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Adjusting to stay-at-home mom mode

Women in Western New York are a special breed. We are tough, and we have wonderful lessons and wisdom to share. That's why we put out a call to local women to share with us their experiences and life lessons -- what they have learned, and are learning. These personal essays will deal with everything from experiencing grief to getting your kids to brush their teeth!

At times I feel like it would have been easier to be a mom in the 1950s. Or '40s. Or '30s.

That sounds completely archaic and anti-women's rights of me, I know. After all, I am a 31-year-old woman with an undergraduate degree in English education and a master's degree in print journalism. I've been blessed with opportunities to work in the publishing industry and to teach both college and high school level English classes.

While I am grateful to have had the chance to do all of these things without much struggle or even judgment, I sometimes feel like it is these very things that leave me with a certain level of discontent to be at home, mostly full-time, with my little girls as simply a mom and a wife.

I've flipped onto the "Regis and Kelly Show" and have stared admiringly at Kelly: mother to three, wife to a handsome husband, sporting a very toned body (proving she makes it to the gym more often than I do!) and obviously a high-profile media job. Oh, and did I mention perfectly coiffed hair and neatly pressed, spit-up free clothing?. She, I think, is a woman who has it all, and sometimes she makes me feel like I am missing out.

The last national census, taken in 2000, revealed the following: 55 percent of moms with children under the age of 1 and 72 percent of moms with children over the age of 1 were in the labor force. This is a striking fact considering that when the census first started calculating this data in the 1970s, 31 percent of mothers with infants were in the work force.

Perhaps the saddest part of all of this to me is that the at-home mothering community is shrinking, and therefore becoming more isolated.

At our home in Massachusetts I used to watch my neighbor across the street, a really nice woman the same age as myself, with two little girls very close in age to my own, drive away with her children in the car at 7:30 in the morning and think, "Hmm, it would be nice if she were at home. We would chat, get the girls together, get to know each other."

Instead, we saw very little of each other. By the time she arrived home in the evening, she was tired from work and had a long list of things to do at home and for her girls.

When we moved back to Buffalo last summer and into a family-friendly neighborhood in the suburbs, I was sad to realize the same thing. I met some nice women, and then watched as they drove to work in the morning, leaving the neighborhood feeling more like a ghost town than a community.

Census 2010 likely will reveal similar numbers, if not an increase in mothers in the work force, especially given the state of our current economy. Many women do not have the choice to stay at home, as much as they would like to, because of financial commitments to their families.

I know that I made my choice to stay at home, and even though I admittedly feel restless professionally, there are many benefits and joys inherent to taking care of our little girls all day. I'm just disappointed at how much more challenging it has been to find support and friendships as a mom at home than I thought it would be. I realize the same holds true for working moms whose jobs prevent them from attending moms' groups, or music classes or other such events where they might find support and community as a mom as well.

For now I will continue to stretch my net wider and farther to find playmates and play-dates, and in the process try to be grateful for the dynamics of a culture that allows me to be at home with my girls while simultaneously pursuing work as a writer from home. But, I won't lie, I do miss the proverbial "water cooler" interactions of my working days, and hope to find more of them in my life as a mom.

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SUNDAY: Check out the 21st feature in the 30 in 30 series - a new weekly column in Spotlight by Arts Writer Colin Dabkowski.

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