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Stay at Home Mom: A Commentary

By Sherilyn Bailey

Dallas, Texas – I may never work again in the traditional sense of the word. When I quit my job five years ago to spend more time with my son, I had no idea the leave would last this long. But I'm happy to say it has.

Because, for the most part, being a stay-at-home mom has been rewarding and good. Good until doubts creep in about how we would get through the month on my husband's paychecks; rewarding until I remember I wanted to "make" something of myself in addition to being a wife and mother. During my stint at home, I've had more than a few thoughts about getting a job. And a couple of times, I've actually acted on them.

First, there was the time I was planning to write for a magazine that told shoppers where to find the bargains in town. Having little money myself, I felt I was uniquely suited to this job. Not only would I be earning a paycheck for a change, I could discover how to spend less too, since spending is something else I do quite well. I interviewed with three editors, passed a spelling test and was sure I'd landed the job. I had not. Looking back, I think my insistence on doing most of the writing at home with my son convinced them I wasn't up to the task.

Then there was the time I was going to teach French at a private school whose headmaster didn't seem to mind that I wasn't particularly qualified to teach the subject. No sooner had I begun brushing up on my conjugations and Texas-French accent, I learned that I was pregnant with our second son. Knowing that an extended maternity leave would keep me from finishing the school year, I resigned before my first paycheck.

It was about this time of year, five years ago, when I quit my job. My son was two years old, and on one of those first nice days of the year, I took him to the park. There a man, with the day off, was watching his little girl play on the slide. Before long, he and I were talking about finicky appetites, sleeping through the night and how, yes, I was a stay-at-home mom. The man told me his wife had taken a short maternity leave and then returned to her job. But she had wondered ever since if she'd made the right decision.

I said to him, "Tell your wife something, would you? For the first two years after my son was born, I tried working. Now I stay at home. And you know what? Both times, I've questioned if I was doing the right thing. And both times, I've felt guilty. Maybe when we all get tired of second-guessing ourselves and learn to live with our decisions, we'll be happy. And that's," I said, "what really matters."

After that day in the park, and on one of the many other occasions when I needed a little reassuring myself, someone told me, if you do what you love, everything else will take care of itself: the money, the bills, the cooking and cleaning, even the guilt. So now as my older son is at school and my two-year-old sleeps, I write and savor my early, if temporary, retirement.