My Life as a Stay at Home, Working Mom by Deborah Cenker

My Life as a Stay at Home, Working Mom by Deborah Cenker

I recently started noticing that “my way of life” is never written about.

I read all sorts of articles about working moms verses stay at home moms. Stay at home moms verses working moms. But what about stay at home working moms? It is a breed of mom that I have only come across in Israel. I know we exist elsewhere, but the majority I know of are here. I realized that the reason we never read articles about this way of life must be because we don’t have time to write about it!

As many of these articles start out, this is a path in life I never dreamed of living. I grew up with a working mom. She is the best mom I could have possibly had. She is incredibly successful at what she does, she is a geriatric nurse practitioner working in a hospice. She is also incredibly successful at being a mom. Exhibit A: my sisters and I are all alive, happy and thriving… Amazing job, mom!

However, as I was growing up I knew I never wanted to be a professional like her. I wanted to be “just” a mom. Even before I became religious, my dream was never to be a successful Doctor or Lawyer. I never wanted to win promotions, awards and raises. I just wanted to be a mom. I wanted to be able to stay at home all day with my kids and play. I dreamt of being home when the kids came home from school and greeting them with healthy snacks and books. I dreamt of bringing Jewish Neshamas (souls) into the world; that was the ultimate dream to me. Nothing else really mattered a whole lot.

To pacify my Westernized family, I graduated college with a BA in Business administration. I took a round-about root of finishing, but I did eventually receive that hallowed piece of paper that would supposedly help me to “succeed” in life. In the mean time I also moved to Israel, “found myself,” and did Teshuva. That dream of having a Jewish family was looking less and less fuzzy.

Baruch Hashem, I eventually found my unbelievable husband. And Baruch Hashem, we were blessed quickly with our first child. When I was pregnant with our first I had some serious back problems, and although my husband has a solid job, we are not the wealthiest people and it is expensive to keep up our dream of living in Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh, so I took some random internet jobs and for the first time in my life felt the pang of “this job is beneath me”. For the first time, right before our first was born I actually felt like I wanted to be respected for a job other than having children. Interesting timing.

The company I was working for went under right before my first son was born and so we had him not knowing how we were going to handle things financially. The entire first year he was alive I was looking for a job. I was enjoying being a stay at home mom. I was enjoying living the life had always dreamed of living. At the same time, all of a sudden, I was desperate for more. In addition to feeling the financial stress, I was yearning for a job that would give me deep satisfaction and would help me feel like I was contributing money to our family at the same time. Finding a job was top priority.

Baruch Hashem, after a year, I finally found an amazing job. Well actually I didn’t find it, rather Hashem handed it to me. The job Hashem gave me, helps me contribute to my family and help the Jewish people at large. I may not be running a business, but I am doing something that makes me feel productive and that helps the world around me. This job is also from home and my own hours. Perfect.

I now have two children under 2. I work about 20-25 hours a week. I am home when my older son comes home from gan and am ready with a healthy snack and a book.(Ok, sometimes it’s not so healthy and a video) I am available to him and my newborn at all times of day and night. I am in the house with my kids…. Well, all the time. I am a stay at home working mom. I manage to be both.

I never leave my newborn with a babysitter to go to work. I keep him on my lap. I don’t get to ride on a bus or walk to work and get those few minutes of freedom with an ipod on like my husband. I don’t get a change of scenery. I don’t get a half hour commute to switch modes from “mom” to “ma’am”….I am lucky if I get 30 seconds. I do dishes in between typing. I fold laundry while reading. I nurse while making phone calls. I am a stay at home working mom. I think it’s the best of both worlds. I have 2 jobs I love. The best part is, I don’t feel like either job loses out. They both have me whenever they want/need me. If I am working and my toddler starts to scream, I just go back to mom mode. He doesn’t need to wait for me to come home from a 3-11 shift (not that there is anything wrong with that type of mom, it is just not for me) to have my attention. He has it the minute he needs it.

I don’t have tons of time for volunteer work, shiurim or the gym. But I do have time for big toddler hugs, making dinner and bringing some much needed money in. I don’t have tons of time to chat with friends, go for coffee or relax a lot. I do have time for keeping the house clean, the kids happy, and my bosses respecting me. My priorities are different than I think they would be if I were either a stay at home mom or a working mom. I don’t have help. No nannies, no house cleaners, all the grandparents are across an ocean. No time to myself. I don’t have those few minutes of freedom from home to office. My goal is not to be perfect; it’s to be the best I can be at both jobs.

Don’t get me wrong it is not easy, but it is totally worth it. I am here for my kids and have a great job at the same time. There is just not a whole lot of time in between…

This is definitely not the path I envisioned. It is not the vision I had when I dreamt of being a mom. My plan was to marry rich and to be a stay at home mom with my huge litter of children. Instead I have been blessed with a dream that only Hashem could have provided for me. I live in Yerushalayim, with an amazing husband, amazing kids and an amazing stay at home job…what could be better?

My name is Deborah Weinberger Cenker. I am originally from Nashville, Tennessee, and made Aliyah 6 years ago on my own. My husband and I live in Kiryat Moshe with our two sons Ben Tzion Ohr (almost 2) and Noam Amichai (5 Months). I have been working for the past year as Director of Member Support and Quality Assurance for the Jewish matchmaking website Sawyouatsinai.com

Related posts:

My Daughters' Losing/Winning Song
1 Minute a Day to a Better Life (8-Minute Mommy Peptalk)
Balanced Parenting and Life (12-Minute Mommy Peptalk)

13 comments

  1. Thank you for this! I am also a stay at home, working Mom, although I haven’t yet found the perfect balance. My house is a mess and my kid all over the place- and I only work 10 hours a week! Granted I work in Social media so it really ends up being more than 10 hours, but I’d love to see more tips on how to manage everything. I love the advantage of being at home to raise my son, and also feel fulfilled by having a career.

