Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom: A Series?

[Note: Some of you already noticed this in your Google Reader, and thanks for your personal emails – I so appreciate them.  I wrote this and posted it yesterday, and then I remembered it was our wedding anniversary and, for my own sake in years to come, I didn’t want to say these things on that day.  Anyway, here it is today.]

Last night while browning the pork chops I had [what at that time seemed like] a great idea.

I thought I would invite you along on this adventure with me of becoming a full-time stay-at-home mother and all the excitement and learning curves that it entails.

But the idea is not as appealing on Monday morning, although the scene is set for telling good stories.  (Meaning the baby is asleep, the fire is crackling, the rain is falling, the house is cozy…)  The reason the idea is not as appealing is because it requires me to tell you that I am not a stay-at-home mom because I really want to be a stay-at-home mom.

I am a stay-at-home mom because I cannot get a job.

There, I said it.  I feel like there are not a lot of other people who become stay-at-home mothers because they simply are unemployable.  Most women who choose to be full-time homemakers and mommies really don’t want to do anything else more (which, honestly, is true of me) and set aside great careers to do this (which, honestly, is also true of me) and could get a great job if they wanted to (which, honestly, is not true of me).  Other people who become stay-at-home moms have “earned” it: they worked, they went to grad school, they had a career for awhile, what have you… and now they get their long-awaited reward: full-time homemade motherhood.

But me?  I worked my last shift as an ICU nurse on July 3, 2011.  Elliott returned on July 4, 2011, from a year-long deployment and we left a few weeks later for a new life in Sicily.

Even before we moved to Sicily I was trying to get a job here.  I tried for 6 months to get a job here and I was unsuccessful.  The biggest blow was being turned down for a nursing job I really wanted.  It was a cushy desk job in a beautiful office with a huge window.  I would have been the nurse working for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Overseas and my job would have involved seeing military moms and their children, dispensing nutritional advice and breast pumps, and teaching classes at the hospital and the school about how to eat healthy food.  I would have loved that job, I know, and I would have been good at it.

But the call came the day before our Christmas party when I was up to my elbows in flour.  “Is this a good time to talk, Rebecca?” my I-thought-future manager asked.

“Umm… yes, sure.  My baby’s napping, so this is a great time to talk.”  [immediately I kicked myself for such a mommy statement]

“OK, well, I just wanted you to know that we have decided to hire the other candidate for the job for WIC.  I’m so sorry.”

She said the other candidate had more experience.  Well, I guess there’s nothing I could do about that.  I’ve only been out of university for three years and so I’ve only had two jobs, and both of them were adult ICU jobs, not pediatric nursing positions.  So I understood that I wasn’t super experienced.  And I guess I understood that I didn’t get the job (even though I’d been visiting the office and sending my resume in since July to get that job as soon as it became available).

I was pretty beat up about that for awhile.  There were a lot of tears and Elliott did a lot of comforting and Lena got freaked out because her mommy was crying.  But eventually I had to pull myself together and move on.  I had tried to get a job and now there were no other nursing positions available.  There still aren’t, over a month later, and I don’t know of any that will become available until the summer or possibly the fall.  I might apply for those, who knows?  But right now, I am a stay-at-home mom.

I want to say very clearly that I was disappointed not to get this job – or any job – but I also was seriously conflicted about it.  I love Lena so much and I didn’t want to take her to daycare on base each day (even though she probably would love being with so many other kids all day long).  I wanted to be a dedicated, thoughtful mother; I wanted to put her in cloth diapers, potty train her absurdly early, read stacks of books to her each day, take her to the market each Wednesday, set up playdates with other babies and children, and so many other idealistic things.  I love being at home, too, and I love knitting and reading and baking and keeping a tidy home.  I love the flexibility of my schedule so that Elliott and I can pack up and travel any time we get the itch.  Both Elliott and I weighed the pros and cons a thousand times of me working vs. me being flexible at home.

