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Never Ask a SAHM This Question

“So, both kids will be in school this fall, right? What will you do?”

The more people started asking me this question, the tighter the knot became in my stomach. Of course, I knew that the time would come when both of my children would be school-age. Of course, I knew that the day would come when I’d go back to work. And of course, I knew that society would be looking to see my next move. But I never knew just how closely.

Sure, it’s normal for close friends to ask you what you plan on doing with your life. Your loved ones are genuinely interested in you and your decisions. But the constant questioning — from everyone — felt a little like badgering. I have found myself at family gatherings, kids’ birthday parties, and large family events where my next move becomes the general topic of conversation. But the truth that many stay-at-home moms deal with is that we just don’t know — yet.

You see, for SAHMs, we’ve spent the last several years wiping rears and tears, so honestly, we haven’t really given our own future a lot of thought. No, we don’t need a gold medal for doing this, it’s just that our next career move has been in the back of our mind. Yes, maybe it’s been burning brightly within us, but to dedicate a solid amount of time to making our own dreams come true just hasn’t been in the cards. And as we all know, finding a job can often take the time of a full-time job.

There’s also the uncertainty that blurs our vision. The world is ready for SAHMs to make some bold proclamation once our kids go back to school, but for many of us, we just don’t know what looks like yet. And — it’s a little scary.

Internally, many of us know we’re ready. We’ve given ourselves to our family for years, and we’re ready to get that fulfillment that only a job can give. We’re ready to blow-dry our hair instead of sliding it into a top knot. We’re prepared to toss our diaper bags to the side and load our laptops into our messenger bags again. But for some of us, that life is so far behind us, the thought of getting our professional life back is a little daunting.

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Image: GoodStudio/Shutterstock. Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows. GoodStudio/Shutterstock. Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows.

For me, I gave up teaching when my second child was a newborn and my mother was diagnosed with advanced cancer. The decision to give up my career is one I’d make all over again for my family. But I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times I ached to go back to work.

But I didn’t want to leave my children or my mother. So, I didn’t. Instead, I headed back to school to earn another graduate degree and started freelance writing — both things I could do at home and on my own schedule. It worked for me and my family.

But as it drew closer to the time when my youngest would start kindergarten, I began to debate whether I’d ever have it in me to step back into the classroom — as the teacher. So, I took the logical step and applied to all of the job openings out there.

Because I realized that I had to be the one to make a move. No one was going to waltz up to my front doorstep, ring the doorbell, and offer me a job. So I dusted off my high heels and walked into three interviews for three different adjunct teaching jobs at some local colleges. And after being the captain of my family’s ship for seven years, let me tell you, I earned every iota of the confidence that I had walking into those interviews. I mean, I endured the terrible twos, the threenager, and the fournado — so, not even the big scholars intimidated me anymore. My experiences at home, contrary to what you might think, helped me nail those interviews. I was offered all three jobs — and I accepted two.

I feel confident in my decision to reignite my teaching career again, because it’s a decision I made for myself and for my family. No one’s outside judgement made me feel like, hey, maybe I should go back to work.

SAHMs don’t need the constant questioning — we’ve had it long enough. We’ve endured all of the archaic statements like “What do you DO all day?” or “I wish I could lounge around in my yoga pants all day,” and worse, “Don’t you feel guilty you can’t provide some type of income to help?” Honestly, I never knew me choosing to be a SAHM would provoke so many unwanted questions and statements from people.

So, maybe before probing a stay-at-home mom with questions, first ask yourself if you sincerely care about the woman behind that SAHM. Because her future is up to her. And no one else.

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