Am I Losing Control if I Become a Stay at Home Mom?

Something happened this weekend that made me question my decision to stay at home.

Dean got back Friday from a two-week business trip, and despite the house being a lot quieter and tidier, Bruce and I were very happy to welcome our whirlwind home. After about 24 hours of utter bliss and contentment at having my best friend back, however, the honeymoon delight started to wear off.

1. We hung curtains. This should be a fairly simple exercise, and Dean had happily volunteered to put them up now that I had finally ordered and received the hardware for the drapes that had been sitting in our bedroom, collecting dust, for the better part of three months. Unfortunately upon his investigation, the wrong size rod had been included in the kit. No problem, Dean heads off to Pottery Barn to make an exchange before picking up dinner, while I focus on getting Bruce to bed. 

Once Bruce was down I gave Dean a call to see how things were going, and he happily replied that Pottery Barn didn’t have the right size hardware, but he had exchanged it for something else, (“I think it’s cast iron, and I like it better than what you had, see you soon”). Panic. 

Now this is probably one of my faults. Correction, my inability to always go with the flow when I hit a bump in the road is definitely one of my faults. Immediately I’m disturbed by what he ordered, that it won’t go with the finials (didn’t know what those were before ordering window treatment hardware) I have sitting in front of me, why didn’t he just order the exact same one I wanted and get it shipped, and I thought I was in charge of decorating around here!

Dean gets home, and I hate the new rod. Cast iron, sterile, industrial, huge new ball finials, not my thing, the exact opposite of what I wanted. Not happy. But I’m forcing a smile, and I say thank you for spending your evening with a bunch of unhelpful sales associates at Pottery Barn and bringing me dinner.  Dean’s smiling, he’s so convinced he’s been helpful and done a good thing and now we can finish hanging the curtains!  God I love him. God I hate him right now. 

2. We go to the grocery store. Again, this should be a fairly simple exercise. Still mildly annoyed by the previous evening’s drape-hanging debacle (I insisted the new rod must be returned, and Dean happily agreed to take it in on Monday – seriously, best hubby ever), I mentioned that I needed to go to the grocery store for the week, but that I could take Bruce and let Dean have some free time (code – I got this, and I would prefer if I just went solo, because every time we go to the store together you question everything I’m getting while managing to fill the cart with all sorts of things we don’t need and a grocery bill that makes a trip to Target look cheap (seriously, can anyone get out of Target for less than $100?)). Dean wanted to come. Ok, we’ll humor him, we haven’t really seen the guy in two weeks and he loves to cook.

We get to Whole Foods, acquire my entire list in about 20 minutes (despite Dean letting Bruce run around like a maniac), and are checking out, when Dean casually asks, “did you ever think about going to Trader Joe’s today?”

“Well no, quite frankly, I hadn’t. We needed a few things I know I can get at Whole Foods, it wasn’t a huge list, and Whole Foods is closer, so it honestly never crossed my mind.”

I see it.  The judging face of someone who knows me better than anyone and is highly critical of my grocery expenditures in this very moment. Defenses go up.

“Well I know you don’t like to take multiple grocery trips to multiple stores on a weekend, but it can really save us probably $20 to $30 on a big grocery day.”

In this moment, I want to grab the mini-pumpkin Bruce is gnawing on and hurl it at him. 

What ensued was one of those short (thankfully) car rides home where everyone is trying to get their feelings out, say I’m sorry,  and someone (ok me) usually ends up in tears. Dean clarified that he’s only trying to help and offer suggestions, and isn’t that the best part of having two of us to think about the best way to do things (damn his perfect response to anything!)? Meanwhile the biggest thing I felt was, whoa, if I can’t grocery shop or pick out drapes for our house without Dean questioning me, how am I going to be able to handle being a full-time mom?

Part of why I love my job is because of the control and autonomy it affords me. With some general structure, I decide what and how to do things, and on what timeline and budget. I very rarely get any push-back or questions. I’m used to being in control. I like that sense of power, and I guess I’ve been assuming that I’ll be able to be a stay-at-home mom with the same sense of power, just in a completely different environment. I admit it, I’m a control freak, and amidst daily chaos, I like to ensure that some things stay static.

I’m still figuring this out, and how I feel about it, but I do know that in order to be happy as a stay-at-home mom, I need to feel like I have some sense of control over something (anything? the brand of dishwasher detergent we buy?). I know “control” is a word with varying degrees of meaning, and I’m sure my level of acceptable control will vary greatly from home to the office. Finding that sense of authority may take some time as I navigate this life-change, but I’m sure my husband would agree that I’ll find something to take charge of sooner rather than later. I guess I’ve already done that by deciding to leave my job, and that’s a pretty major decision that no one can make but myself.


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