I said over and over that “I’m not sure I’ll even take the WIC job if I get it,” but after I didn’t get it, I knew I would have taken it.  I would have taken it and of course complained about leaving Lena, but I would have taken it and I would have been so proud to have it.  I would have loved seeing my paycheck join Elliott’s again in our bank account.  I would have loved feeling like I could do it all: be a successful professional as well as a mom as well as a wife as well as a happy resident of a quaint Sicilian town.  I would have loved knowing I was beefing up my resume, preparing for grad school sometime soon.  I would have loved dressing up for work (no scrubs!  wowzah!) and interacting with so many different people and learning new skills and reviewing pediatric and maternal nutrition and developing this subset of skills.  I would have been so proud of myself.

Well, God said nix-ay to the pride, I guess.  And now I am not proud.  Now I am a stay-at-home mom because there is simply nothing else for me to be right now.  And I’m not even that good at it!  (But I’ll let you see that for yourself as time goes by.  As I share with you this adventure of being a full-time mom at home.  What do I do with my days?  You shall see…)

In the meantime, know that for all the pretty pictures I put up on here, for all the dreamy ways I talk about our life, for all the beautiful fodder I churn up to share with you… I am a little ashamed that I am doing this instead of working as well as doing this.  I am a little sad because it has been a steep, swift change from my first job out of college at the top of my game to quietly nursing a baby to sleep three times a day.  I am not used to it yet.  I do not own this transition yet.  This is not me yet.  I don’t recognize myself in all this, I don’t look at my life and say, “Yes!  This!  This is me!  This is who I have always wanted to be, this is where I want to expend my life’s energies, this is the fullest realization of the person God created me to be!”

The truth is that I just don’t know yet what God created me to be.  I know that it looks a lot different from what I imagined.  I know it is better than I could ever have imagined, not because it is more glamorous or more beautiful or more fun, but because it is right and good and true and desired by God.  I am desired by God.

That’s all for now; I hear my baby waking up from her nap.

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16 Responses to Becoming a Stay-at-Home Mom: A Series?

  1. HannahKM January 31, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Oh, Becca. I really appreciate that you shared that. It is inspiring to someone still at sea to know that the seemingly settled are not necessarily fulfilled, either. Finding our individual purpose is essential and yet so painfully elusive.

  2. Erin January 31, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    Completely agreed with Hannah. I hear comments like, “It’s so great that you are independent and learning to do all these new things.” But I taught myself these skills because I am single and there’s no one else to do them. I wish I could be married and starting a family like it seems everyone else is. The grass does always seem greener…

  3. Damsel January 31, 2012 at 10:59 pm #

    “Now I am a stay-at-home mom because there is simply nothing else for me to be right now.”

    THIS is exactly where God wants us. He wants us to be completely dependent on Him because there is simply “nothing else for [us] to be”. THIS is where He will grow you and teach you things that you never even knew you needed or wanted to know!!!

    Is it comfortable? No. Is it peaceful? Not always.

    But it is very, very secure. He has you in the palm of His hand, and He will never let go. He is big enough for you to shake your fist toward the heavens in frustration.

    You will look back on this time and talk about how glad you are that God took you through it, and not just in the Mommy sense of “I’m so glad I had those days with my baby” (because, let’s face it, sometimes they are NOT all they’re cracked up to be). You will be humbled and joyful and thankful and you will be able to share your experiences and help others.

    I’m looking forward to getting to know you more!!!!

  4. megarber January 31, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    Of course, I’m very interested in this discussion. As a beginning, have you read this article by Kate Harris: ? It is thought provoking. I am not sure that it completely reflects my thinking on the topic (not that my thinking is set in stone!), but I think it definitely would spark more discussion on the topic.

  5. megarber January 31, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. megarber January 31, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

    . . . and also

    (I am not sure how to get that to show up as a live link–sorry. You’ll have to cut and paste.)

  7. Jena February 1, 2012 at 6:57 am #

    Oh Becca, I’m sorry about the job. I’m always torn and conflicted about that same thing. Being at home vs. Going to work and although I say I want to stay at home I like going to work. One door closes another opens. Miss ya and this ICU really smells tonight C-Diff in the air I know you don’t miss that.

  8. Jessica February 1, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    vulnerability is so good for us as humans. thanks for sharing. our generation needs to work on finding purpose in whatever calling god has us in. not finding a calling in whatever purpose we think is best.

