September 30, 2009

In the calm, there lies the magic.

I have written several versions of this post and have sat on it for days.  Tweaking.  Rewriting.  Hemming. Hawing.  I am so very tempted to pepper it with small apologies, amends and excuses.  To tone it down, to temper it.  For fear of offending someone.  But to do that?  Would simply water this down to a syrupy, goopy mess.

I will say this, my intention is to not hurt anyone with this or to be argumentative. However, this is my life and I want specific things for my family.

And so, this post will stand.

The other day, my friend Rita wrote an eloquent post about women being sadder now, than they were 40 years ago.    I cannot even begin to recap it or add any value to it, but it struck home with me.

Actually, it punched me in the gut, then smacked me around for good measure.

When it comes to women being sadder now, the presuposition is this: because we are cramming more into our lives than ever before, our lives are in chaos and this is leading to women being sadder than 40 years ago.  

And I agree.

Rita writes:
 For women and men, multi-tasking creates chaos, inattentiveness to detail and that general feeling of brain-fried malaise that descends on me personally every day as I drive home after being battered for eight hours by buzzing phones, 105 business e-mails, 105 personal e-mails, four meetings, six deadlines and 18 visits to my desk from co-workers needing an answer to a question.
And it sucks. Not being able to give something or someone your full attention sucks. I remember early in my career a mentor told me the best thing I could do for my mental state was give myself time to work. Give myself time to get something done correctly. Do less in each day, and do it better.

Rita's entire post resonated with me because it encapsulated why I do not want to have an office job.  Ever.  When our kids are in school, I am hoping to do something part-time, low-key. I never want to go back to the life I led before I had kids.  Leaving my house by 7:30am, sometimes getting home by 6:00pm, if I was lucky there were no emergencies and when the Traffic Gods ruled in my favor.  Sometimes working weekends.  Expected to answer phone calls in the evenings.  Last minute trips.  At my last job, I missed an OB appointment because something came up.  And yes, I take full responsibility for missing that appointment.  That is part of the problem with my working.  When I work, I want to give 100%.  And I would not be able to do that now, in this current life.  Furthermore, not even my family would be getting 100%.

And most importantly, I would not be getting 100%.

I have a job, folks.  It is a full-time job and it is not just about taking care of our kids, it is about taking care of our home.  Our life.  It is sad the term "homemaker" went out of style, because that is the truest definition of my job these days.  I am so much more than just a stay-at-home-mom, dammit - I am making a home for us while my husband is working his tail off to create a business from scratch.  Where is the shame in being called a homemaker?  

If I were working in an office, I would not be getting what I need for me and my sanity. As my life is now, I am able to carve out time for myself, here and there.  Time that I need to recharge and inspire me to be a better mother, wife and person.  I simply do not see how that would happen if I had an outside job because I would want all of my non-work time to be for my family. I cannot imagine coming home at 6 or 6:30 and us trying to get some sort of decent, healthy, non-boxed meal on the table.  Then, trying to get the kids to sleep by 8:30 so that they can be up in time.  The thought of only having a few hours each evening with my kids makes my chest ache.  And the thought of trying to cram their childhood into the weekends makes me ill.  Truthfully?  I don't enjoy going to the zoo, the children's farm, museum, parks, etc on the weekends because it makes me sad to see all the families trying to cram in quality time.  Furthermore, how we would even have time to do all those fun things??   On weekends, we would be too busy getting everything else that needs to be done to keep our household going. 

Every single Monday, I read a lot of Ugh, It's Monday posts from over-tired folks who spent their weekends running around.  In my life now, I like Mondays.  I love getting our week started and planning our activities.  We run around during the week, then lay back on the weekends. 

Where is this leading?  X and I have discussed my getting an outside job.

