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My husband and I were expecting our first child as I was heading into my final year of school. I was also working as a child behavioral specialist and had to leave my position there due to the physical strain it put on my body. We both agreed I would stay home with our daughter while I focused on finishing my schooling. Though my courses kept me busy, I cherished the time I got to spend home with her.

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I was there to witness her first, bubbly giggle. I hid, peeking around the corner as she rolled over for the first time. I held her hand as she pulled herself up to stand. I held my arms out to catch her as she took her first walk-sprinting steps into them. And I was there when she uttered her first word; did I mention it was “Mom?”

I wanted to stay home for more than just witnessing the “firsts.” My mother stayed home with my sisters and me, and we all knew how to read and write before going into kindergarten; we cherished learning. I wanted to be the one to raise and mold my children, not her grandmother or a daycare teacher. I wanted to instill in her a love a learning and give her the one-on-one attention needed to develop her as a person.

Staying home also allowed me many opportunities. I breastfed exclusively until my daughter was almost 14 months old. I didn’t have to worry about finding time to pump at work. I also skipped jarred baby food altogether and made my own healthy options for my daughter. She was able to try foods you cannot find jarred and learned to develop her taste for different fresh foods.

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Now, I cannot imagine it any other way. That’s not to say I do not struggle with losing myself to motherhood. Sometimes I miss adult conversations and grownup clothes. I have had nights where I cried to my husband that I just cannot stay home another day. Those nights are normally preceded by long days of being cooped up, power struggles between me and the little one and whiney, nap-free afternoons of teething. I have to remind myself that those days are far and few.

Most days are much better: mornings of sweet cuddles, afternoons where she naps and I can accomplish some of the tasks on my to-do list, and then we spend the rest of the day playing outside, reading books together and playing with baby dolls. She loves to help me fold laundry and we have dance parties as we clean up our messes. She loves having play dates with other kids her age and we plan lots of outings to get out of the house.

It is in the little moments that I realize it is all worth it. The moment when we are cuddled up on her floor reading a book and she points to a picture and says “doggie.” Or when I hand her a snack and she says “thank you” without being prompted. Or at the end of the night when I am holding her before bed and she wraps her little arms around my neck, plays with my hair and says “I love you.”