I Never Planned to Be a Stay At Home Mom

If you would have asked me all the possibilities of my future… I wouldn’t, in a million guesses, have guessed a stint as a stay-at-home mom would be part of it.

First, before the haters come after me, I must qualify that I have never seen anything wrong with being a stay at home mom.  My mom stayed home with us and I loved that as a kid.  She was a great role model and I’m proud of her and the way she raised us and cared for our home.  I have all the respect in the world for both choice and circumstance stay at home moms.  It just was never the path I imagined for myself…kind of like I never imagined myself as an astronaut.

Maybe it’s because I was the only girl in the family, or maybe it’s just innate, but I’ve always seen myself in leadership, or what was more traditionally considered masculine, roles.  In Kindergarten, I remember taking a field trip to the hospital.  At the beginning of the tour, each child was able to choose a doctor’s hat or a nurse’s hat for the tour.  With only one exception, every girl chose nurse and every boy chose doctor. I was the exception.  I was the sole female doctor and until my teacher, Mrs. B, pulled me aside to commend me on being brave enough to make my own choice, I didn’t even think anything of it.  I wanted to be the doctor, so that’s what I chose (I’m both proud as hell and often exasperated that Kellen inherited this same independent-minded spirit).

When I was six, our family took a trip to New York City.  I fell in love and knew I was going there.  The image I had in my head was of me in my business suit walking down the sidewalks of busy Manhatten with a briefcase in hand and going to my important office job in one of the towering buildings.  I never really had a princess stage.  No fluff, just streamlined silhoettes…like business suits.  It was the early 80’s so I’m sure the suit in my head had some fabulous shoulder pads.

Or maybe it was the 90’s version…


I mean seriously, even in the 90’s who had their grad pictures taken in a business suit?  It’s probably the last time I enjoyed wearing a business suit!

In part, I wonder if I never imagined myself as a home-maker (or nurse or admin or insert any other stereotypical feminine role here) because I knew I’d stink at it.  When I think of the skills and traits that I imagined were important for a stay at home mom, I don’t excel at any of them.

  • Nuturing and snuggly:  I have a bad habit of laughing when people fall and hurt themselves.
  • Enjoys spending time with kids:  Truth?  Not really.  At least not 24/7.  Kids crack me up and are a lot of fun, but my patience with repeating myself is kind of extremely low.
  • A green thumb:  I can barely keep a plastic plant alive
  • Enjoys arts and crafts:  I like sewing, but not as an art-form, if that makes sense.  I like the idea of art, but my brain isn’t creative in the artistic way.
  • Home decorator:  I think it took 5 years before I got all the pictures on the walls in our house.
  • Cooking:  Hate it and stink at it.  Kyle still does most of it in our house.  When I do it, we sometimes are pretty hungry at the end of the meal.
  • Clean:  I grew up in a house of neat freaks.  I was the outlier.  I do not like dirt.  But I’m lazy about picking up… To this day, I don’t make my bed and clothes are often strewn on the floor of the bedroom.  That is, until I get mad about something or I’m avoiding something, and then I go into a cleaning frenzy and nobody is welcome to talk to me until you can eat off the floors, counters, sinks and toilets.

Truth be told, since I quit working and focused pretended to focus my energy on the home, it’s gone into a shambles.  I look around it feels like a tornado (particularly two strawberry blonde F8s) have come through and the city decided it wasn’t an area worth revitalizing.  (Seriously, why clean when you get one room done and it’s dirty again before you finish the next.  I know futile efforts when I see them…that is, unless I’m in the frenzied “zone”).

It’s Kyle who takes the brunt of my SAHM mom inadequacies.  He knew when he married me that I’d never make a good housewife.  If that’s what he wanted, he would have stayed far, far away from me.  I think he actually pities me a little.  It’s like taking a hibiscus and expecting it to thrive in the desert (or any plant and expect it to make it a week under my care).  Thankfully, he loves me and he probably has to remind himself daily that it’s temporary.

