Returning to Work After being a SAHM

Returning to work after being a SAHMI stayed home for almost three years after I first became a mom. For most of that time I spent few hours each week doing small projects, but essentially I stayed at home. Money was always tight; we lived on a fairly strict budget, but could afford eating out once or twice a month and small luxuries like that. I recognize for some families going back to work isn’t a choice.

For a variety of reasons, I returned to work in August for a one-year opportunity. We very thoroughly considered the impact of my return to work, both the benefits and challenges. I’m a detail-oriented mama; I’m not one to jump in without thinking it through. Still, there were a few things we underestimated.

  • The morning routine. Oh my goodness, the morning routine. Before, we’d stay into our jammies until nine and I’d shower as I saw fit. Some days we even stayed in PJs. Preparing lunches, providing breakfast, getting everyone dressed while getting myself dressed, the whole into-the-car-and-back-out routine—the day-in-day-out routine is enough to drive me mad right around 7:30 AM, several days a week. I strategize and prep things the night before; I tried packing a week’s worth of lunches on Sunday; I lay out clothes before bed; I put my make-up on after I drop the kids off to childcare. Still, mornings are truly a doozie.
  • The childcare shuffle. The sheer time alone of driving one measly mile out of the way to childcare, getting out, taking the kids in, talking with the teachers as needed, and then repeating in the afternoon takes an extra 20-30 minutes a day. One mile seems like so little, but a stop light, stop sign, school zone, school buses, and school crossings make it feel like time moves faster in this one mile strip of the time-space continuum.
  • The tax double whammy. I anticipated our taxes would change this year. I attempted reading tax code and playing in Turbo Tax with a few ballpark figures. I underestimated by so little and it affected us so much—the loss of a tax credit and the just-barely bump up to a new tax bracket literally affected us by several thousand dollars. Given my modest wage, this was a painful blow this spring.
  • The sickies. We have never been so sick as a family. I did the math—85% of my paid time off revolves around sickness. It’s one child, the other, myself, or a seemingly endless combination of us three. My husband also missed work at times to care for the boys. A few days I even stayed home without pay. Though my company understood, I simply did not have time I could take. For example, we missed six days of work due to a one-day fever and two-day bout of diarrhea; our boys did not plan well enough to be sick at the same time. Childcare generally requires 24 hours of wellness before a kiddo can return. Maybe this will make our immune systems stronger in the long run, for now it means this mama usually doesn’t have vacation plans on her vacation days.

So there you go. Maybe you had a different experience. Perhaps some of these won’t apply to you. I surely hope they don’t! In the long run, I’m still satisfied to have worked this year for a variety of reasons, but I also look forward to going back home full time (which also has its challenges, I know!).

Lynette Moran shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 1 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

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