We are not struggling for money, although we are worried about money, like most folks are these days. So please, do not misunderstand - This is not That Post.  Actually, our situation is not bad.  It is actually good since we are standing at the precipice of a Great Thing.  And for that?  X needs to ramp back on the consulting and focus on the Great Thing.  And for that? More money is needed.  So, without going into too much detail into our finances, it would behoove our little family if I went to work so that X could concentrate on that Great Thing and we could stem the hemorrhage of our accounts.  And let me be clear: This a Great Thing in which I wholeheartedly believe and support.  An awesome Thing that a Famous Big Coffeehouse is implementing on an industry-specific scale.  A cool Thing that X knows will work on a larger scale.

And we are trying to figure this out without my having to go to work in an office.

Because that? Would be chaos.  It would drive me insane.  And while of course, Manoj would have to pick up a load of household duties around here, that would just further tighten the squeeze on him because he is already quite busy as it is.

The thought of putting my kids in daycare physically makes me ill.  The thought of someone else hanging out with my children for 8+ hours a day makes me jealous.  Angry.  Resentful.

No, this is not a screed against the evils of daycare.  I am sure preschools and daycares are nice places to hang out.  I even suspect my kids would like hanging out in one for a little bit - after all, they do enjoy their little school two mornings a week.  But for a long-term situation for 45+ hours a week?  No way. I am their mother and nothing will convince me that someone else could nurture them better than I could  Nothing will convince me there is a better option than me for taking care of them. 


So, we will figure it out.  We will make do, we have several variable expenses that can be cut and our fixed expenses are reasonable.

Truthfully, it has been difficult for Manoj to understand why I am adament about no full-time daycare/preschool for our kids.  And why would he?  His mother was always there for him.  He does not know what it is like to not be home and to be in a place where the folks may or may not want him around.  He does not know what it feels like to be sick and still have to be carted off someplace because his parents had to work and could not stay home.  He does not know what it is like to be bleary-eyed because he had to get up at the crack of dawn to be driven to the babysitter when really, he just wanted to be home and watch cartoons on his own TV, on his own couch.  He has never seen a babysitter smile at his mom, then pretty much dismiss him before his mom had left the driveway.

I know how all of that feels.   And don't even get me started on how it feels to be a latch-key kid.  The loneliness of walking into an empty house.

My children will be starting kindergarten before I know it.  My children will think I am an out-of-date goofball before I know it.  My children will want to hang out with their friends instead of me before I know it.  This part of their childhood is so very fleeting.  Every day something new happens, and oh sure, it is not always exciting.  But truly,  I relish the quietest, simplest of moments - be it doing shopping cart donuts in the Costco parking lot. Or creating operatic librettos out of our grocery list.  Or taking our time while running an errand because they happened across a creepy crawly on the sidewalk.  Or doing nothing in particular at all, just sitting in our own yard and watching the clouds.  I do not want to rush this period of their life running around, in a hurry all of the damned time.

And I do not want to miss it sitting in traffic or a cubicle.


jonniker said...

Me too. I feel like a traitor to my old self admitting it but ... me too. I feel the same way about all of it. And it's not REMOTELY to condemn others' choices or decisions or lifestyles at all -- it works for them, and I respect it, and that makes me happy for them. But it would not make me happy, and it's not what I want for myself, or for my kids.

I'm glad you admitted it. I'm glad it gave me a place to admit it, too.

girlfiend said...

yes, yes, yes. When F told me he just wanted to stay home today I was grateful for the opportunity. We just made two kinds of pudding, and a loaf of banana bread while the baby napped and he is driving his trains through flour while I read this post. I can't imagine doing this any other way.

(J, from the now defunct nursing your kids)

flybunny said...

The life you don't want is my life and it pretty much sucks. While it is less than ideal, we are making it work for us because we have to.

Thank you for not passing judgement on those of us who have to have our kids in daycare and scramble to provide a decent meal and have eek out some quality time with our kids.

flybunny said...

The life you don't want is my life and it pretty much sucks. While it is less than ideal, we are making it work for us because we have to.

Thank you for not passing judgement on those of us who have to have our kids in daycare and scramble to provide a decent meal and have eek out some quality time with our kids.

Moderndayhermit said...

That is a beautifully written post! I'm at the office so I can't write more but wanted to put that out there, haha.

