1,000 Families Project: Stay-at-home mom Shannon, Scott, Casey, Braden and Colin

A mother of three shares her journey from lawyer to stay-at-home mom, a life she never imagined while getting her law degree, but one she wouldn’t trade, despite the chaos of a household with three busy boys.

When you enter our home, the first thing that will most likely strike you is the noise.

First there’s the dog, Cous Cous. She’s as sweet as can be and only about 20 pounds, but she can bark with the best of them. She will jump on you and slather you in kisses and there’s only a handful of people who actually like it. I will apologize on her behalf and assure you that in just a few brief minutes, she will calm down. Sometimes I’m right.

Once you get past the barking, you’ll make your way to the family room, where you will be met with the sound of screaming, bellowing from the basement below or echoing from the second floor, or, if you are unfortunate enough, from the family room itself. My three children, all boys-Braden,7, Casey, 5, and Colin, 2, are a loud bunch. Screaming seems to be their primary mode of communication-screams of laughter, of protest, of super hero calls. I hardly even notice the noise anymore.

I’ll apologize for the mess-despite my best efforts, our house is always in varying levels of chaos, and I’ll apologize for my own appearance. No doubt I will be in glasses, too fraught in the morning to put on my contacts, and the extent of my make up will be concealer to cover up the bags under my eyes. I’ll ask you to excuse my husband, who probably is not there and working late. And I’ll offer you a glass of wine, because no matter the time, it’s already been a long day.

This is daily life with my three boys. And while I love it, I never could have envisioned myself here eight years ago.

Eight years ago I wore eyeliner and got dressed in real clothes for my job as a lawyer at a large law firm. Well, working in a law firm has its own share of fun. They tend to invest a considerable amount when it comes to marketing their firm, be it through a lawyer web design or similar other digital tools. When the website is designed and optimized well, according to users’ needs, it tends to make sure we keep getting clients. When we are getting a lot of clients, the firm also needs to ensure that the management is smooth so we can serve each client as efficiently as possible. For this, most law firms tend to incorporate infinity law software or similar solutions, which might be the next step for my company as well. No doubt, better management means better business!

I can’t say I loved my job, but I was successful, ambitious, and rewarded with a good salary. My husband and I, newly married, lived in a new condo in downtown Washington, D.C., right between Georgetown and Dupont Circle. I was pushing 30 and for the first time in my life, kids were on my mind.

By the time I got pregnant, I realized I hadn’t given much thought to what would happen once these theoretical kids arrived. We promptly traded in our one-bedroom apartment for a three-bedroom ranch-style home in the suburbs. e got a second car. And I looked forward to my 18 week maternity leave-an 18 week vacation, I figured, after which I would return to work and resume life as “normal.”

Then Braden came and everything changed.

It was not a vacation. It was far from it.

It was hard and exhausting and physically demanding in a way I never could have imagined. But at the same time, it was joyful in a way I hadn’t anticipated. This baby boy became my everything. And all of a sudden I realized that not only would my life never return to “normal,” but I didn’t want it to. Suddenly the idea of leaving my baby for five full days during the week terrified me. After a lot of soul searching, I contacted my law firm and arranged to work part time, which I considered to be a great compromise.

It wasn’t.

It was the classic dilemma. I was trying to be all things to all people, and failing at work and at home. Demands at work didn’t operate on a part-time basis, and I struggled to meet deadlines, attend client meetings on my days “off” and participate in conference calls while changing a diaper. In fact, on a few occasions, I even missed several phone calls from my clients. And no, it wasn’t the lawyer’s playing phone tag that made me miss these calls. It was because I was genuinely busy trying to juggle both my personal and professional life. When I was at home, I wasn’t really present – constantly checking my email and worrying about an issue in one of my cases. I’m not lying when I say that I was stressed, exhausted, and miserable on all fronts.

The thought of quitting my job and being a stay at home mom had never occurred to me prior to having children. After all, I had spent a small fortune getting my law school education -one I continue to pay for to this day. But after my second child arrived, I realized that the life I had carved out for myself wasn’t sustainable. I had to throw myself fully into one thing-my law career or motherhood.

I chose motherhood. That was five years ago, and despite a smattering of moments of regret, I haven’t looked back.

I’m not going to sugar coat it-staying at home with these boys is hard. It can be isolating and monotonous and it’s certainly not glamorous. It’s messy and loud and relentless, and my husband still works law firm hours-I do most of it on my own. But I feel so lucky to be my kids’ everyday companion, too see their everyday triumphs and breakdowns and to be their constant. They fill me up in a way no career every could-with love, with admiration, with joy.

I often think about finding a career again, though I don’t know what shape that would take. I do know that I yearn for something-something for myself, my brain, for my own sense of self. But after five years of staying at home with my kids, I’m not in any hurry. Because one thing I have learned is that the old adage is true-the time does fly. And before I know it, I’ll have a quiet, clean house, and all I’ll want back is the chaos I have now.

This is #1000families post number 196. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.
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Shannon Forchheimer

About Shannon Forchheimer

Shannon Forchheimer lives in Bethesda, MD with her husband, three boys, and dog, Couscous. You can find her musings on her blog, But I Do Have a Law Degree. View all posts by