At first they said it wouldn’t happen. Then they said it would never last.
Yet here I am, one year after submitting my resignation to the corporate America and I’m still loving life as a stay-at-home mom.
After working for 13 years at the same medical clinic, first as a receptionist, then later the Assistant Administrator, then ultimately as the Practice Administrator, I honestly never imagined I’d quit my job career. I loved it. I hired many of the 50+ employees and they were family to me. I worked very hard to make the clinic a place where patients could obtain care every day of the year. I took pride in being able to interview a skeptical physician who couldn’t picture himself working on weekends (hadn’t done that since residency after all), and turning him into a physician employee who championed patient access above all else. My husband and I even bought our house within one mile of the clinic so we’d be close to our jobs. Forever. Healthcare wasn’t just my job; it was my passion.
Then things changed. After a long and trying journey, I finally got pregnant (yeah!). Similarly, after a long and trying journey, Congress passed Health Insurance reform. Politics aside, the reality became that smaller, independent clinics are a thing of the past and ultimately must join with larger hospital systems in order to continue accepting Medicare patients. Between the birth of my son and the inevitable changes to health care delivery, I gave serious consideration to my future.
It was very difficult for me to even consider quitting my job. In fact, I lost nearly 10 pounds in the two weeks leading up to my resignation (I played the noticeable weight loss off as finally having “gotten serious about losing the baby weight”). As the director of the largest Family Practice clinic in Southwest IL, I had become very involved in the community. I routinely attended political, educational and business forums. Even with an 18-month old son at home, I spent a few nights a week outside the home at various events related to my job as well as my position on a local Board of Directors.
My point is, I always considered myself a working professional and never a stay at home mom. Other people viewed me that way, too. So when circumstances changed and I began wanting to stay home, I feared the reactions of others. People who had helped me achieve professional success-- what would they think? I can handle a lot of things, but disappointing others ranks among the top on my list of things I strive to avoid. The achiever in me doesn’t allow that.
Ultimately, though, my fear of disappointing my son overwhelmed me. Work had changed so much for me (due to a corporate transition) that even when I was at home, I wasn’t present. I wasn’t fun. Ryan and Craig weren’t enjoying my company. That realization sealed the deal for me. After that, the decision was easy to make.
I’ll always remember my 32rd birthday as the day I left corporate America; that’s the day I resigned. Five weeks later, I walked out the clinic door and haven’t looked back.
No one is more surprised than me at how much I enjoy being home. My Type-A to-do-list personality excels at home just as much as it did in the office. The day-to-day rewards others seek through employment are evident everyday in my life as a mom.
Something I’m very proud of throughout this transition from professional laborer to SAHM is that I’ve seemed to maintain the same level of respect from others; in some cases, I even sense more reverence. If I’m being honest, I feared that others would view me much differently as a SAHM, and not in a good way. I envisioned whispers of “I can’t believe she’s only going to stay at home” or “such a waste of talent.” I thought conversations would revolve solely around childhood developmental milestones and the surprisingly variable shades and consistency of baby poop.
The reality couldn’t be more different. People, while still kindly asking how my little guy is doing, engage me just as fully as they previously did. In fact, conversations now involve more than just healthcare. Maybe as an employed professional, others limited their interactions with me to mainly medically related topics. The flood gates have opened and now no discussion point is off-topic.
Case in point: a local school district was asked to invite two community leaders to represent them at an intense retreat aimed at tackling the budget deficit facing our schools. I’ve been told I was the first person they called (the other community leader, as it turns out, was a project manager for a Fortune-500 company in St. Louis).
My first thought was, “don’t they know I’m just a stay-at-home mom?”
Apparently that doesn’t matter much to them. I’m still respected as a bright, effective, contributing member of society.
What I can’t figure out is: was the stigma shattered years ago and it was my own perception of SAHM moms that feared my social demise? Or, does some stigma still exist and in my own way, I’ve (inadvertently) advanced social perceptions of the unemployed domestic engineer?
To those who ask, I always recommend making the change to SAHM if it’s within their family’s ability. We’ve made changes to accommodate the decreased income, but the satisfaction and happiness we have is worth every material sacrifice. The other night at a social outing, a friend told me that I look like I’d lost weight. When I assured her I haven’t (trust me on this), she commented that maybe I look thinner because I’m so happy. “But I’m always happy,” I said. Her response? “I know. Yet you’re somehow happier than I’ve ever seen you.”
~ Jessica Lotz lives just outside St. Louis, MO with her husband and 2 year old son but rarely cross the mighty Mississippi River into the city. Her family completes her life, but NFL football and traveling fill in the gaps nicely. She is married to a clinical psychologist and doesn't own an iPhone nor is she on Facebook. Judge accordingly.