled to the brim with new experiences, new responsibilities, new epiphanies being realized by my own child. And I will be here for every second of it. I am lucky. Society tells me that I am giving something up, so really I feel more guilty for not feeling guilty of "giving up my career." People have said to me, "You went to school for this, you have a Master's degree, you are a teacher, it's what you do!" Okay...I don't really know how to respond to that. Now I am a mom, THAT is what I do. And if I get to focus on that with my whole heart and mind I am extremely lucky and eternally blessed. If you want to be a mom AND a teacher, or nurse, or whatever it is YOU do, be both! I applaud every.single.mother that is doing both.
I learned from my brother and sister-in-law how hard that is. When Ainsley and Freddie were 3 years and 3 months old, I took care of them during the day while Jaime worked and Clifton was out of town working. What I did all day long with those two amazing babies was awesome and fun and great...and a lot of work! When Jaime got home from work I marveled at the fact that she was able to do what I was doing with them all day long AFTER she had been working at her job all day long. I can't imagine what that must be like. Having a full time job, working all day and coming home to so much responsibility. When I was teaching, I would sometimes come home at 4:00, get straight in my pajamas and veg out the rest of the evening. Can't do that when you have babies relying on you the moment you walk in the door.
For a while I thought, "what will I do?" That now seems like a silly question...after almost 5 months with this beautiful creature, I've learned there's plenty to do. (I actually probably learned that the first 5 days.) What I struggled with the most was telling my principal. She has been amazing to me, hired me when she knew I was pregnant and planned to take half a year of maternity leave, she was supportive and encouraging every step of the way. She told me teaching is what I was meant to do, she had other teachers come observe my classroom, she held up my lesson plans as exemplars in faculty meetings. She led by example and I truly admire her. She put so much faith in me that I worried at every turn that I would let her down somehow, how could I really be THAT good? I must have her fooled.
Anyhow, after a bunch of back and forth, and back and forth...today I called her and the moment I said, "there's something I wanted to talk to you about." She expectantly said, "yeeeaaahhh???" She knew what I was going to say and once I said it she told me she completely understands. "I am disappointed, but I understand. You will make it back to the classroom when you're ready, you raise that little girl now." Exactly what I needed to hear. She was so accepting and warm and understanding. I needed that. I build things up in my mind so much and give myself such anxiety, then get this amazing response from her. We talked for another ten or so minutes and she completely put my mind at ease. I told her she's the best principal I've ever had and thanked her for believing in me so much.
So now, I no longer have a principal to report to. I have a tiny little being who loves me unconditionally, needs me more than anybody else in the world and gives me the absolute most joy I could ever have imagined. I will no longer receive direct deposit, but be paid instead by snuggles, smiles and baby smooches. I can't think of a better paycheck:) I am excited to start this new chapter and glad I can now fully embrace my new title of Stay at Home Mom.