Christina wrote here about staying home after her baby is born later this year. She writes about always knowing she would be home when she started her family and, now that she’s actually faced with it, questioning whether it’s the right choice for her. She links to fellow Nap-towner Frema’s post here about the same topic – staying home after baby. Frema always dreamed she’d stay home, but her reality won’t let that happen.
Fifteen months after my first day back at work (March 22, 2006, a day that will live in infamy as tearful and difficult), I’m still questioning whether it was the right choice for me. Even though there really was no choice at all – without my income, we wouldn’t be able to support three people. Like Frema’s husband, my Hubby’s college degree and eleven years of experience in “the business” of journalism hasn’t gotten him quite the pay grade that we would need to support our household. I am offended on his behalf.
My total abandonment of my principles learned in journalism graduate school to take the first job waved under my nose that had a 30 percent pay raise means that I am a little bit better off in the salary department – but not much. Because how did I live when I was making $25,000 a year and had six times the minimum student loan payments that I have now?
We struggled when we were supporting two people and a dog on just Hubby’s income, and that was when we lived in an apartment and didn’t have to pay for things like new air conditioners and new windows and replacement flooring. Or a gas bill.
I am lucky. I love my job. I have said so many times that if I had had to go back to my old newspaper job after Angel Face was born, a job that made me literally sick to my stomach most mornings, I would have simply refused. Back then, we lived in a smaller city with a lower cost of living and most things overall were cheaper (gas) and we spent less.
I took the full 12 weeks of maternity leave, all paid (because Angel Face was born at the end of December, I was able to cobble together sick leave and vacation time from TWO years), and I didn’t even think twice about taking it all. It meant a LOT of work just before I gave birth, but I felt my bosses, who were cool about the whole thing, at least to my face, deserved that from me.
But I still have to tell myself every morning that I’m going to work because it’s the right thing to do for all women, that we can have it all, that I’m working because I want to give my child everything she needs in life (but not everything she wants, because I want to teach her the value of hard work).
Inside, it reduces me to a quivering mess every time I look in on her in the mornings, asleep in her crib, knowing that I won’t see her again until I pick her up from day care, when she’s tired and cranky and hungry and likely has another scratch or bruise from a squabble over a toy (she’s a warrior, that kid).
I end up spending about two hours each week day with her. Sometimes those hours are good, sometimes I’m rushing about, trying to fix dinner and straighten up and keep her from drinking toilet water or eating dog food. I value my weekends with her immensely and hate that I’ve had to make (and enforce) a rule that we spend at least one weekend a month at home alone (because otherwise we would be rushing around trying to visit friends and family all the time).
When I was a kid, until the third grade, I had a stay-at-home mom. I loved coming home for lunch (school was right across the street), baking cookies in the afternoon, having French Toast for breakfast every Tuesday. Once I hit third grade, mom went to work as a teacher’s aide, so she was still home most of the time I was. In high school, she went back to college and earned her CPA license and began to work full time.
When I was a junior, I had a choral performance and neither of my parents could make it. I was hurt, disappointed and sad. Is that how my little girl is going to feel every day of her life – when the other parents show up to eat lunch with their kids, make mid-day school performances and serve as room mothers? That’s my biggest fear.
Being a SAHM is such a personal decision, and yet it’s a public one that other mothers have no qualms about criticizing. I am so unsure that I’ve made the right choice and so sensitive about this subject that I take the criticism right to heart. I search my soul (and our bank statements) to see if there’s another way.
But I’m also afraid of actually having a choice – what if Hubby gets a new job, a great job that pays an incredible amount? What if I actually could stay at home? Would I do it? Would I have the guts to walk away for years and devote myself to my children (because oh, there certainly would be more in this scenario)? The likelihood of this happening is slim, so I don’t devote much time to these thoughts, but I’m afraid of the answers, because what if they aren’t what I think they are?