August 30, 2004

The decision that had to be made.

It happened sometime during the elementary school years, the years where some mothers bring cupcakes to class to celebrate a birthday, where parents often accompany their children on field trips to museums or the zoo. “Mom, why aren’t you in the PTA?”

“Because some Moms have to work,” my Mom said to me. It wasn’t exactly an explanatory tone, but a tone normally used to end a discussion. I didn’t pester her; my Mom had worked for my entire life and I didn’t plan on her quitting her job as a nurse so she could bring pink iced cupcakes to my class come November.

In a family of constant underachievers, I have always considered my Mother a standout. Although she started out as a registered nurse, she quickly climbed the ranks until she became a nurse practitioner. She was a career mom in the strongest sense, having been absent for three days due to work while I sat at home with an untreated broken wrist.

“I raised you, you know,” said my Grandma. “I raised all of you.”

In fact, you could say that I never respected the Stay-At-Home-Mom. I was never snotty or rude to them but secretly I felt that they squandered their lives away instead of doing something valuable to society. So what if they made cupcakes? My Mom could pump your stomach when you overdosed on painkillers.

“I’ll be gone for three weeks,” said my Mom. “You’ll be staying with the neighbor.”

So when it came time for me to go to college and choose a career, the thought of staying at home with a baby did not cross my mind. Instead, I arrived at Texas A&M University with an intended major in meteorology, only to discover at my last-minute transfer orientation (Welcome to A&M! Would you like us to use lube as we screw you up the butt?) that they actually expected you to take both math and science courses in order to obtain that degree. What? Math? Science? Hello, can’t I just look at the sky and say “Here comes that tornader!” No, that’s not a typo. Tornader is just so much more fun to say than “tornado.” Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

“You should consider a career in writing,” a friend tells me. “I love to read anything you write.”

In order for a typical student to receive a transfer to a different school in the University, said student must spend a semester there and then apply to the school. However, I quickly learned upon meeting my advisor that the phrase “I can’t do math to save my life and I will fail out if left here” is a good way to have said advisor shuffling you to the Dean’s office so they can get you out of there before you taint their halls with your liberal arts mind.

“Perhaps you should consider a different college,” my high school math teacher said. “I don’t think you’ll be able to get in there.”

I did graduate. With an actual degree and a full ride scholarship in journalism for my senior year. Yes, you stupid nay Sayers. I had a scholarship Because I Could Write. The rest is history. I get a job, go to work from eight to four and quickly realize how much I hate sitting behind a desk.

“You’re one of the best journalism students we have,” my advisor tells me. “I’m nominating you for a scholarship.”

As of July 12, 2004, I find myself with a new title: Stay-at-home-Mom. Domestic Goddess. Caretaker of the Wee-One. I love getting to spend time with my daughter, learning little tidbits of information about her that I can later dispense to any random stranger.

“I’m glad you’re staying home,” my Mom told me. “It is such an important job.”

However much I love my daughter, I find myself in mourning for something that is no longer. I now sit at home every day, I know what is on Oprah and I wipe more butts than should be allowed by law. While I adjust to this new life, I find myself envying my friends and the exciting things happening in their lives. Some are my age and bringing in $60K a year. Others are preparing for grad school and cross-country moves to exciting cities. Still, some have well-paying jobs and fancy new cars that definitely do not have dents in the door or major cracks in the windshield.

“I just paid $700 for football tickets,” she said. “I put them on my credit card.”

I love my husband and daughter. Love them more than anyone could ever know. I’m happy to have them and would give up anything to keep them in my life. At the same time, however, I find myself mourning for that which is no more. Grad school is out of the question with a newborn. I feel burned out from journalism and I have no desire to go back to a desk job.

“She’s just a bad writer,” says the anonymous internet person.

Sometimes I wonder why women who choose to stay at home don’t get a better compensation. If I had a job and I did a good job, I would be rewarded with a higher paycheck, perhaps a corner office or a glowing recommendation. Now I’m rewarded with a pair of cloth shorts that has breast milk, afterbirth blood spots and a chocolate chip smear on them. Even though at 24, I’m having a quarter life crisis, I do not want to leave my daughter. I may have to wipe her ass instead of kissing it, but she is a much better coworker than I could imagine.

“Think of what we could afford with two incomes,” he mused.

It doesn’t seem to matter what I do. The topic of staying home verses working is such a hot one that it brings the most mundane soccer mom’s claws out on any parenting message board. Truth be told, I don’t want to work. Why should I, considering I don’t know what I want to do and I prefer to stay with my baby. I’ve had the fights, I know how high the stakes and emotions run.

“You’re just being selfish,” she said to me. “You would rather have a nice life than take care of your daughter.”

As time goes on, I’m sure the tears will stop as I learn what is in store for this little family of three. I’m sure watching my daughter learn to walk will make me feel a lot happier than a “good job” said in passing from a boss who doesn’t stop for more than two seconds on his way to the bathroom.

Posted by Rachel at August 30, 2004 10:29 PM

Sweetie, welcome to the world of the new stay-at-home mom. I can't speak for everyone else, but I can say you are not alone in this struggle of wanting "more" yet having everything that is important to you. Freelancing is a great way to have the best of both worlds. (Really!)

