Yvette Manessis Corporon: I never knew what I was missing. How could I, a committed career woman, have any idea?
Carpools and class parties were for other moms, the ones who stayed home, the ones who dropped their kids off at school and then played tennis all day. I wasn't like them. I had important meetings to attend and stories to write and deals to make. I had an identity outside of the home and a career I had meticulously cultivated. Of course I loved my kids and they came first -- but I also loved having my own identity, a purpose outside the home. I always thought I did a pretty good job of balancing it all. And then it happened -- the recession, that is.
Like countless other Americans, I saw my work situation change overnight. Instead of working full-time and full steam ahead, I'm now working part-time -- less time spent in the office and more time spent at home, shuttling my kids to playdates and parties. I have to admit, I never fully understood the importance of school drop-offs and pickups until I actually started doing them on a daily basis. Now that I've seen my son flash his precious preschool smile the second he spots me in the car line, or listened, mesmerized, as my 8-year-old shares the intimate details of her day over an after-school snack -- there's no going back. I always made it to the big events, special days like recitals and school plays, but I never understood the beauty and value of those small moments, the moments I missed out on all those years while I was working. And I'm not alone.
The numbers are staggering, as well as scary. There are 14.5 million unemployed people in the U.S. 9.4% of Americans are out of work. Among them, millions of formerly working moms now find themselves taking on a daunting and quite foreign role: that of stay-at-home mother.
A funny thing happened on the way to the unemployment office; many of these moms lost their jobs but rediscovered their children in the process.
Wendy Lehman is an award-winning journalist who loves what she does and never once considered life as a stay-at-home mom. Since she became a mother three years ago, Wendy managed to nurture her son, Nicholas, as well as her career. But this past December, Wendy's show at BusinessWeek TV was canceled and she found herself at home caring for Nicholas full-time. Now this hard-charging journalist says she would be hard pressed to go back to her old way of life. "I am a little surprised at how much I enjoy staying home," Wendy tells momlogic. "I definitely thought I would experience a big sense of 'who am I?' The cliche of losing my identity. But what I discovered is that 'Mom' is a huge part of my identity. In fact, equal to my career."
But that's not all. For Wendy, and so many other first-time stay-at-home moms, the opportunity to finally focus completely on our families can be more valuable than even the paychecks we've lost in the process. Wendy explains: "I also can't quantify how amazing it is to spend this much time with my son. Having been both a 'working' mom and a 'stay-at-home' mom, I can honestly say they are both equally difficult and exhausting. But staying at home allows me to be less divided emotionally and that is satisfying for both Nicky and myself (and my husband!)."
Linda Mautone agrees. After 14 years, the mother of two was recently laid off from her fashion industry job. While facing unemployment can be daunting, Linda and her family have found that it can also have its benefits. "My husband loves it. We aren't juggling our schedules anymore. The stress in our lives has been reduced. It is a calming and more spiritual family existence we now share." And while Linda is open to returning to work, this experience has had an indelible impact on the roles she wishes to play, both at home and at the office. "If I decide to go back into the workplace, I definitely won't return to a management position. I want to focus solely on my family," she says.
We all know that these are challenging and difficult times. There's no great joy in losing your livelihood, especially when you have little mouths to feed. But even in these dark times, there are still lessons to be learned and beautiful glimmers of hope to be discovered. For me and so many other moms, that hope can be found in the faces of our children: in their giggles, in their smiles, and in the priceless and unexpected moments we suddenly find ourselves sharing. One day, hopefully soon, the economy will turn around and the workplace will need us once again. We'll get our careers back, but not this time we have with our children. Yes, these are scary times -- but it's also time to reflect, reconnect, and rediscover the gift called motherhood.
|Yvette Manessis Corporon is an Emmy award-winning writer and producer. She is also the co-author of "Peeing in Peace: Tales and Tips for Type A Moms." Yvette lives in New York with her husband and two children.|