As a Career Coach, I often find myself on the phone with clients discussing promotions that come with a title change and more responsibility but no increase in pay or benefits. While it always feels good at first to be acknowledged one way or another by your peers and management, who wants to take on more work for the same salary?
If I’m being honest, this is kind of how I felt when I became an Unintentional SAHM (affectionate abbreviation for Stay at Home Mom).
Before March 13, 2020, I woke up each day as a Working Mother, Coach and Entrepreneur. My mornings consisted of packing my daughter’s lunch and a ridiculous number of snacks in case my small child for some reason became stranded on a desert island during the school day, throwing some clothes on to look semi-presentable in front of teachers and other parents at drop off, and shuffling us out the door to head to school.
Once I said, “Good day, sir!” to my daughter and left the double doors of academia (fine, daycare) after drop off, I often switched on a podcast to get my mind ready to take on the workday. I mixed it up between career coaching conversations, entrepreneurial success stories, and inside scoops on Bachelor nation. My mind works in mysterious ways.
As I pulled into my driveway, I would feel the shift in energy. I was free to make progress throughout the day as I saw fit. My time was almost all my own. Between client calls, taking breaks as I wanted, accomplishing home-related tasks, and having the space to envision business models and growth trajectories, I did not take working, from home, ALONE, for granted. I relished in it.
And, on that fateful Friday in March, I picked my daughter up from school after buying enough groceries to qualify for Hoarders, to never bring her back to the place and teachers that had given us so much leading up to Pre-K.
She was now home. With me and my husband. All day. All the time. And, to my surprise, I loved it.
My former 9-5 (sometimes 8-6, or 9-5 and 8-11, or 24/7) working self would have sworn up and down until she was blue in the face that she could never ever ever ever be a SAHM. She’d go crazy. She needed to work. She loved helping others (read: adults), solving puzzles, building something from scratch. It gave her purpose and energy and worth.
My title change, effective immediately, with no one to backfill my other roles, felt like a huge promotion in responsibility at first, with very little (I’m being kind) increase in pay. I was making a million more meals. I had to be “on” all day. My new boss required me to use the bathroom with the door open and be available to untie knots at a moment’s notice. She also needed me to spell EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. that ever was.
As the days unfolded, though, I felt my compensation rising to the level of my responsibility. My heart (or “bank account” if we’re sticking with the comparison) swelled. It was the richest I felt in years. The quality time at home with my daughter and husband helped me shred the stressors of working and, probably for the first time ever, process taking things in stride. I had no plan. I had no list. I just was. In every moment, I was focused on family. My work could and did wait.
You see, while I certainly am not being paid in dollars to be a SAHM, I get to help someone thrive, I am constantly solving problems and putting out fires, and I am contributing to building an amazing little human all day long. It’s my greatest challenge to date and most fulfilling one. [Note to self: update resume and LinkedIn profile to showcase new accomplishments. Oh, and forever applaud SAHMs.]
As we start to get back to “normal” life, I recognize my new title is likely an interim one. It’s a role I’ll look back fondly on. Yes, I’m looking forward to working in other capacities again, but when I’m caught up in a complicated coaching session or find myself unable to sleep because of a new launch plan, I’ll remind myself of the Summer of SAHM. The months where I got to experience something I never thought I would. And it made me stronger, smarter, and wealthier than ever.