We are also pretty honest with ourselves that, even though I am at home, the house falls pretty far down on my list of priorities.  My job is to manage Owen’s health and development and, without trying to brag, I’m really good at it.

  • A strength of mine is talking to experts about really complicated systems and then simplifying them for everyone else to understand.  I don’t get overwhelmed by the realities of the below picture and I intuitively understand how each area affects the others.  I have zero interest or skill in biology.  This is just the way my brain works.  In the past, I’ve used the skill to understand food manufacturing systems, apparel construction and multi-million dollar marketing campaigns.  Today, I use it to understand a 23 pound little boy, who by even doctor’s standards, is pretty complex.20130619-152032.jpg
  • I’m also really good at setting goals and helping the team develop strategies to achieve them.  In my opinion, Owen’s doctors and therapist are consultants.  I’m the decision maker and it’s my job to accept or reject their recommendations.  That probably sounds cocky, but I call that advocating and trusting that I know Owen best.  They are subject matter experts, I’m the big picture, Owen, expert.
  • I’m also good at communicating and understand what pieces of information are important to which care provider  (we are down to 7 specialist, 8 therapist, a pediatrician, a respiratory therapist and lots of nurses).  I keep everyone in the loop and let them know specifically where I’m looking for help.  I make the most of each visit; I feel lucky to have really good providers on Owen’s team, but I also realize that it’s my job to help them do their job well.

I know, without a doubt, that I deserve an F grade in my home-making skills, and some days…especially over the last month, I beat myself up for it.  And by beat myself up, I don’t mean I take action…I get so overwhelmed by how bad I am at it that I curl up in bed and get lost in a crappy romance novel instead of dealing with the reality in front of me.  Many days, I feel like I’m out of my element and am completely scattered brained.

And then I take Owen to an appointment and my head clears and I recognize me again.  It’s in those moments, that I realize that I’m Owen’s mom for a reason and that just behind God and Owen’s natural drive, I know that I’ve played an important part of how well he’s doing today.

I take pride in knowing that I helped make this transformation possible:


Maybe in many ways I suck at being a stay at home mom…but, in this case, I know I am the best woman for the job.  I think the six-year-old me who dreamed of business suits and important business jobs in her future would be proud of where she is today…no business suit (or shoulder pads) required.


© Copyright Tatum, All rights Reserved. Written For: Ain't No Roller Coaster

20 thoughts on “I Never Planned to Be a Stay At Home Mom

    • I think there needs to be a cleaning service that supports those of us who are unexepctedly at home…and very, very lost around the kitchen and cleaning tools. Maybe that’s a non-profit we could start!

  1. Love it! I too was a career girl. I figured I would stay home until the younger one started kindergarten. Said child is starting high school in the fall and I’m not going anywhere. Face it, after school special needs care is almost non-existent. I suspect Kyle thinks you are doing a pretty good job because #1 is the kids, #2 is the hubby (sometimes those get to swap places), and then there are all sorts of other things like managing the medical insurance (or lack there of), the schedules and the shopping — and all of those are just as important (or more so) than a house where you can eat off the floor (not that it stops my special needs kiddo, but that is another story!) And the trashy romances are my sanity saver at times, too! You go, lady!!

    • Thanks for the comment and the FB follow, Julie! I’m so happy to hear someone else loves a good trash novel here and there.

      You lay out the struggles of balancing time when you child has the extra complexity of a special needs child, on top of everything else. I do still hope that I find a way to get the balance right, where I can work outside the home some too, but only time will tell if/when that day will come.

  2. But when you think about it – you did become that doctor. And there is a business suit needed. It’s the button down shirt for kangaroo care in the NICU. It’s the stained sweats during the early months at home. It’s the no-nonsense attitude when you speak with your sons’ doctors and teachers – about the best course of action and what’s next.

