I realized tonight that it’s been 10 years since I stopped working outside the home so I could stay home with the kids. That is a L-O-N-G time. There are times when I feel every day of every year of that time.
When we first had Liam, Scot and I agreed that I could stay home while Liam was an infant. We could make it work financially, I’d gotten laid off while pregnant anyway, and neither one of us really wanted to put a 3 month old in full time daycare if we could avoid it. (NB: This is NOT meant as a judgement on those that do; it’s simply what we wanted for our little family.) So, we decided I’d stay home for a year and then job search.
I stuck to my end of the bargain, putting Liam in daycare full time when he turned one. I started an intensive job search. And then Liam got sick and he stayed sick. Of that first month of daycare, he was only actually there for 8 days. The rest of the time he was terribly ill.
And my plan to work went right out the window. What good would having a job do if I couldn’t actually go do it because my kid was always sick?
Fast forward a few years – I’m still home, we’ve bought a new house, and we’re discussing when Baby #2 might make an appearance. Given the new mortgage I thought, “Hey! I should be a contributing member of the family!” and so I job searched again. My hope was to find a position, work hard at it, stay there through another pregnancy and then take a 1 year leave of absence when Baby #2 arrived.
That was a pipe dream. In the end, Scot and I had another long talk, took a hard look at our finances, and decided that having me at home worked better than having me earning a paycheck. So when Liam was around 2.5 or 3, I finally started shifting my outlook from “temporary stay at home mother” to “indefinite stay at home mother.”
Man, that was a mental shift.
And now here it is all these years later and I’ve been doing this job for 10 years. I always said that I wanted to be home when my kids were little because those years when they needed me so intensely were so few. In truth, I really give a lot of credit to women who work full time and have a baby. Babies are waaaaaay work intensive and the sleep deprivation alone would have rendered me useless at any job outside the home. (Shit, it rendered me useless INSIDE the home.) Those women who can? Superwomen.
Being home has been great for seeing all the ‘firsts.’ But it can be isolating and incredibly thankless. I struggled with the isolation for a long time and it was only when I found Twitter and discovered what a wonderful local community resides there that I began to feel less alone. Social media is a lifeline for me; a connector to the world outside my narrow little focus.
I still struggle with the thankless part of being at home. There have been so many times that I’ve felt like I’m doing everything all by myself. I’m not, and I know that. Scot is my partner. But he also has a lot of health issues and that often leaves me doing more than I’d like. And then I constantly feel like I’m failing my kids because I’m not making them help me more because I’m tired and if I do it myself it’s DONE. But if I make them do it, it’s a battle and I lack the energy.
I never, ever thought that I would stay home as long as I have. I never wanted to make Scot responsible for supporting us for so long. The truth is that it has worked for us and worked well (mostly!). I hope that my being here has been what my children needed and wanted. I hope the time I’ve spent with them as wee ones stays with them throughout their lives. I hope they’ll learn to see a different side of me as I transition back into a working parent. I hope they’ll forgive the inevitable bumps we’ll hit as that happens.
So, 10 years? Yes, it’s a long time. I think I choose the perfect 10 years to do it in, though.