5 Blessings of Going From Breadwinner to Stay-At-Home Mom in Costa Rica

**DISCLAIMER:  Please know that I am not advocating that being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) is more difficult than being a corporate mom or the other way around.  By corporate mom I mean a mother who works in a salaried job outside of the home.  I deliberately avoid using the term “working mom” because it does give the impression that SAHMs don’t work, which clearly is not true.  The choice to either be a SAHM or a corporate mom is a highly personal one, and I think it is unfair for women to judge the moms who choose one lifestyle different than their own.  One is not better than the other. Both lifestyles have their challenges and blessings, which I will blog about later this week.  I am simply sharing my experience and hope to learn from the experiences of others.**

What are the blessings that come with going from being the primary breadwinner to a stay-at-home mom? 

In my previous post, I blogged about the challenges of going from primary breadwinner to a stay-at-home mom (SAHM).  While I do not regret my decision, the “perks” I miss the most are those that feed my sense of independence and self-worth.  Despite the downsides of not working outside the home, I have gained a whole new set of benefits that are truly priceless.

Reconnecting with my children

Even if this was the only gain from quitting my job to be a SAHM, the challenges would be totally worth it.  When I was working outside the home, I would leave the house before my kids woke up and got home just in time to put some sort of dinner on the table and get them ready for bed.  During the weekends, I had to run the errands I was not able to do during the week and perform the necessary domestic chores such as laundry and cleaning.  As a hospitalist, I worked about every third weekend, which further ate into the time I should have been with my family.  Needless to say, I did not have a lot of time left for my kids.  Now, I am here every morning before my kids head out to school.  I feed them breakfast.  I am waiting for them after school every day.  We eat dinner together every night.  I am home every weekend and for every school holiday, which is my personal favorite.  The quality of our time together has also increased along with the quantity of time we spend together.  Because I am not chronically sleep-deprived and exhausted, I have more energy for my kids.  We have had more in-depth discussions in the last six months than perhaps their entire lives.  I feel like I have gotten to know my own children better.  I am more involved with their social and school lives.  Kara and Tristan have both expressed to me that they are much happier now that I am no longer working outside the home because they get to spend more time with me.  They don’t care that we don’t have a car or a big house anymore.  They care that they are getting more attention from Chris and I.


My personal well-being

Now that I have an extra 70 hours or so per week, my overall well-being has improved dramatically.  Even though I was exercising and eating somewhat healthy compared to the average American before moving to Costa Rica, I was stressed out at the brink of burn-out.  I was chronically sleep deprived and frazzled.  There were times I would not see the sun for days.  My hypothalamic-pituatary-adrenal axis was so out of whack that I never felt truly well.  I may have been somewhat physically healthy, but I had no inner peace because of my stress levels.  My heart and soul were not healthy in any way.  Since moving to Monteverde, I maintain a regimen of running, yoga, and healthy nutrition.  I spend a lot more time outdoors.  I get more sunshine.  I sleep much better.  I go on a hike with friends about once per week.  I feel so much better about myself, my body, and my life.  I do not feel stressed out.  I am so much happier.

Celebrating our 15-year wedding anniversary in the Mayan Riviera.....Pura Vida! Mayan Riviera, May 2014

I dedicate more time to my well-being.

Stronger marriage

When I was working, my marriage was not a priority. I had to cut corners and take care of the things that could not take care of themselves first.  So after work, kids, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, running errands, the dogs, and extra-curricular activities, there was not a lot of time and energy left for my marriage with Chris.  Oh we tried.  We would go out on a date once per month.  We would go on a trip just the two of us once per year.  But in the evenings after the kids went to bed, we did not talk.  I would turn on the TV and fall asleep within 5 minutes.  I was too exhausted to do anything else.  Now I have more time and energy to spend with Chris.  Our communication quantity and quality has improved.  I appreciate his efforts to be the primary breadwinner now that I am no longer burdened by that responsibility in addition to running the household.  While this may give our marriage a more “traditional” 1950’s structure, I do not resent the arrangement because I came to it by choice.  No Kramer vs Kramer here!

