Kathleen is unlike most of the stay-at-home moms I interviewed for this biweekly series, Who Am I Now: Honest Conversations with Stay-at-Home-Moms.
Most struggled with their post-career identities, unaware of the toll the social isolation would take on them.
Kathleen, who lives in a Seattle suburb, worked as a nanny for seven
years before she had kids, and then in a private preschool for eight
She was accustomed to the lifestyle.
Staying home is important to her, she says. Her parents divorced when
she was young and she spent much of her time in the care of sitters.
She didn't want that for her children.
I spoke with Kathleen, 43, five years ago. Her children are now 11, 9
and 7. She is thinking about going to school and getting a job, but she
keeps herself busy now volunteering at school, caring for her household
and her kids and keeping the whole family physically active.
Here is Kathleen's story in her words:
We’d always said what you say when you’re dating. (I was nannying when
we were dating.) When we have kids I can always work with the first one
and by the time you have two, you stay home.
Really I was working at a daycare that was quite elitist. It had infant
massage every day. This place was very, very fancy. I don’t know how I
got a job there, but a lot of people wanted their kids in there, so to
be able to have my child go there was really, I thought, kind of a
We were glad to have it.
But, the problem was, they kept adjusting my hours, you know working the
latest shift that you could have. The place closed at six thirty, so I
was there until closing. Technically, I could see my son on all breaks,
but that was when he was sleeping. I would get home. He would fall
asleep on the commute. I never saw him. He was pretty much just there to
get me in the carpool lane back and forth.
It was really, really depressing.
Then on the weekends, he was just pretty much going through withdraw
from being in pretty much the most glorious daycare. I wasn’t happy
with my job. They wanted me to work more and more hours. Half my
paycheck was going into his daycare. I was getting a fifty percent
discount, but being such a fancy place, it was a very expensive program.
He started at four months and by the time he was eight months old, I quit.
It kind of all blew up in my face.
All of a sudden, I just couldn’t stand it anymore.
It was great to stay home but, to be honest, it was really hard because I
had to get to know this baby that really didn’t want to be with me. He
really wanted to be with the other people.
That was hard.
He did and it felt lousy.
They did baby sign with him there and I didn’t know what he was saying. I
had no idea what he wanted. I just really never got to spend that much
time with him, which was a terrible thing. He was my first child. I’d
been with other people’s children more than mine own as a newborn nanny.
That was hard.
It was so depressing and so I gained a little weight and then I finally
really had to get myself out there and start doing things, because that
It wasn’t really a big paycheck in the first place. It wasn’t like we
went through this monumental change. It was literally like if we
cancelled the diaper service and I washed diapers and we didn’t go out
to eat as much and I wasn’t really buying a lot of wardrobe… He (her
husband) always had a good enough job that he could have supported us.
We always knew it was coming. I don’t think we intended for it to come
And then I got pregnant again right away, so it worked out.
I’ve thought about going back and getting a different kind of degree. I
actually don’t have a degree, but getting it in just a completely
different field, getting a degree in nutrition because I got really into
eating healthy and stuff like that.
But it was just one of those things where it would have had to have been
after my youngest was out kindergarten before I could even start going
back. In reality, it’s really important for us to have somebody at home.
I was raised by a single mom without supervision and that was not a
good thing. When you think kids are more independent, that’s really,
really when I want to be home.
So I think we just kind of focused on having somebody here or, if I did
go back it would just kind of be a hobby. But we don’t really need it.
My husband’s a tightwad and I’m pretty much a hippy and those two things
actually can really work out well together. We’re pretty tight with
money, but I think it’s more that that’s how our lifestyle is.
Our lifestyle is unusual.
I make ninety percent of what we eat. We grow a lot of our own food. We
have goats. My husband is from Europe, so we still go back to Europe. He
doesn’t really have a big bling-bling job or anything like that, but we
are pretty tight with what we spend it on compared to other families.
He works in IT and he does well enough to support a family of five in
the city and everything. So I guess being at home really did put the
focus on living more of a natural life.