  9. carrie February 1, 2012 at 11:40 pm #

    I really love this post. Your honesty and vulnerability in it are inspiring. And I am sure you are an amazing mother! I am feeling blessed to get to know you through this blog a bit before coming to see/meet you in March!

  10. Anna Hegdahl February 5, 2012 at 4:17 pm #

    Hi Becca! I’m catching up on some friends’ lives via internet on a Sunday evening before finishing my preparation for Monday morning school. I just wanted to say that I was in a very similar situation (albeit single) when I heard from Lorien Wood School–that interview for which I flew out to Virginia and stayed with your family and saw you! I wanted that job so much, and I heard the same words coming through the telephone: “We’ve found someone more experienced.” Then I turned down my only other job offer because the Lord hadn’t given me peace about it. It wasn’t until June that He gave me peace about this job in India, and despite all its challenges, I know that I am where He has called me to be. The disappointments–hard as they may be–just clear the way for us to see the true path that the Lord is guiding us along.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog; thank you for inviting me to it! I’ll try to send you an update on my life here soon.


  11. Meghan October 19, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    “I am a stay-at-home mom because I cannot get a job.” Me too. I appreciate your honesty. I relate to so much of what you wrote.

  12. Jen December 13, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    This post came at a perfect time. My son just turned one, I have started to wean him, and I miss working.

    I know being overseas, I am not going to be able to get a hospital job. No fast paced, mentally challenging, go go go RN job.

    And that is ok.

    I just didn’t expect to be a SAHM because I could NOT get work. My options here are the base clinic. That is it. And I am ok with that – but it’s not as if there are positions opening up often. And then child care..oh dear.

    Anyway, I totally get it. Thank you for sharing your experience and feelings on the topic.

    • Becca December 13, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

      Jen, thank you for this wonderful and honest comment. We too have gone back and forth over jobs for me even since this post was written. Every time we are stalled by a multitude of factors, including childcare and quality of life and transportation and whether the job is really worth it just for the sake of having a JOB. Every time my husband and I both agree that this is not the life we want… we don’t think… and every time I think we’re both relieved! But the bitterness of a former life that is slipping farther and farther away is a hard pill to swallow.

      I see that you’re an Army wife and you’re in Germany! Do you have a blog? I’d love to follow you! Email me (beccagarber at if you can!

  13. The Amazing Trips January 17, 2013 at 5:48 am #

    So I just clicked over to see how you are doing (so close, so beautiful, I’m so excited for you!) – and followed the link to this post. See, the funny thing is – I’m on the exact OPPOSITE end of the spectrum. As I think you know, I work for the same company that you dad worked for … and the reason that I work is because I have this amazing career with an amazing company and yes, I’m proud, so very proud of my accomplishments.

    And yet, I’m so very ashamed that I’m working when I should be home with my blessed children that I think about nearly every minute of every day. I flip flop, nearly constantly trying to decide what to do. Do I fold this hand and walk away from the incredible career? Do I pursue my SAHM dream while I still have small children who need me? All this to say, the choices we have as women who become mothers, are never easy and we torment ourselves over them. From my perspective, I look at your situation with such admiration and longing. In my heart, I feel like where I’m meant to be – is exactly where you are. And yet. And yet.

    Best of wishes the next few weeks – – you’re in my heart and prayers. I’m so excited to see your newest addition!!

    • Becca January 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

      As always, you write the most insightful comments and give me so much reason to pause and think! I know I would be so torn in your shoes and it is impossible to know what you will look back and regret. I think we are both women of our age, caught in between what the world offers us right now and what we really want (or don’t know what we want). In the midst of it all, we’re both trying to honor God and love our families well. It’s a hard place to be.

      My story is continually evolving… for who knows what the next stage of life will bring? Elliott is becoming more interested in working from home which might mean I need to return to work for awhile. I’m happy for change and for supporting each other, but it also means giving up this 24/7 life at home that I love 95% of the time and do not want to give up!

      We hold everything with an open hand here on earth, I think, praying and waiting and deciding one step at a time!

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