Balance a demanding full-time career with two young children and a husband serving in law enforcement and the military was an unobtainable challenge that led to burn-out, something I learned the hard way. It became clear that path was no longer a good fit during this stage of my life.

Sorting out who was responsible for rides to and from day care or preschool, on top of our constantly fluctuating work schedules, and the difficulty in finding a babysitter for nights and weekend work obligations was a source of additional stress that many young families can relate to. Not to mention, there is an extreme lack of child care options in rural Minnesota.

As a result, our time at home was rushed along with our go-go-go lifestyle. Supposed days off consisted of playing catch-up on household responsibilities which equalled even less quality time together as a family. There was a huge feeling of imbalance, and something had to give. Then, as Bob Dylan would say, “One day the axe just fell.”

When it did, a 360-degree turn occurred. My monthly planner went from being jam-packed with meetings, events and deadlines, to having lots of extra white space. At first, it felt as if a giant weight had been lifted. The following morning, I sat on my porch enjoying a cup of coffee without the usual looming to-do list scrolling through my mind.

With way too much spare time on my hands, the past month was spent pondering what I really want out of life; but more importantly, what I don’t. The entire situation caused me to reflect deeper on what the next few years would look like for our family.

After making a few adjustments to the household budget, we determined things would be fine. The immediate question was, “Do I return to the workforce, or stay at home with my girls?” I sank into these possibilities, weighing out the pros and cons of each scenario.

Returning to work full-time meant microwave dinners, skipped baths, a short fuse and overall exhaustion. Even so, being a working mother provided a sense of purpose outside the home by being able to give back to the community. But could I keep it up?

Perhaps this was the universe’s way of saying, “slow down.” Divine intervention. Or maybe it was a sign from my late mother that life is too short. Smell the roses. Enjoy these fleeting moments with my family before childhood is a distant memory.

Considering staying at home stirred up an internal struggle about my perception of self-worth as a woman, wife and mother. It took some time to realize my worth reaches far beyond any job title, amount of a paycheck or things of intrinsic value.

A real stigma exists for stay-at-home parents. There’s a notion that they aren’t contributing without earning money, all while their spouse works harder to make ends meet. However, according to salary.com, in 2019 the median annual income for stay-at-home parents if paid for services was $178,201. A survey by Welch’s also determined the work of a stay-at-home mother was the equivalent of 2.5 full-time jobs, working 14 hours a day for an average of 98 hours per week. Whew!

After the cost of child care and taxes, my actual income from my previous employer shook out to that of a part-time position anyway. We don’t necessarily live in the land of opportunity in rural Minnesota, so finding a new job that made sense with our schedules, child care availability and stress threshold would be a struggle.

However, there was another option that checked all the boxes, working from home. This opportunity may be the silver lining to my self-perceived failure of being temporarily jobless. What if this was a chance to do something I’ve always dreamed of? To start a business as a freelance writer; be my own boss and work on my own terms at home with my family, all while filling that resume gap.

Writing has always been my passion. It has connected me with some truly amazing people along the way. I reminisced on the seven years spent as a journalist at local newspapers and how fulfilling it was to share people’s life stories with readers. There is a yearning in my soul to tap into that creative side again. There was also a pull to soak in this time at home with my kids to create memories. Maybe the future is a little of both. The scales are feeling a little more balanced already.

Brielle Bredsten is a former editor of the Aitkin Independent Age.

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