Exploring a new career

I am taking advantage of the extra time I have from not working outside the home to explore an exciting new career as a writer.  I am currently starting an expat/lifestyle coaching and writing company and I am writing treatments to submit to the movie and film industry.  I am also revising a YA fantasy fiction novel that I wrote many years ago in order to polish it for resubmission.  I would not have these opportunities if I was still working as a physician.  As terrified as I am of failure and rejection, I have decided to set my fears aside and pursue these dreams.  If I fail, I will have no regrets because I at least made an attempt to make this dream a reality.

Time with my parents and sisters

One of my biggest concerns about moving abroad was being so far away from my extended family.  Like many Mexican families, we are very close.  My youngest sister and I both lived in San Antonio and we would see each other quite often.  My parents lived 5 hours away from San Antonio and we usually saw them about once a month or so.  All 20 of us (my parents, sisters/BILs, nieces, nephews etc) would get together for Thanksgiving and a summer vacation where we would rent out a pool house every year.  We have some wonderful memories of those times.  I was very saddened that we were not able to spend Thanksgiving or the summer together this year.  But even though we are further away, I feel like we spend more time together.  We Skype or FaceTime almost every week.  And when we do we are able to spend more time online together.  When I was working, I never called my mom or my sisters just to see how they were doing.  Now I do.  We spend a lot more time communicating than before, even though we are further away.  I am so grateful for technology.  I know that the pendulum has swung the other way and people in the blogosphere like to write about how we need to unplug.  I dont want to unplug, because if I do, I am disconnected from my family in the USA.  We text, Skype, FaceBook, and FaceTime.  My BIL follows me on Twitter.  I do not want to lose that.

My side of the family. We are quite colorful. Papa and Pita are in the center.

Even though we are further apart, I spend more time communicating with my extended family.

The blessings of quitting my job to be a SAHM are centered around the time I now have to improve the most important relationships in my life and to recharge as a person and professional.  I have no regrets.

What blessings have you experienced from putting your career on hold to be a SAHM or SAHD?  Let me know in the comments below.  

Pura Vida!

About Noemi Gamel

Noemi Gamel is a physician who prefers writing diverse children's fantasy stories instead of medical charts. She is a geeky nomad, too.
This entry was posted in A Question Worth Answering, Career-Life Balance, Family Life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to 5 Blessings of Going From Breadwinner to Stay-At-Home Mom in Costa Rica

  1. Emi says:

    So good to hear how happy you are, and how well your family has transitioned from one lifestyle to another! I will be very interested to see how you incorporate your current style (I don’t want to say “priorities”, because I know your family has always been your priority, but your approach has definitely changed! :)) into your life when (if?) you guys decide to make the move back to the US. Do you see yourself working at a clinic vs being a hospitalist, or simply structuring your lives differently?

    • Noemi Gamel says:


      Those are very thoughtful questions. You know me from my life as a physician/educator/academic so you know how dedicated I was to my career and how important it was. Removing myself from the workforce was very difficult.
      We have decided to stay for 2 years at least in Monteverde. At the end of that, there are several trajectories my life can take:
      1) Ideally, my online writing/coaching business will generate enough income that I do not need to work outside the home (whether we stay here or return to the US at that point will depend on many many factors). As much as I would miss “doctoring” and teaching, I think I would also derive satisfaction from having my own company, with a much more family-friendly schedule.
      2) We return to the USA where I would work as a hospitalist (I dont think I could do primary care!), but I would make smarter choices about my work load and the projects I take on. Before, I took too much on, and I was really close to burn out. I am much wiser now.
      3) We return to the USA where I would work in a field other than medicine, such as educational/curriculum consulting. I may turn corporate! THis is an option I had considered before moving.

      I have no idea what direction my life will take. What I do know is that I am going to try very hard to be able to establish a career where I can work from home/online. If that doesnt work, and I fall back into my original role of being a physician, I will be happy with that, but I will not let it take over my life as it did before.

      You have always been so great about balancing career and family! Would you like to write a guest blog post about how you do it?

      Miss you,

  2. Pingback: 5 Challenges of Parenting in Costa Rica as an Expat | Pura Vida Familia

  3. Pingback: 5 Amazing Perks of Parenting in Costa Rica as an Expat | Pura Vida Familia

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