As for getting bonuses for a job well done. You have that as a SAHM. It's called more children! *grin*

Don't ever hesitate to give a shout out when it overwhelms you. Being at home with a baby can be the hardest, loneliest and most thankless job you can have, but it is an important one.

Besides, it can be a lot of fun watching the daytime talk shows on mute and making up your own dialogue. (Or is that just me?)

Posted by: Jenn at August 31, 2004 01:08 PM

You have time to make up your own dialogue? :)

Rachel, I think that you staying with Ellie until you are drawn to something is a good thing. My son is 2 years old today and I stay with him AND go to school, because eventually I want to be a physical therapist. Because I am drawn to that, I work out a way that I am both a SAHM AND a student. When you figure out what you want to do, you will make it happen regardless of what seems to be obstacles in your way. If your choice is to stay with Ellie permanently, God bless you. It's a hard gig! But, I'll be the first to admit that it's also the most rewarding gig on the planet.

Posted by: Linda at August 31, 2004 01:56 PM

Bottom line, no matter what anyone says, you have to do what is right for you.

Staying at home was never an option for me. 1) I would go completely nutso and take everyone with me! 2) I'm a single mom, and choose not to live off the government. 3) I live in the Bay Area, California. One of the most expensive in the nation.

But, 4) I want to work. And that really is what makes this decision right for me.

Do what is right for you, and be happy with your decision. And know, you can always change your mind at a later date.

Posted by: Angie at August 31, 2004 06:30 PM

Echoing other's here Rachel, do what is right for your life; no one else can tell you what is best for you. I stayed home with mine when they were little, working odd jobs when and if they went to school (we homeschooled) taking in other kids for after school care.

As a result I don't have a real profession; I am not sure whether that is good or bad. Many people upon moving to Israel find their old job beyond them (because of the Hebrew/laws etc.) and must make do with the type of things I do; grunt work. Some are able to go on into their own profession of course, but many find they must make a lateral move, somewhere else.

I probably find that easier to do since I was never doing anything else in the first place!

No matter what decision there is probably some mourning about it; having to beat the clock rather than work with it is a draw back to work; life is less bound by time, at least it was for me when I was home.

Good luck with whatever you choose.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at September 1, 2004 06:16 AM

The hours suck, the co-workers complain a LOT, there are absolutely no fringe benefits, and you can FORGET about a two week vacation.

But you know what else? YOU'LL be the one to witness those all-important Firsts (that only happen once and for a fleeting moment) and it really is the toughest job you'll ever love with your whole heart.

Work will always be there. I stayed home for four years with my boys (who are now 13 and 16) and I do not, for one second, regret any of it. I now work from home, so I'm a little bit of both, too! ;o)

Whatever you do, it will be what works best for you and your family -- and it will be the right decision. (Remember, you can re-negotiate at any time!)

P.S. Welcome! Yayay!!

Posted by: Emma at September 1, 2004 07:28 AM

Yup, it's definitely need to do what is right for you. And what makes you happy....when we love our children, truly love them, they know it. They can feel it in our hugs, in our kisses, in the extra little "treats" we pack in their lunch kits, in the pats on the back we give them at bed time.

Some moms (or dads) are "stay at home" and the kids never feel the warmth and love that they crave. 10 hour days to "survive" the family and the kids couldn't feel more loved!

I didn't stay home after having my first 2 and I'm sorry about that....but my kids know how much I love them and how much they mean to me. Now after having my 3rd...I'm home "full-time", trying to run my own business and I wouldn't change things for least not now, but in the future...well, I can't sit still washing floors for very long either.

Good luck! You certainly have a gorgeous little girl there and sounds like a very supportive husband.

Posted by: Lujza at September 4, 2004 09:05 AM

I went back to work when my first child was three weeks old. He was with a nanny four days a week. When my second child was born I became a stay at home mom. It wasn't till then that I realised just how much of my son's babyhood I had missed out on. There will always be time for work, but once the baby days are gone, they're gone. You are giving Ellie the best thing that she can get in this world...You.

Posted by: bella at September 7, 2004 11:37 AM

I know how you feel. I am 25 with 2 kids, 3 and 4 years old. I stay home with them during the day but I just started working in the evenings for some extra money. I can't imagine having to go to work when they were babies. I would have hated it, missing out on those important moments that others have mentioned. I also know though how it feels when friends say that they went on a trip to Hawaii or some place that I dream of going but can't just pick up and go because I have kids and all the responsibilities that go along with that. Life isn't easy but all you need to get through life is love and it sounds like you and your hubby have that figured out already!! :)

Posted by: Priscilla at September 20, 2004 05:34 PM

Oh Rachel. I don't know if you will ever even find this, but I am so sad you had to feel those feelings and I am sure even now, you sometimes feel them again. I have been all the way there and back every single day of my life times six kids. You have shown your heart and it will take you where you need to be. Please know you are loved. Take care of that little lady. Thanks for being so honest.

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Oh boo hoo! to all of us that are stay at home mommyslol....anyway Ive seen the spectrum from many sides.I am a stay at home mom of 4 children and Im living in northern alberta canada.My husband works for months away from home.Hes a sub contractor,so thank your lucky stars girl if you have a supportive husband and a education .It could be worse you could be living a worse reality.I love my children but I have been a mom since I was 17.It could also be worse for me.....I guess I could be a broke single mom again now that sucks girl. patricia , Brownvale, Canada

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