*Note: This is not to fuel the mom wars and this is not to make any mom feel bad whatsoever. Moms must do what is best for their family and be confident in their decision. The purpose of this is to help moms who are struggling with the debate of whether to stay home or work. This is only one mom’s perspective.*
Before I get into the heart of the matter, a little history:
I had Josiah a year and a half after Jimmi and I got married. We were still living in a crappy, tiny apartment and I still had 2 1/2 years left of college. After Josiah was born I stayed at home for two months before returning back to school and work. I went to school for about 4 hours each morning Monday through Friday that first semester and my mother-in-law kept him for those few hours. Then, after Jimmi got home from work at 2 in the afternoon I went to work around 4 or 5 in the evening and worked until some time between 8 and 11 p.m. I pumped daily to keep from using formula to supplement.
When Josiah was 6 months old I transferred to a university one hour away from home. I had to put Josiah in daycare. I went to school five days a week all day so Josiah spent about 5-7 hours a day at daycare. Josiah spent 20 hours or more a week at daycare while I was at school. Then he spent 4 evenings of the week with Jimmi and his parents while I worked. That didn’t include the hours I had to spend studying. When Josiah turned 2 I started working at the daycare he was at so I got to see him a little bit more. My last semester of college I didn’t work, but I spent the majority of my evenings doing school work. After I graduated school I pulled Josiah out of daycare. I worked 30-40 hours a week working 2nd shift at Cracker Barrel. It wasn’t what I’d like, but at least Josiah was either with me or his dad. No more daycare. I eventually put him back into daycare right before he turned 4 when I started at the newspaper. I was working almost 50 hours a week and Josiah was spending 9 hours a day at preschool before I quit that job to stay home full time right before I had Samuel.
Fast forward a bit…Samuel is almost 6 months old. He has not been away from me for more than four hours. He typically spends two hours a week away from me on Sunday at church. The four hours away was a last minute thing and it was also the only time (aside from a few times in the hospital) that he had formula. He’s been sleeping in bed with us since he was about three weeks old and I’m guilt-free about that. I nurse him to sleep and snuggle him often. I have a Mobi wrap so I can carry him around while doing housework (although he’s become mobile so he likes the floor too). Samuel will not step foot inside of a daycare and will not be attending public school.
I have to say, after being a working mom for 4 1/2 years and being a stay-at-home mom for 7 months there’s a difference. Part of it is the difference of being a second-time mom, but the majority is the time I’m at home.
Josiah started sleeping with me when he was about 3 months old, but I was guilty the entire time. I even avoided telling people. I had to pump a lot and eventually start supplementing with formula with Josiah because of my schooling and work. As a student and working mom, I missed out on a lot. It wasn’t anything significant like him taking his first steps or saying his first word, but the day to day stuff. I missed a lot of the cute stuff he said and the cute stuff he did. I remember when he first started sitting up and when he first started walking, but I don’t remember when he started crawling or when his first tooth came in. In 20 years I wouldn’t have remembered regardless, but if I would have been at home — been focused on my family — I would remember now.
My family has always been a top priority, but it has had competition. Family competed with my work schedule, my school schedule, and homework. Since I quit working, my family has become the top priority, rather than one of three or four top priorities.
The difference is that I connect differently with Samuel than I did with Josiah as a baby. Josiah didn’t need me the way Samuel does. Josiah wanted Mommy, but the thing is he was also happy being with Daddy or a grandparent or the lady at daycare. He was always happy to see me come get him, but he was just fine going to daycare all day. Samuel is different. He wants Mommy…he needs Mommy. He just recently started letting me get through Sunday School and church without being paged to the nursery. When he’s upset sometimes Daddy will do, but what he really wants is Mommy. And you know what, in the early years, that’s not a bad thing. In a few years Samuel will be wanting to do everything that Daddy and big brother are doing and Mommy won’t be as prominent as before.
I had to say goodbye to Josiah for the majority of my day and many times by the time I got to spend time with him I was too tired to give him my best. There’s been more times than I’m proud of that I’ve been in a cruddy mood because of being overly tired and I’ve snapped at Josiah due to my crankiness.
I’m thankful because Josiah is only 5 and I’ve been able to slowly make up for lost time over the past 7 months. He got an entire month of just me and him before Samuel got here and now he’s still got me full-time. I might have missed some of the cute things he did in the past, but I get to see them all now. I get the special privilege of watching his eyes light up as he masters a new concept. I love getting to snuggle with Josiah first thing in the morning and before he goes to bed. I love the walks we get to take and the Sunday night sleepovers in my bedroom that we have.
Working versus being at home with my boys feels different. Aside from what I’ve said I can’t really explain it. I have a huge sense of fulfillment staying at home and taking care of my family, more than I ever did working. Now does that mean that life is like a fairytale? Nope. We still struggle a lot from the financial impact of me not working anymore, but that will soon fade away. There are days when me and Josiah drive each other nuts. There are days when I wish Samuel would just give up and take a nap so I can fold laundry in peace. There are days when I just want to get out of the house, even if that means a trip to Wal-Mart with Jimmi and the kids. It’s not perfect, but it’s right for me. It’s not that I’m a better mom than a mom that works. It’s not that my kids love me more than a working mom’s kids love her. Staying at home with my kids is much better for me and my kids than me working.
Some moms can’t say that. Some mom’s do better with their kids in the evening after they’ve worked all day. I read a blog from one mom that said she 100% regrets staying home with her kids instead of working and even goes so far as to recommend that moms not stay home. Every woman is different and every family is different. Would I go back if I could and stay home instead of going to school or working? No probably not. Even though I missed out on a lot during Josiah’s first few years, my working and going to school put us in the position for me to stay at home when I got pregnant with Samuel. It ensured that we got the house we’re living in. It also allows me to live my life at home with my children fulfilled without any regrets and wondering if I’d rather be working than staying at home.
If any woman is debating on whether to stay at home or work, I encourage you to put serious thought into it and weigh out all the pros and cons. I encourage you to include money as a factor, but not to make it the top priority. Take a look at what you can cut back on to make it work. Could you cut out cable or satellite? Get rid of a car payment and buy a cheaper car? Stop eating out and buying junk food? If you’re pregnant, factor in the idea of using cloth as opposed to disposable and breastfeeding instead of bottle feeding.