I don’t think my social life changed intensely. I stopped going out, but
I did that years before I had kids. I gave up my theater tickets. That
was pretty much the only big switch. It was hard to get my husband to
come home early, so I could go to the theater.
My husband, I think he likes it. He has somebody here. Somebody is
looking after the animals and somebody is with his kids. He really likes
that and I think it’s nice to come home and smell dinner.
My friends, I think they really think I lucked out. I mean, they know we
are not excruciatingly wealthy, but a lot of my friends were single
moms most of the time. Like I said, they’ve raised their kids already or
maybe they were working moms. I think they were not necessarily
jealous, but I think they definitely think I lucked out. I feel sad that
they missed out on everything that I have. I think it would have been
really nice for them to be able to stay home and have that kind of a
bond with their kids. I can imagine that some of them feel a little
remorseful because they just weren’t able to do that.
I came from a divorced family and I’ll tell you my parents have the
utmost respect for it. I was raised by a single mom. I think it’s really
healing for my parents to see—my husband and I have a very strong, very
loving marriage—to see us raising children in a way that my parents
weren’t able to do for whatever reason. I think it’s really good for
them. I guess I have a lot of admiration from my friends and my family
for that. I am very supported and I guess I’m just really lucky.
I’m really happy with it (her decision). Coming from a divorced family
and being raised by a single mom, my main goal as an adult was to have
children and be able to stay home with them. I didn’t suffer. It wasn’t
like I was beaten or anything like that. My mom worked very hard and
she’s a really good person. It’s just that, you know, she wasn’t home
and I really, really miss that. I’m just so grateful to be able to do
that, to stay home with my children.
My oldest, he is in kindergarten now and he had a cold and it was just a
cold and it was a slight fever, but I got to stay home with him. I was
so grateful to be able to do that. Whereas, when I was a kid you had to
be vomiting for my mom to be able to take a day off from work.
I’m very happy with the position I’m in.
I’m very happy about the life I lead.
I feel really good about it.
I don’t think I could be this happy about anything if I was working a job. It would never give me this kind of satisfaction.
His family? I think the hard part is that his older sister isn’t
married. She never married and she really would have been a wonderful
mother and she would never have children in her own or anything like
that. They are a different generation and from a different country and
you just don’t necessarily go out and adopt children on your own. There
is probably not a lot of hope in her marrying at this stage, which just
breaks my heart to even say.
His second sister doesn’t have any children either. She and her husband
have tried and tried for years and have gone through IVF, I think, four
times, They’ve been on an adoption waiting list for a few years now. You
can’t adopt Irish children. You have to go out of the country.
So I think that they see me as very blessed and I’m sure I do have a
good relationship with his family, but I would like to think that they
see me as being appreciative and grateful for what I have.
I would never, never complain about staying at home with the kids or
anything like that. Neither of them have children and I know they want
them. There are really not a lot of people I can bitch to about it. A
lot of my friends are going on the same boat as my husband’s sister.
They are going through IVF so you can’t really complain.
I don’t complain that much.
I do a lot to my husband.
Going out? I don’t know what to do by myself. I really don’t. My husband
will be like okay why don’t you go off and do something, and I don’t
have anything to do. I’ll say okay, I’ll just take so and so, one of the
kids, and he goes, don’t take one of the kids or it’s not time for
yourself. It’s really nice actually for me to have one-on-one. So I do
enjoy taking one of the kids. It’s nice to go with that one person and
talk to them. I don’t have like a gaggle of girlfriends just waiting for
I think it would be very presumptuous of me to tell everybody that they
should be Becky-Home-Eccy. I think there are some people out there who
are just meant to work and there’s nothing wrong with staying at work if
you really want to work. God knows, my OB is a mother and my
pediatrician has children in school. I would never judge someone for
But I think if you go to work and decide you would rather stay at home,
there’s a lot that you can do to do it. There are so many cutbacks and
things like that. So I think it’s nowhere near impossible. It’s how much
you’re willing to give up. Just find your own groove and find something
that works and stick with it.
Motherhood truly softened me.
Like an emery board, it just sort of smoothed out the rough edges.
I can’t remember who my mentor was before, but now it’s Mr. Rogers.