Dee said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you. If it were even remotely possible, I would be at home with my kids. Life would be simpler without the hustle and bustle we go through. I struggle every day with the fact that I'm not able to give them the life I so wanted them to have (mainly due to bad financial decisions in my younger days). In our family my job is the dependable one so staying home just isn't an option.

kristen said...

Ditto flybunny, Dee, and Moderndayhermit. I know that sucks as a comment and will try to better later but no time right.

Anjali said...

I agree. I just wish others were able to make the same choices we are. Because I don't know any parent who wants a two-hour day with their kids.

-R- said...

I am a work-out-of-the-home mother, and I am happy with my choice. I can understand that what I want for myself is not what you want for yourself, and that's totally fine. I think you wrote about this in a respectful manner, even though it can be hard to read that someone else would hate to live your life. I hope you guys are able to figure things out so that you can stay at home.

LL said...

I think "-R-" summed up my reaction to this post very well. I can understand that what works for my family is not something you would want for yourself. And of course, I support the choice you have made and the fact you feel strongly it is the right one. What is hard is reading that someone else would not want to live your life, along with the underlying subtext that it probably cannot be as good for the mother, children, and family in general as the one they are living.

Oddly enough, I hadn't read your post beforen I wrote mine today, which was all about how much I love my life right now and how I don't think I've ever felt this happy or fulfilled. So even though I obviously feel good about my life, I still have a gut reaction to defend myself to you, which is unnecessary and not what you are asking for. I think this is why it is so difficult to have a respectful discussion on these issues -- even when everyone is stressing that these are their choices and they are best for them (as you have done), it is still difficult to hear that someone wouldn't make, and in fact think it might be bad to have made, your choices. Especially in the area of parenting.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

R and Lag Liv,
Yes, I agree. It is hard to read when someone essentially states they would hate to live your life. I suspect we all get this in many different ways, besides in parenting. For example, when someone expresses her disdain for living in the suburbs or living in the midwest. Or my very favorite from the mouth of a friend "I could never date a foreigner!" (true story, no joking!)

Over the years, I have read (and heard) several times how someone could never stay home full-time because they would be bored. Believe me, that one is hard to stomach because the implication is clear.

I did try to write this in a respectful manner. Really!

Anna said...

I see where you're coming from. I work full-time, and staying home isn't an option for either me or my husband. It's a frantic life sometimes, but I've tried to create the best situation possible. I work at home one day a week and whenever one of my kids is sick and needs to stay home. My husband's hours are flexible enough that he can pick the kids up mid-day many days.

I don't think I'm suited for staying home full-time. I did stay home full-time for one year each maternity leave. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to stay home when they were babies, but I was ready to go back to work and for the most part, I enjoy it.

I think we all need to find ways to slow life down. I try to find routines, and make choices that make life less frantic.

jonniker said...

Dude, people say they wouldn't want my life ALL THE TIME. It's different strokes, you know? No judgment here in the slightest. I think it all works for raising good kids, it's just what works for ME is THIS ... for now. You know?

Anonymous said...

Would you just write my blog for me? Thanks.

My mental shift from being 'I stay home with my kids' or 'What do you do? Nothing..." came from my husband.

Who declared me the CEO of our home. I make sure it is running, sometimes I farm out responsibilities (Neighbor Girl or friend) come by to watch my kids while I take care of some of the business of running this home, and of working from home.

I pay the bills, do the laundry, balance the checkbook, prepare the meals, play, laugh, sing, shop, read.

I am their mother, and I agree with you that no one can convince me that anyone is better for them, right now than I am.

Someday, sooner than I think, they will have thier own friends, own thoughts, own plans. And there will be more time for me and my plans, and I may find myself instead of out of time, trying to fill time.

And that just makes my heart sad. I know I am not the person I had before kids, and while I liked her a lot, most of the time, the woman I am post kids, has her priorities better aligned, knows the benefit of some quiet time, and self reflection of not cramming everything into this day.

And she is happy...

Anonymous said...

