Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Working v. Stay-At-Home, Mommy Wars, and the Name of my Blog

Future SAHM and WOTH moms.
My Sister and I at her high school graduation. Try not to be jealous of my 90s style.
I want to get this post right, because I think this is an important and touchy issue. Little did I realize how touchy it was until I got pregnant and entered the ranks of mommy-dom. I was so excited and started obsessively reading blogs on every day. If I am being honest, I started doing that when Dan and I first began talking about being pregnant.
When I was about four months along, I happened across a blog post about daycare. The blogger had basically written a short post about how she loved her daycare, but she was a bit sad to see her son learning things that she didn't teach him. However, she was obviously happy he was thriving. It was just about that war inside of her. The title of the post was Daycare is Raising My Son. It came at exactly the wrong time for me. I had just toured a few daycares and was really in the midst of making decisions about what I would do once I had Ben and my maternity leave was over. (You have to get on wait lists for daycares super early around here). It wasn't so much the post that got to me, but the comments to the post. Here are the two that stood out:
"Daycare is so expensive that I find it hard to believe many families are making enough to both cover the costs of daycare and come out ahead enough to make it worth it. As for me, I would never place my child in a daycare unless I thought they absolutely needed the time out of the house. I’m not saying daycare is bad, my own mother ran one, worked for one, and would give anything to go back to that work. But I have and always will be of the opinion that if you want children you should be their main caregiver. Please note I said main, not sole. Both parents need to take an active role and there’s no reason other relatives can’t get involved. I just can’t stand when both parents are working 40hrs a week and just dumping their kids off. I knew a couple who both had doctorates and worked full time, yet their son never went to daycare or stayed with relatives. If they can make it work anyone can it’s just a matter of what else your willing to give up."
"Honestly, if your child spends 70% of her waking time with someone else that’s not you, then I’m sorry but YOU’RE NOT RAISING YOUR CHILD. And don’t get me started with that 'quality time' crap; children learn by mimicking and by repetition and if the only time in which you’re together you’re busy in the kitchen or doing the laundry, how on earth do you expect to teach them anything? In my case in particular, I work from home when I have the time; I’m lucky that my husband makes enough money for both of us and that my mother-in-law is a wonderful woman, although her being semi-illiterate can be a problem at times. If I didn’t have these two conditions in my life I simply WOULDN’T HAVE HAD A BABY. Period. If I didn’t have the money or the time to raise a kid, I wouldn’t have had one. You don’t HAVE to have kids, you know."

I put the parts in bold that really hit me in the gut. I am not going to lie, I cried. Right there at my desk. Some of it was the pregnancy hormones, but some of it was this deep fear coming to the surface. Was I going to be a terrible mother because I was going to be away from Ben for the day while I worked? Was daycare going to "raise" my son? Not only was I sad for these reasons, but I was mad. I was mad that I was being judged by someone who didn't know me or my situation.

This is why I work instead of staying home with Ben: I chose to go to law school straight out of college, and I incurred a lot of education loan debt. At that time, I didn't realize that I was choosing between being a working-outside-the-home mom or a stay-at-home mom. I have always known that I wanted kids, but it wasn't on my radar at that point in time. I was 21, and I hadn't met Dan yet or even been in a serious relationship. Getting married and having kids seemed like the way distant future. And it was the distant future - Dan and I got married when I was 28, and I had Ben when I was 32.

Dan was in the same boat as I was with the education loan debt. And when we chose to spend our lives together, we also chose to combine our massive law school debts. Oh, Twuuuuu Wuuuuuv. And then, we moved together to where the jobs were for us, the D.C. area. And guess what? It's expensive to live here! Because of all of those jobs, no doubt.  After we got married, we bought a modest home in the suburbs.

I have crunched the numbers. Then I crunched them again. We could not afford to live on one income. We could not meet our basic expenses. We already live pretty modestly when it comes to clothing, travel, entertainment, etc. However, there are definitely some things we could "give up." Like cable or our cell phones. But none of that would really make a big enough dent to allow us to stay home without also paying much less for our mortgage (like half). We already live a half hour away from D.C. (up to an hour in traffic). Living any farther away would cut into our quality of life for the person who was working. We could live in an apartment. At this point, however, we own our home and it would be expensive to sell it (not that I want to). Finally, if we really wanted to live on one income and somehow could swing it, it would have to be mine due to what I make.

So basically, the only way it would hypothetically work for us right now is if Dan stayed home with Ben, we lived in a small apartment, and we had no cable or cell phones. I know us. That would not be good for our marriage, and, by extension, our family. Dan would be unhappy. I would be unhappy. It would not be a good environment for Ben because of that.

That is why I work, personally. I am sure there are people out there who choose to work, but may not need to financially. There are definitely a ton of valid reasons for that, it is just not my situation. Who knows. If I could stay home, maybe I would realize that I would miss working. For the record, I do not regret my choices for a nanosecond. If I hadn't gone to law school, I wouldn't have met Dan, and Ben wouldn't even exist. Also, as much as I gripe about work sometimes and being a dumb lawyer, I am actually proud of my accomplishments.

I named this blog very quickly without thinking much about it. I had just started back to work, so it was in the forefront of my mind. I was actually physically dizzy when I woke up that morning. I remember I had Dan bring Ben downstairs for me, but I still felt like it was OK for me to drive to work. Don't ask - it doesn't make sense. I thought I could blog about the issues I faced as a new mom who also worked outside the home. That doesn't mean that a lot of what I talk about might not also apply to moms who "stay at home." By the way, my sister is a "stay at home" mom. I wish we could come up with a better name for it, because she is almost never at home. She does so much. Sometimes, I swear she is in two places at one time. It's magic.

Actually, it's blood, sweat, and tears.

I am related to and friends with so many moms. Some have jobs outside of the home, some don't. None of them judge each other, and they are all great moms. I have to remind myself of that when I come across some anonymous post that makes my blood boil.

1 comment:

  1. I never got the whole "mommy wars" thing, I feel like it's just the media trying to pit women against each other when the news cycle is slow. I went back to work after having Teagan, then stayed home and now am going to be working again and using daycare. I have the guilt no matter what, either because I'm home and not able to contribute financially and trying to keep everything on a tight budget or because I'm not at home all day with my kids, it's a no win situation. I know stay at home moms and work outside the home moms and none of us judge each other for our choices. It's a personal choice and people do what works and is best for their families. Let's leave flaming dirty diapers on those anonymous posters' doorsteps!