Once upon a time, I was a productive member of the workforce. I got up early and drove to a job where I interacted with co-workers. I engaged in professional learning courses to help further my career. I stayed late for meetings and stressed about deadlines and paperwork. I made a difference in the world. 

Curve Balls

When I found out I was pregnant with my first born, I had all kinds of plans for how I would take a little time off and then return to my position as a teacher, full-time. I loved my job and couldn’t imagine not going back to it. As my pregnancy continued, I decided I would take a full year off and return when the new school year began. However, as life often does, a curveball was thrown at me. Right before I was to return to my teaching position, my husband accepted a new job out of state and we were moving. I decided to put off going back to work for another year. Financially it made more sense to save on childcare and just stay home a little longer. Plus, I was so enjoying my time with my new little baby!

A week after we moved to a new state, there was another curveball. I found out I was pregnant with baby number two! My husband was traveling almost every week with his new job and I was about to have two babies under the age of two. Again, I decided it made more sense to remain at home. Right around the time that my youngest was turning one, I began to give going back to work some thought. Wouldn’t you know it, more curveballs. 

Accidental Stay at Home Parent

Long story short, four moves, two kids, and seven years later, I am finally going back to work this year! My youngest is starting Kindergarten, and after a couple years of dipping my toe back into the working world through substitute teaching, I will finally have my own class again. I am excited and also filled with anxiety and a little bit of bitter-sweetness. 

You see, because of my life of curve balls, I consider myself somewhat of an accidental stay at home parent. I never intended to have this huge of a gap in my working years. In fact, if I’m being honest, I might have even felt a little smug about the fact that I wasn’t going to ever be one of those women that was “just a mom”. I had a career I loved and couldn’t imagine just staying home all day with kids. But then, when the opportunity to stay home with my kids presented itself, and it actually made sense to do so for our family’s needs, it was hard to picture myself doing anything else. 

For seven years, everything I did revolved around taking care of my two favorite little people. From story times, to play dates, to trips to the park and endless snack-making, I loved it all. Sure there were tons of days I longed for a reason to leave the house by myself. And I often found myself jealous of my old co-workers when they were heading back for a new year of teaching. But, I always told myself that I’d have the rest of my life to work. 

Finally Going Back To Work

Those years at home flew by in the blink of an eye. Now that the time has actually come to return to the working world, I’m full of all the feelings. I’m excited to be returning to a profession I went to school for and love. I’m nervous about how my family dynamic may change with balancing another schedule into the mix. And surprisingly, I’m feeling a little sad about the “just a mom” chapter in my life ending. Even though “stay at home parent” was never a title I thought I wanted, after seven years of identifying with it, it’s harder to say goodbye to than I imagined. 

It’s time for me to use a different part of my brain. It’s time to get back to a profession that fulfills my heart. It’s time to remember the person I used to be. While I will miss my years of watching Disney Junior, filling up sippy cups, and snuggling with my babies, I’m excited about my next chapter. I’m so grateful for my time of being “just a mom,” but now it’s time to reacquaint myself with the old me.


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Karen Smith
Karen was born in Ohio but spent most of her childhood in Florida. She attended the University of Florida, where she met her husband, and she got her Master’s in Elementary Education at the University of South Florida. She taught first grade in Tampa until her oldest son was born. Her plans to return to the classroom changed when her husband’s job brought them to Pennsylvania where they welcomed another son. The following years brought them to Raleigh and then St. Augustine. After spending two years substitute teaching in St. Johns County, Karen is now teaching VPK at a local preschool. She enjoys days on the water with her family, reading “chick lit” with a glass of wine, pretending to be Ina Garten in the kitchen, and cheering on her Gators. She embraces all things #boymom and has never met a doughnut/taco/pasta that she didn’t like.