I typed up a detailed response but it disappeared as so often happens on this site. Ugh! Anyway, some things to note. I find that this site has more working moms and non-moms than SAHMs and threads on this topic usually turn into a pile-up guilt-tripping stay at home moms, or women contemplating the idea of being one. If his thread starts derailing into infighting, be prepared to close it.
Anyway, here’s my take. I’ve done both. When I had my first I had been on bedrest the duration of the pregnancy due to unexpected complications. Jumping into a job after that seemed unrealistic and not anything I was interested in at that time. I had suffered for nine months to bring that baby into the world and I was going to enjoy some time with him for a while. After a wake up call about how expensive daycare is, my husband supported me without question. I loved my time with my son! When he was seven months old I began teaching at home during his nap time and I loved the balance. He had a very consistent sleep schedule so I could schedule appointments back to back during his nap time. I was a private instructor for home schooled students, specializing in severe learning disabilities. I maintained that schedule with my son for three and a half years until my second son was born. Then the phone started ringing off the hook. He was six days old when the high school called me to ask me to teach a segment of their SAT course and tutor two students who needed assistance to pass the competency exam. Then parent-to-parent referrals also started bombarding me. My mother-in-law had just retired and was available and happy to watch my two sons, so that worked out. I jumped into work when my son was four weeks old. It was exhausting. He wasn’t sleeping properly at night so that was also miserable. But at the same time, it was partly why I was willing to increase my daytime work hours because I was up all night with him and I needed a chance to breathe.
With my first son I had the “separation anxiety” you mentioned. It was nothing to panic about and I think the dwelling on it that has been mentioned already in this thread is really overreacting. My son was used to being with me, and I was used to being the one to care for him. I did leave him with my husband to do errands. I found it frustrating to take my baby with me sometimes. Just awkward, you know? And we did date nights every Friday. Sure I felt nervous sometimes about leaving him. Normal. But I left him in the care of my mother-in-law because I needed the time away and the time with my husband.
I worked more and more in the years after my second baby. With my third, referrals were still pouring in. I went back to work when she was three weeks old. She slept through the night by seven days old. (Miracle!) But my second still wasn’t and didn’t for years. I was more and more exhausted and it really affected my ability to enjoy my children. Finally, I’d had enough. I had health issues which included depression and anxiety. Overloading myself was not helping anyone. As my students graduated out, I didn’t take new ones on. And eventually my last two graduated and I stopped working altogether. My body and mind needed a rest.
Having seen childrearing from every angle, I support working moms and stay at home moms. I will say–it is not the same experience at all. Being a stay at home mother is hard work and people who belittle it have no idea what they are talking about. My oldest son is so much calmer, focused, responsive and has a better attention span than his siblings. I raised him technology free for the first few years for his brain development. No regrets. He has always been able to self-soothe, self entertain. My other two got exposed to technology earlier…ugh. That’s another topic. In any case, my son’s maturity and calm manner, his confidence in interacting with peers and adults, with great problem solving skills my husband and I both feel are owing to the personalized attention he got from me during those first three and a half years before his brother was born. Being a stay at home mom doesn’t mean “doting” on our kids or spoiling them. It means we personally oversee the values we want to instill in them. Patience, respect of others’ needs, and being independent were things I emphasized with them. But he never had to fight to be heard either. I also took care of his pre-k education. All three of my kids were ahead of their class when they started kindergarten. I arranged play time/friendship opportunities for my kids.
Looking back, I can honestly say that the three years I spent with my firstborn as a stay at home mom were the most precious, most wonderful years of my life. I turn to those memories frequently and nothing compares. So precious….. I also enjoyed being a working mom and I don’t regret working, but I do regret working a bit too much while my second child was little. It was too much for him, being away from me. He just didn’t handle it well. Working part-time was great but approaching full-time was too much for me. And with my first had anyone tried to pressure me into handing him over to anyone else to even work half-time I would have blown a gasket. That was my time, my life experience to treasure forever as an eternally valued experience. I knew the time would fly by. I wanted that time.
Some people put off having kids to partake of meaningful life experiences. “Traveling” I hear quoted more than anything, but also career accomplishments as well as other things. For me it was screw those other things. I had traveled a bit out of necessity before having kids. Over it! My memories and experiences with my children I value over anything and everything else I’ve done or experienced.
So. For every woman their experience is different. I know a woman who was a Stay-At-Home Mom for her first two kids and loved it but went to work part time after her third kid and then full time after her fourth because she found being a Stay-At-Home Mom to be stifling at that point. But she really valued it at first. Different seasons in life sometimes. It’s ok for each woman/couple/family to decide what the right balance is for them. If you feel that your heart is calling you to focus on your experience with your baby full time, then there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t see it as your “anxiety” deceiving you. And I had a heck of a lot easier time making friends as a Stay-At-Home Mom mom than I did as a working mom. Playgroups, mothers I would talk to who had kids the same age as my son when we were at the library, the park etc. It was actually much easier to be “social” than when I was working. It was such a frenzy trying to balance everything when I was trying to do it all. When it took away from what I could give my kids, that’s when the regrets kick in. Working a lttle was awesome. Too much broke my heart and I can’t wash the regrets away, I can only say the past is the past during those time that I wasn’t at my best and my students got more of me than my own kids did.
My oldest is graduating from high school now and I am so glad that I had that time with him when he was little. I am really drawing on those memories now for my own comfort! When they leave home it’s hard! (THat doesn’t mean don’t work) I just mean, if you want that experience then it’s ok to have it. It’s ok to consider it. Acting like you’re off your rocker for your reasons. Relax people. Being a stay at home mom is a valid child-rearing approach and lifestyle choice. It also doesn’t have to be permament. You can enjoy your time with your child and then when you feel the urge to go back to work, you can get back in. Best of luck!