The On-Ramp to Off-Ramp: Mapping It All Out In Your Direction to become a Homemaker
Are you ready to become a full-time homemaker? Taking a road trip can either bring visions of the salt life ahead or the wild deer-in-the-headlights type of frantic stare for most travelers. Everyone needs some R&R on a frequent basis. YOU need some R&R right now, don’t you? Especially when life in the fast lane of busy careers, parenting, social obligations and everyday life becomes more like speeding on the German Autobahn. It is very important for you to have work-life balance. Many times this balancing act seems more like an audition for the next performance of Cirque de Soliel.
“You can have it all, just not all at once…”
You were dutifully groomed by Mom and Dad to “get good grades, go to college, get a good (government) job and find a nice guy to marry.” Suddenly, you now feel that your American dream of having it all has become a nightmare. As my dear friend Mary Griffin reminds me, “You can have it all, just not all at once.” This idea of You as superwoman bringing home the bacon, frying it, feeding the family, PLUS cleaning the pan and doing it all again the next day, has become TOO MUCH! Now your biological clock is TICKING LOUDER AND LOUDER. Mom’s constant nagging about her future grandchildren is a deafening reminder that time is of the essence. TICK TOCK!
Taking the “Off-Ramp” to On-Ramp at Home Instead
According to the Pew Research Center, nearly 60% of professional women with advanced degrees who are caught between a rock and a hard place (excuse the pun), are now deciding to “off-ramp” or exit their career path to raise a family or care for an aging parent or both. I know, this is a very difficult and stressful decision for YOU to make. Returning to your former career life will be probably be dust in the wind. Once you change lanes to enter the on-ramp to “off-ramp”, could be a one-way street or worse, a dead-end street? The traditional path for you: take maternity leave, find a good day-care provider for your newborn. Then return to your workplace after about six to eight weeks of leave. The new world of navigating an infant carrier, stroller, diaper bag, laptop and work tote bag for YOU proves to be child’s play. But yet, at times the thought of leaving your sweet baby in the care of anyone is unfathomable.
The traditional path for you: take maternity leave, find a good day-care provider for your newborn. Then return to your workplace after about six to eight weeks of leave. The new world of navigating an infant carrier, stroller, diaper bag, laptop and work tote bag for YOU proves to be child’s play. But yet, at times the thought of leaving your sweet baby in the care of anyone is unfathomable. You make the difficult choice of submitting your resignation letter in order to stay home and raise your family.
The Tunnel of Parenthood: The First Five Years
As a first-time parent, you are unaware that you are entering the dark “Tunnel of Parenthood: The First Five Years.” This is the season of you parenting children under the age of five. Your life becomes a blur and it seems like the emergency flashers blink on and off forever. Meanwhile, you can barely blink your own eyes for the life of you. And just when you are mentally ready for a tune-up at year five, the battery life is recharged and the youngster is ready for Kindergarten. It is at this point where you have yet another major decision to make at this fork in the road, “Do I return to work now? Or start the process over and give the child a sibling?”
It is at this point where you have yet another major decision to make at this fork in the road, “Do I return to work now? Or start the process over and give the child a sibling?” And with each subsequent pregnancy, you hit the reset button and the journey back into the Tunnel begins again…
My Journey in the Tunnel…
As I write this blog piece, I have completed one round-trip through the tunnel, and by the year’s end, my life odometer will read two complete round trips and the halfway mark through the third tunnel adventure. With a combined parenting experience, I have nearly 16 years worth of combined memories on this road trip of life. I would like to offer you some of my observations and some words of wisdom. The wisdom that I wished had been imparted to me either as a pre-departure checklist or during a pit-stop of life.
Pregnancy Pitstop or Rest-Area Ramp for a Homemaker?
As an avid reader, I may devour five to ten books a week. When I am on a good reading clip, I absorb every idea and every life lesson, like a sponge. But nothing, and I mean nothing, not even the classic pregnancy book, “What to Expect When You Are Expecting,” could have prepared me for my customized pregnancy experience. I was aware that post-natal a newborn bonds with its mother through breastfeeding through the release of hormones including oxytocin. But I was not aware of the profound, I mean P R O F O U N D experience of the bonding of mother and child in utero.
The chemical, mental and physical changes indelibly marked my DNA with motherhood and almost overnight, I told my husband that I would not be returning to my career post birth and that he could not make me return. There was no way that I was going to be separated from this child. We would eat cereal or macaroni and cheese every night for dinner if that’s what it would take financially for me to stay home with my baby. I was not prepared for hitting the breaks on my career and parking the car in the garage at home after earning my Masters and enduring a grueling three-hour Thesis defense. This was not on the travel itinerary. Yet, here I was unpacking my professional awards, certificates and framed degrees to hang not on the office wall but on the walls of my house. I was earning my lifetime achievement award as a new homemaker.