    And let’s face it – being a BoyMom, they’re gonna LOVE the fact you can blow stuff up in the kitchen. (Or is that just my family who knows that when Mom’s cooking, the fire alarm means dinner’s ready…)

    • Was i supposed to stop wearing those stained sweatpants after the first six months?

      I promise you this – when we do a preemie mom gathering, there will be no cooking. Just good old fashion wine drinking.

  3. You are describing me to a tee! But I agree with Tricia being a mom of an ex micropreemie means being doctor, nurse, therapist, accountant, project manager…. You’re dong it all! And in the end Owen or you for that matter won’t remember how neat your house was but how well you took care of your family.

    • Thank you for the pep talk – it’s so needed sometimes. Also thanks for reminding me why i’m suddenly needing two caffeinated beverages a day.

  4. We were besties back then, I remember the New York plan and loved Ms B. It is crazy how things change. So far away, haven’t seen u in…forever. But I loved u then and I love reading your posts and see the wonderful woman/mommy you have become! Keep up the great JOB….Dr Tatum!

    • Thanks, Jenny – and i can call you jenny because I have known you since you used to wake me up by staring at me when you come over while your mom worked at Usemco – hopefully your next trip to MN, will work better to see each other. Social media makes me feel like we never moved apart.

      • Thx. I sure hope so too. Not sure when our next trip to MN will be. I might add..I remember you laughing at me quite often when I learned to do cartwheels! Good to hear that hasn’t changed either. Ha!

  5. Awww. Sweet. I wanted to wear business suits and work in NY. I live in a small town in Oregon and wouldn’t change places with anyone else right now. In fact, our town is so small, two stoplights were put in just a few years ago. I think you are right! You are the right person for this job. Pat yourself on the back. You deserve it. And maybe a raise, too.

    • Oh, man, can you tell me how to go about that raise?

      I never did make it to NY either, but until I had Owen I visited a couple times a year, so I’m hoping to returning sometime soon…well, relatively soon.

  6. I totally totally feel you on this! I love my daughter to pieces but I am not cut out for the mum gig at all. I have naturally low patience and energy levels, I LOVE going to work and using my brain and abilities to earn my own keep, and my favourite things in the world include reading books, cups of tea and silence. I am absolutely useless on the domestic front and our house is a freaking pigsty. I HATE kids programmes and playing with playdough is so darn boring!

    Every day I think to myself – I am not cut out for this. But every day she cuddles me and loves me and needs me and I know that I’ll just keep doing my best anyway because she’s worth it.

    • Oh, Mummy Em, you just made me sentimental (it comes out on occasion). You summed everything I was trying to say into just a couple paragraphs. Well said and thank you for sharing!

  7. I always feel like you blog about the things I am struggling with the most at that time. I hope you know how much of an inspiration you are. I recently went to part time at work (mainly because we have to have the medical insurance or I would have quit altogether .) I have felt very torn because I have always valued my career as who I was. I would have never guessed caring for a little man would be my top priority. I do struggle with not feeling a value within myself, I suppose because my entire identity has changed over the course of one year. I now run the corporation of one special needs child and he brings me so much joy. I know I should focus on his health and knowing I play the biggest role in his life. I stink at the house stuff too 🙂 but fortunately I am blessed with my sister who has her own cleaning business. My house still looks like a tornado hit most of the time but at least the major stuff is clean. You are doing a wonderful “job” as a stay at home mom and advocate for your sweet boys!

    • Thank you, Mandy, Your words mean more than I can say.

      it is such a hard balance isn’t it. When you’re working you feel like you should be with your kids, when you’re with your kids you feel like you should be working. I felt that with Kellen too, so I don’t think it’s just a special needs thing…parenting is hard and beautiful because of the sacrifices it involves.

      PS – does your sister come to my neighborhood?

  8. I wish you could dispatch some of that clarity my way. I’ve been smothered in doctors meetings and today’s IEP is not a meeting that will bring out the business savvy in me. It’s not that I’m a foodie either. But I’d totally swap meal planning for meeting with you!


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