Can I be a stay-at-home mom and still pursue my dream job?
That’s what accusing green numbers on my oven clock tell me as I glance over. With tired eyes, but steady hands, I place the finishing touches on my three-tiered beauty of a cake. Energy is slipping fast—it’s been hours of mixing, frosting, stacking, and decorating—but the masterpiece is finally complete. I slide a firm arm under the bottom of the cake and tuck it safely in the fridge for the night, ready for delivery tomorrow.
Full exhaustion hits. I’m ready to curl up in a heap at the foot of my dishwasher to fall asleep to its soft whir.
A jolting cry cuts through my kitchen as tiny lights dance in a spectrum along the baby monitor. It’s a reminder that first thing in the morning there’ll be battles over breakfast; mid-diaper-change chases; and a procession of toys, books, and trucks to entertain my little boy.
He doesn’t make any more cries, but that reminder gives me the last push of motivation I need to schlep off to bed next to my husband and claim the small amount of sleep still available to me.
If you were to skim through the Instagram I run for my cake business, you would get a very wrong impression of what running your own small business as a stay-at-home mom is like: A clean and professional lifestyle. Pristine perfection. No evidence of the four days’ worth of dishes piled on my counter, or the stay-in-pajamas-all-day Thursday my little boy and I will have tomorrow because I’ll be too wiped from filling orders to get us properly dressed for the day. No trace of the mom guilt that weaves its way daily throughout my thoughts.
I never thought I’d want to work once I became a mom. I never had any true professional aspirations—until I was six months pregnant and discovered my passion lay in cakes. Since then, the question I’ve struggled to answer every day is this: Can I have my cake and eat it too? Can I be a mom and still work and chase after this dream?
For a long time, I thought the answer was no. During pregnancy, I eagerly awaited our baby’s due date. But I was also keenly aware that a second date approached—one when I would carefully fold up my newfound aspirations and catalog them away in the library of my dreams. I genuinely believed that if I didn’t have to work, then I shouldn’t.
But I’ve long since unraveled that notion in my brain. My whole perception of motherhood has morphed from a strict regimen of dos and don’ts to a relationship of decision making and trust between me, my husband, and God. I realized I have God-given gifts and talents as well as agency to decide how best to employ those both in motherhood and in the professional world. Because I don’t believe that my life’s work outside the home culminated at age 24.
When I feel mommy guilt coming on, I now recognize it as a checkpoint—not a sign from the universe that I have failed, but an opportunity to stop and evaluate. I ask: Am I taking good care of my little one? Is my business infringing upon our family? Are my priorities showing in where I spend my time?
The answer never comes as “You must quit everything and just stay home forever.” It’s more like, “Keep going; you haven’t failed! But maybe just plan a little better to have more play time with your toddler today.”
Can I have my cake and eat it too? Well, who says you only get one cake? I make several cakes in a week. Life is full of times and seasons—sometimes multiple in the course of a single day: time to work, time to play, time to raise children, and time to chase dreams. There are moments when I focus on having my cake and running my business. Then comes the sweetness in savoring each bite of the challenges and joys of being a mom to my little boy.
Cake maker Brette Hawks shows off her creations on Instagram @hobblecreekcakeco.
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In Letters from Home Y Magazine publishes essays by alumni about family-life experiences—as parents, spouses, grandparents, children. Essays should be 700 words and written in first-person voice. Y Magazine will pay $350 for essays published in Letters from Home. Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.