The three of us here at Three Ladies and Their Babies are extremely fortunate to be able to stay home full time with our little ones. For me, however, that hasn’t always been the case. When Colin got an unexpected job offer in Houston, it was a big deal for us. Although we had agreed it was time for him to start looking elsewhere, Houston was never in our plans. It meant an 1,100 mile move, a new job, and some major life changes. The tipping point, however, was that Colin’s increased salary meant that I would be able to stay home with Ian and any future children we might have. For the first 18 months of his life, I worked full time and Ian spent about 52 hours a week at daycare. The people at his “school” became like an extended family to us and we loved it there, but it hurt that he literally spent more time with his “teachers” than he did with us. Like most families, we didn’t have much of an option at that point, so when the opportunity came to move to Houston, we took it. I put in my notice and started trying to prepare myself for the life of a stay at home mom.
It didn’t work. A few things happened. We were unable to sell our house in Kentucky and the possibility of having two mortgages loomed before us. I had also started a new position about two months before Colin accepted his job offer in Houston and I was really enjoying the work and the challenges that it brought. On top of that, my colleagues had become my friends and I enjoyed working with them every day. So before our move to Houston was even final, I accepted an offer to stay on at my old company and work from home 30 hours a week. In the beginning, it was only going to be for 3-6 months. It ended up lasting a year. I worked ten hour shifts from home and Ian went to daycare three days a week. I had the other four days to focus on him and not to worry about working. It was a great solution for us at the time
By the time Declan came into the picture, things had settled down and we had renters in the Kentucky house and were renting our home in Houston. That situation was stable. At the same time, my company was moving headquarters and going through a lot of turnover and it seemed like my time to be a full time, stay at home mom was nigh. I quit working in early September and took Ian out of daycare. I haven’t worked since and it has been really nice to be able to just stay at home and concentrate on my boys and my home. But of course, there’s a catch. I’m apparently only so-so at this not working business and after being unemployed for about seven months, I just signed a contract to work a few hours a week from home. My plan is to put in about ten hours a week, mostly after the boys are in bed at night. I’m not sure how it’s going to go, but I’m excited and ready for the challenge. In staying home with my boys, the question of what I’m going to do when they get older has always bothered me. Can I really get back to work after sitting out for so many years? Will my training be obsolete by then? Could I be happy not working once they are in school? For me, this is the perfect opportunity to keep myself somewhat updated and it leaves my door open for future employment opportunities, while still giving me the chance to stay home with Ian and Declan.
All of this background brings me to my point. Leaving your children to go to work is hard. On the same note, not going to work can be difficult, too. I’ve mentioned the concept of mom guilt in some of my previous posts and it comes in full force in this one. In a society where it often takes two incomes to make ends meet, many people just don’t have the option to stay at home with their children. But for those that do have the option, it still isn’t always an easy choice. And it’s a choice that can leave you riddled with guilt.
When I first took Ian to daycare at 13 weeks old, my heart broke. I was leaving my baby with highly experienced, CPR certified, expert diaper changers. They were the best in the business. But still, they were strangers. They wouldn’t respond to his cries as quickly as I would or know how he liked to be held. They wouldn’t love him like I did or just sit and rock him when he needed to be soothed. It was hard. But you know what else? It was kind of a relief. For eight hours, five days a week, I was able to have adult conversation. I could just sit and not get up for the whole workday if that is what I chose to do. And nobody ever cried if I didn’t do something fast enough. On top of that, I enjoyed the challenge that my work brought. And at 5:00 every day, I could not wait to get to Ian. Seeing his little face when I picked him up at daycare became the absolute best part of my day. I was just so excited to get to him.
For a while, I had horrible feelings of guilt over the fact that I enjoyed going to work every day. When I would walk in to pick him up and his teacher would tell me that she found another tooth or that he had rolled over or met some other milestone, my heart would sink. Missing those events seemed like the worst possible thing imaginable. But then I realized that it was actually good for both of us. It worked for our family. I was happy and so was he. As he started to get older, I realized that he really loved going to daycare. He loved the people and all of the interaction, even the routine of it. As a barely one year old, he would toddle around and try to tell me about his friends and what they were doing. He was just such a social little guy. They were able to get him on such a great schedule, that to this day, he still takes at least a two hour nap at noon every day. In fact, he seemed to benefit so much from daycare that even though I’m staying home now, he still goes to a Mother’s Day Out program for a few hours three days a week just for the interaction.
Since Declan was born and I’ve had two little ones to take care of, I’ve been more than a little busy staying home with my boys. There are days that I feel like I clean the kitchen five times a day and it’s still messy. There are days when we have blowouts, spit-ups, potty accidents, tempter tantrums, and umpteen wardrobe changes. On those days, I usually don’t get a shower until after they’ve gone to bed. I run on caffeine, often dreaming about the days when I used to sit in front of the computer all day. But then there are days that I get to build forts out of blankets or play outside in the water all day long. And days when I get a “just because” hug and kiss or when they just want me to hold them for a few minutes. On those days, I know that being able to stay home with them is truly a blessing. I’ve had the opportunity to experience both lifestyles, and there are definitely pros and cons to working and to staying at home. For me, the real lesson has come in being able to let go of the mommy guilt. I now know that my boys are loved and well cared for regardless of which I choose. And they will thrive in either situation. I can honestly say that I love staying home with my kids right now, but I feel very fortunate that I’ve gotten to experience both sides of the coin. When the feminist movement paved the way for our gender to work outside the home, it also gave us the option not to do so. I feel like it is important to acknowledge that neither option is 100% “right” or “wrong”. A happy, well-adjusted family can exist in either situation and the key is to find the right balance for your family.