As a former flight attendant for Continental Airlines, Inc., I had the opportunity to travel to 11% of the world (according to an online calculator). My seed for my love of travel was planted as a little girl. We would take the bi-annual trek from Florida to Maryland on I-95 to see my Nana and extended family. My parents would pack the cooler and the mini black and white television in our Dodge Conversion Van. We would hit the road and I loved every minute of it. I enjoyed the sites and sounds of people watching and looking for rare license plates on every make and model of vehicle on the road. When I became a flight attendant, the sense of freedom to explore new cultures and cuisine and experience the locales that I read about in history books was fascinating.
“I was pulled over by the life police to move out of the fast lane and park the car.”
Once I took the career off-ramp and downgraded to a one-income household, I was pulled over by the life police to move out of the fast lane and park the car. I didn’t know it at the time, but the feel of exhilaration of being in the driver’s seat of my life was about to crash into a lost and obscure vision for my life. Now a Wife and a Mom! Both of these roles had significant meaning. But my identity as a career woman had vanished into the dark night of winter. I had blindly entered the “Tunnel of Parenthood.”
Even with making nearly two roundtrips into this dark place of solitude, I still could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had tunnel-vision of depression and was running on empty and my engine was beginning to corrode. How could this happen to me? I was always about preventative maintenance of one’s physical, emotional and spiritual self. How did I get this far to feel like I was now a pile of rusted metal sitting in a junkyard of my own decisions? It wasn’t until after reading my own owner’s manual, that I realized it was time for a tune-up of my self-esteem and to map out a new plan of direction for my life. Why was being a homemaker so hard?!?
Don’t get me wrong, I love being a parent three times over, but I had lost my way, my sense of identity, my goals, my bucket list, my self-esteem — my roadmap to peace.
A Roadmap to Being a Stay-at-Homemaker
Do you need a roadmap to exit the career ramp and enter the driveway of your home and life? You are about to meet many mothers who have taken this path of motherhood and homemaking. Just like you, many are lost in the tunnel. You need to update your LIFE GPS with the latest technology. Are you ready to UPGRADE your thought processing to a custom – made model? One that will showcase your unique life!
Are You Lost on one of these Homemaker Three Highways of Life?
To which of these three paths do you find yourself?
(1) Are you aware of your lost vision of life? Do you want to change course but are unable to merge your life situation into the right lane?
Mom, do you fall into the first category? Are aware of your lost vision of life? Do you want to change course but are unable to merge your life situation into the right lane? Are driving in a construction zone with “Men At Work” signs posted and get pulled over for unsafe driving? You know these obstacles. These obstacles include:
- Lack of physical energy
- Lack of childcare
- Lack of transportation
- Lack of spousal support to return to work
- Weak or non-existent support system
- Unavailable resources to assist life ( e.g. living in a rural area, no family living nearby)
- Limited finances to restart the process of returning to work ( buy a new wardrobe; professional fees; lack of flexibility in work hours/location; interview process, child(ren)’s school schedule; spouse’s work schedule, etc.)
(2) You are aware of their lost vision and you do not mind if you are parked on the shoulder of the road.
If you fall into this second category, you are aware of your lost vision and do not mind if you are parked on the shoulder of the road. The road becomes a permanent Rest Stop. You decide to chill out here as a homemaker, until if and when, you decide to put the key back in the ignition.
(3) What vision? What path? You are not even aware that you have lost your vision. Warning! Warning! You are driving with no lights on and into oncoming traffic!
If you are here, then you are so caught up with the day-to-day activities of life, that time literally just passes right by you.
- You are in denial of the lost glory years. The glorious life of a homemaker. The years when your car had that new car scent of leather seats. You settle down into the cares of child rearing, marital responsibilities and stress from all areas of life
- You have come to terms with the reality of not returning to the workforce and are content with the road less traveled.
Choosing one’s path in life can be challenging. Especially if you are a career woman considering being a homemaker. Being a homemaker is not for the faint of heart. You are a brave woman to embark on this journey. You have made it this far on the road of life and thus you will continue on this journey as a parent for a lifetime. It is hard, painful, rocky and bumpy. Some days you will feel like you are riding in the wind, with the top down on your convertible! This path is for you. You are an amazing woman!