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My Journey As A Stay-At-Home Mom

Six kids and 25 years later, it's my time.​

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Illustration of the front of  a home and mom coming down the stairs
Maya Ish-Shalom
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It’s official! After almost 25 years of being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), raising five biological children and a bonus child we just sent off to college (my nephew), I’ve finally given my notice that I have retired. There was no fanfare, gifts or even a thank-you note for my time or service like most other CEOs receive, just me leaving with a new lease on life and a reconnection to me.

I didn’t initially choose to embark on this journey as a SAHM, but sometimes, as women, we take the route our partners believe is best and end up getting lost in the distinction between being a woman, a wife and a mom. Early on I was independent to the core with high standards and expectations, never afraid to go out and carve my niche in the world. I started working when I was just 14, and by the time I was 16 I was working two jobs. I always had my own money, wanted the best things that life had to offer and had no problem going after the lifestyle I wanted to become accustomed to, which certainly didn’t include having someone take care of me.

By my late 20s, I was married with three small children. I was dissatisfied with my job managing patient accounts in a finance department and was looking for more fulfillment in my life when my husband suggested I could find it while staying home and raising the kids. As a teen, I watched my mother cater to me, my siblings and my father, placing herself last — at least in my mind — to the point of being an afterthought. I’d sworn up and down that I would never be her or allow myself to be in the same misunderstood position, but I conceded.

For the most part, it’s a thankless job and definitely not a glamorous life. There’s no pay, no sick leave, no promotions or accolades — just patience, sacrifice, commitment and dedication. My identity? Well, that was lost a long time ago, tucked somewhere between the folds of diapers and sheets. It slowly chipped away each year until I was just someone else’s daughter, sister, wife and mother and not that ambitious, take-on-the-world person I’d envisioned myself being.

I overextended myself so much to my own detriment and, as a result, lost the essence of who I thought I was and truly wanted to be. What do you do when your existence is immersed, intertwined or interwoven into the fabric of your family’s life? But I eventually came to realize that SAHMs are behind the scenes as the architectural matriarchs who carefully and lovingly construct the foundations of our family legacies and outward successes.

When it comes to discussions about SAHMs, however, African-American women are not often on the radar. We’re overlooked as the heroines and trailblazers of our families in contrast to the mainstream portrayals of our white counterparts who are often praised as homemakers. Stereotypically, a white mother is presupposed to have a husband who is working while she controls the household as a homemaker, but a black mother at home is assumed to be lazy, a welfare queen supported by the government. The truth of the matter is, working outside of the home or not, African-American women have historically been the backbone of the family structure for us and them.

Even though I was the primary nurturer and caretaker who had a front-row seat for every eventful step and participated in my family’s dress rehearsals for life, things have come around full circle. It’s time to move on to the next act and cut the cords I’ve been holding onto. I never surrendered my own dreams, goals and aspirations, and I’m embarking on my new journey of redefining myself and reclaiming me, which includes using my maiden name and dropping my husband’s name (without dropping him).

While being a SAHM, I mastered many talents, skills and professions. I was able to build one helluva dynamic resume and acquired titles along the way: CEO, teacher, spiritual advisor, caretaker, mediator, chef, organizer, therapist. Since I’ve already been everyone’s go-to person for advice, I decided to implement some of the skills I’ve mastered and became a life coach. With faith as my safety net, I’m armed with my many honorary degrees from life’s lessons. I didn’t walk away with a gold watch or any other standard retirement gift, but I did gain my sense of fulfillment. My theme song for the next act is Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” because truly, it’s all in me.