  2. I have nothing but respect for you… Stay at home mom’s are the hardest workers on the planet, and working mom’s are a close second, so you certainly take the cake! Thanks for the glimpse into you fun-filled, crazy, life!

  3. Good to read this! I’m also a stay at home working mother, working less hours than you, although we have been married longer and have more children! I really think this can combine the best of both worlds.

    one small point (I work as an editor 🙂 ) litter is possibly not the best choice of word to use to refer to a large family of holy Jewish children!

  4. A Fisher

    I am a stay at home/working mother in the US. Before children, I worked out of the home. After the first was born, I stayed home as long as we could possibly afford, and I returned to work part time. Then, my husband was a Medical Resident and went out on his own. So I stayed home with, by then baby two, and worked for my husband. We eventually had a third child, and I stayed home and raised all three. One is out of college now, one in grad school, one in high school. It is the hardest balancing act. It takes a lot of organizing, compramising, and patience. It’s worth it, in so many ways. Now I am available for my elderly mother, besides my kids. So it never ends. Good luck to all of you, in all your endevors. You will raise very grounded and healthy children.

  5. As the other women said — THANK YOU! I couldn’t have said it better. As a co-work-at-home-stay-at-home hybrid I also send off e-mails while making dinner/holding a baby/taking a phone call. I didn’t expect this kind of life but what I do literally puts a roof over our heads. I can’t imagine (as crazy as our days get — and they do) leaving my kids to a babysitter all day and reading your article reminded me of how blessed I am that Hashem gave us a job that allows me to “have it all” in a different way we grew up expecting.

  6. Great to hear what you are up to, Deborah! Such a good, practical essay about priorities–great clarity. All the best to you and your family.

  7. After a string of teenage ‘helpers’ babysitting my babies with varying degrees of competence in one room while I work from home in the next, I’ve finally found possibly the best advantage of working from home for a baalas teshuva…

    The wonderful bubbe-come-babysitter who Hashem sent into our lives to look after our third child KA”H while I work from home has helped us in so many unexpected ways!

    http://morequestionsthan.blogspot.com/2011/05/causative-tense-or-show-and-tell.html

  8. This is my favorite part:
    “She is the best mom I could have possibly had.”
    Even though your professional and spiritual path is different than your Mom’s, you admire and appreciate her and all she did for you. How wonderful! What a good example for all of us.
    Thanks, Deborah!

  9. Hello Deborah and I enjoyed your article. I must say the only reason I read this at first is because your Mom in-law put the link on fb. I go back with your family from the TDSA days – You do have a wonderful family and yes, you are not the only one that just had one dream – to be married and have kids and stay home (not that this job easy – your are correct!) but I am glad that you also have a wonderful “outside job at home” which not only brings you a much needed income but also it fulfills you!Btw, there are many Moms/Dad that stay at home and have an “outside at home job” not only in Israel! Glad you made Aliyah and are happy. My oldest daughter, Leetal, 25 also made Aliyah (June 15th) it will be 3 years and she makes her home in Tel-Aviv, the city I was born in! Warm regards from Atlanta, Carnmela

  10. i was raised by a stay-at-home mother who told her daughters: decide if you want to have kids and then plan your career from there. if you want kids, then choose to study something you can “put in your pocket and take out” when you’re ready to return to work.

    i stopped working full-time in my 9th month with my first child. that was 22 years ago. thankfully, my husband provided adequate parnassa for the first 11 years. then he started his own business, and drafted me to work with him. for the past 11 years, i have been working full-time from home, while getting to raise my kids myself.

    i love this combination, as i get to interact with people less annoying than a teenager, and still be around to provide whatever it is i really “do all day” for my kids!

  11. I remember when I was deciding between fashion or graphic design, that Graphics would be something I could do from home. I was very young and wasn’t dreaming of motherhood, yet somehow understood it was important.
    Years later that decision served me well, after working out of home full time with two kids, I stopped and went freelance.
    I must say that I relate to the need for the mode-change time, and I DO miss that. I also admit that I don’t juggle kids with my work so well, but found Bsbysitters to be just another person to supervise: my best work in my career was therefore done between 10pm-1am!!!

  12. Deborah C.

    Thanks everyone for the amazing feedback. For those of you who asked for tips – There are a few things I do which help
    1. I Daven… a lot.
    2. I Prioritize – In this order- Happy husband, happy children, happy job…only then do I worry about the dishes, laundry, etc. I also don’t try and always do everything. The biggies like dishes, laundry and basic cleanliness I stay on top of, but try and divide up throughout the week so that I am not trying to do everything everyday. Things like cleaning the bathroom I only worry about on Fridays when my husband is around.
    3. I allow myself a few minutes everyday… even if just 5…. to do something for myself spiritually(listening to a few minutes of a shiur online, reading an article on here, or just focusing on what I need to work on that day)

  13. Hi!
    Just found your article and I thought I would comment. I started Mothers’ Home Business Network in 1984 and now direct http://www.HomeWorkingMom.com (since 1997.)

    My book, How to Start a Home-Based Business TO BECOME A WORK-AT-HOME MOM was just published by Globe Pequot Press.

    So, as you can see, the idea of working at home as a way to manage mothering and work is not a new idea. If you search, you will find lots of information from moms doing just that.

    Good luck to you!

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