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A Woman's Choice: The Right to Stay at Home

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Over the last fourteen years, I've been a working mom, a SAHM and a work-from-home mom and business owner in my motherhood journey. Because I am college-educated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and worked as a Corporate Trainer for a Fortune 500 company, the reaction of relatives and strangers regarding coming home to parent has been interesting. Friends and family would all ask me, "What is a smart girl like you doing home?" "Are you kidding me?", I used to respond, "talent and being a stay-at-home mom are not distant cousins."

Over on Yahoo Voices, Karen Cook states:

Stay-At-Home-Mom statistics surprise CBS viewers! When it was reported on May 10, 2007 that fewer women were returning to work after becoming mothers, eyebrows raised from coast to coast. Why? The stats were on women who had chosen to give up "high-powered jobs" to become full-time, stay-at-home moms. "How can this be?" Americans wondered and puzzled. Giving up huge salaries in the "real world" to stay at home? After all the well-earned degrees and struggle to compete in the corporate world? Are they crazy?

When I made the decision to stay at home with my children, I did not consider or care about what anyone thought about my decision to be the kind of mother that I wanted to be. My mother stayed home with us while I was growing up and she provided me with amazing memories as well as an image of the benefits of being a stay-at-home mom. I never considered for one second that I would have to prove my worth and background to others because I decided to read stories to my children, go to the playground or spend time as a host of gymnastics or mom and me programs with my children. It was my choice. It was right. It was my preference.

Isn't it true that at some point in motherhood, all mothers are SAHMs? Some might come home for three weeks after delivering their newborns while others stay home for years, but the idea that all you knew before you became a stay-at-home mom is of no value to the current marketplace is ridiculous. For me, I found the time at home was a great opportunity to renegotiate my life, priorities and choices. In many ways, going back to the playground allowed me to rest the girl that had worked so hard and pushed so much to make it. It allowed me to reevaluate "What Good Looked Like for Me" and gave me the opportunity to get off of the roller coaster of "should" and "ought." My path was not always clear, but I was as happy as I could be with my choice. Yes, my family benefited, but so did I.

I used my time at home to love my children, grow my life and design a new plan for me. This plan included my values and the highest, best use of my talent as well as hours that allowed me to show up for the things that mattered most to me. I never saw being at home as a death sentence, but instead as a chance to start anew when I was ready to transition into the workplace. I used the time I had at home to get clear about the type of support that I really needed in my life. I built solid relationships with women that shared my values of family and fun. I took classes in real estate, coaching and culinary arts to explore my highest passion without feeling that I had to choose anything but experience the freedom of choice.

I knew that going back to work for me would mean that I would have it all, which, for me, meant that I would do work that I loved that allowed me to love my family in the way that I choose. My plan was simple: When my youngest child turned 5 and entered kindergarten I would be back to work full-time in some way. For me, that meant starting several businesses which allowed me the opportunity to do work that I love as a coach to mothers, write three books about the importance of self-care in motherhood and host tons of national Time for Mom-me groups around the country while maintaining a schedule to be available to my family. At the same time, I invested in a business with my husband that we both love and enjoy that allows both of us the freedom to stay at home to be with our family.

If you are at home, you will know when it is the right time for you to make the transition to work or business. Our society can be so cruel to stay-at-home moms, what with the subtle references that our contributions are meaningless to anyone working outside of the home. Or, at the annual husband cocktail parties, insisting you have nothing to whine about, because what are you really doing but chasing a toddler around the house? I will tell you that the moment you get clear on why you are home, and not in a defensive way, but from a perspective that allows you to be comfortable with your choice without feeling the need to explain yourself and become clear about the benefits for you of being home, then the hecklers won't sound so loud. Many moms would love the opportunity to be at home with their families, but their lives haven't yet permitted this transition because of lack of money and the cost of childcare. According to Bankrate.com, if you total every expense from child care and health care to groceries and recreation, the first 18 years of a child's life can cost a small fortune -- $190,528, to be exact. Child care alone can cost around $4,300 a year for one child.

Are you a stay-at-home mom? What kind of reaction did you get from family and friends?