You *can* have it all. You just can’t have it all at one time. What leads me to quote Ms. Winfrey, you ask? Well, as of yesterday I am officially a SAHM for the forseeable future (and to those of you not hip to message board/blog terminology, that means stay-at-home mom.) Before Maya was born or was even a proverbial twinkle in my eye, I was particularly adamant about staying home for at least the first few years of my future babies’ lives and Evan was completely supportive of that. My mom stayed home with me until I was 12, and only returned to work when she absolutely had to (she was trying to leave her marriage and was pretty much forced to so she could have some money of her own and a job to support us once the divorce happened.)
As I got closer to starting a family, I thought again about how I grew up and how that affected my Mom. I realized that for her, the length of time that she stayed home was probably too long — no, *definitely* too long as it seemed she began to resent us for taking up so much of her life (even if that is not how she really felt, I suspect a mid-life crisis might have reared it’s ugly head in certain situations)…there had to be a happy medium.
I wanted to give my child the great benefits of what my Mom gave my sister and I (a stable person at home to feel safe with, a love of reading and soap operas, the freedom and encouragement to use our imaginations, and the gift of not wanting for much despite a one-salary household)…but I still knew I needed to maintain a strong sense of self in the mix. I never wanted to feel later that I lost myself in them, that I cheated myself out of life somehow or that what I gave up (my career …at least temporarily) might have made me happier than staying at home with my kids when I had them (For the record, I think it always best for the child if at least one parent is home for the formative years…whether that works out for the adult is a different story.)
When I got pregnant, I was working at a job I really liked with staff and colleagues who were great, not to mention a fabulous boss. Some days …ok — some months out of the school year were stressful, but I thrived on it (despite my escalating blood pressure) and was happy. To my surprise, despite how I felt prior to becoming pregnant with Maya – I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave it all behind. I was successful, having moved up in the company after only a year, and making more money in education than I ever thought possible after only 2+ years on the job (note I say “in education” as a lot of money there is not necessarily a lot of money elsewhere). The job allowed me to pay off a car, a timeshare in Cancun and save a nice chunk for my eventual time off for raising my kids, so all-in-all, things were good. I knew that if I continued to work hard and get results, I could probably move up in the company, or at the least, keep my position as it was. So I thought about my options – could I get reliable childcare that I was comfortable with?…is it possible? Well, my Mom was not working so that was a definite possibility, but she was also caring for her ailing mother-in-law at the time so I knew she wasn’t a lock. Not to mention, she lives 25 miles away and would practically have to live here in order to make it work. Day Care? This has never been something Evan and I wanted to do. Not unless there are NO other options. I wasn’t prepared to let my kids out of my sight for that long during the day under the care of someone unrelated until they were of at least nursery school age. Which leads me to Nursery School…doesn’t start until 2 years 9 months…so that was out. What about a nanny or a nanny share? Better, but really couldn’t do that either. I couldn’t bear to have Maya calling someone else Mama (I’ve seen it happen…not cool) – not to mention some stranger teaching her right from wrong or doing all the things her mother *should* be doing. Not to mention the price tag of all of these things. Like I said I made a good sum for being in education but after all was said and done, had we done a Nanny or Daycare, I would have only been bringing home $10K or so a year. Was $10K a year worth missing my baby’s smile? Her first steps? All of her poopie dipes? Was it worth having her learn her ABC’s from someone else? Or worse, learning or not learning things she was supposed to from outside sources? Yes, I’m a control freak, but this was a human life we were talking about. A human life *I* brought into the world, that I was responsible for – so all of these things were important. More important than my career in the end, and my need to eat out all the damn time, and my penchant for massages and mani/pedis. I have always taken issue with folks who, once the staying at home question comes up, say that they “HAVE to work” – that can many times really just be translated into “I can’t give up my desires temporarily to rear the child I chose to bring into the world.” This is not to say there aren’t millions of moms out there that truly CAN’T afford to stay at home as they are the only income earner in the house, or that for some reason they flourish better doing work outside the home than in it, and can leave their kids with someone they trust… but thankfully I am not one of them. At least for now.
In the end, childcare did not materialize, so in a way, the choice was made for me. But, regardless of the tears I shed when I told my boss I wasn’t coming back to my job, I am happy with the decision to be at home with my little one and at some point her future sibling. I also know that once Evan and I become comfortable with Maya being cared for by others in a group setting, that I will appreciate going back into the world of work outside of the home. Or if and when Mom becomes available I might be able to do some part-time work back at my old company. But until then, I will put the same amount of effort into my new job as I did into my old one. Lead Teacher hat –> Off. Productive Human Raiser hat –> On.
My Little Productive Human….aka Maya Rose (so far she can entertain her parents, smile sweetly and change her parents’ moods not to mention those of others – can’t wait to see what she will do next!)