So after my love comment I read the other comments, and I agree with all of them. I think our society puts so much pressure on us all to STAY HOM! and WORK OUT SIDE THE HOME! at the same time. The fact that so many of us love our lives, and that so many of us are totally different I think is what makes this world so awesome. It is what keeps it turning.

I work from home, in a job that allows me amazing flexibility but would never pay our bills, and I'm able to do contribute to our income, while still creating the home environment I like. I'm very very lucky. At least I think I am because it is my life.

I think that is the key. We all live our lives the best we know how and I think generally alot of us are happy. I doesn't mean my life is the same as your or that i'm a bad mother or your a bad mother or she's a bad mother. We're all different! Hurray. Our kids are all different, our homes are all different....

Embrace! Your! Life!

Maybe I should get a blog.

jodifur said...

You know what's funny, I work part-time, for the same arguments you made. I don't want my son in daycare 40 plus hours a week (absolutely no judgment on people who do. I work in child abuse. I only judge people who cross my desk.) But I still have to work, financially, and for my sanity, so, this was our compromise.

But, now that he is in school 5 days a week until 2, and that is when I work, I'm like, I should probably just go back full time. But no, because 2 is not six and there is a difference. He is only young once and I am there, even if it is not ALL THE TIME.

I think everyone makes the choice that works for them and that is ok.

Bethany said...

When Ebaby was born I just could not go back to my job. The thought of leaving her made me physically ill.

When she was just shy of two I was sick of staying home and worrying about money. Amazingly my old boss called & offered my old job but part time and a lot more money. It was great! Three days a week and full time money.

Then I got laid off before I even came back from maternity leave with Scoop. She is 20 months now and Ebaby is 6 and I do not want to go back to work. I just got my last unemployment check though and we will be in need of some more income soon.

I just want every mother to be able to do what is right for her and her family. Oh brother, I'm not even sure what my point is...

Anyway, glad you didn't change the post.

Mojavi said...

good post woman...

if I had a quarter for every woman who has dismissed me or told me "ugg I could never be a SAHM" I would be a rich SAHM... so yeah both sides want to defend their position.

I saw that report on woman being unhappy these days, and I agree many many are...

Mojavi said...

good post woman...

if I had a quarter for every woman who has dismissed me or told me "ugg I could never be a SAHM" I would be a rich SAHM... so yeah both sides want to defend their position.

I saw that report on woman being unhappy these days, and I agree many many are...

Olivia said...

Beautiful post.

I work a full-time office job right now, but all things considered it's not too bad. I have a short commute and the work is low stress. However, it is my hope that when my husband finishes his master's and gets a teaching job, that I will be able to find something part-time for all the reasons you listed.

I am forever thankful that my mother's cooking job at my school allowed her to be home when we got out of school and on holidays and I want that for my children.

I'd like to add that one reason women are less happy than men is the daily grind of casual sexism. Constantly receiving messages that we/our bodies/our choices are not good enough, that we are 'lesser than' takes it's toll.

kristen said...

Okay I thought about your post all the way home yesterday and now I have time for decent comment.

I think you did a great job expressing yourself and the reasons for your choices without condemning those who have made other choices. I would love to stay home for all of the reasons you listed but it is not possible right now. I know there are lots of people who say "it is always possible if you want it bad enough". Well it is not. The sacrifices would be horrific and my husband is not on board with that.

So this is my life and when I dwell on what others have or what I wish I had that's when I get depressed about it. When I choose to be happy and make the best of what life is right now, things move smoothly.

When I hear "I could never work full time" or any other I could nevers I try to take it as a compliment that someone else realizes that I am doing a tough job. There are ups and downs to every lifestyle. It seems to me like we should all try to either be happy in the life we have or take action fix what's wrong.

Thank you for posting what was on your mind in a respectful but undiluted manner. I think the tone of your post sets a good tone for your commentors and I love that I can speak what's on my mind without fear of getting smacked around.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the beautiful post. I love the fact I can spend 2 hours sitting in the yard looking at bugs and clouds-not having to think of rushing around. I hate it when people ask if I'm bored (seriously how could you be bored with your own children?. I hate it when I am not included in adult conversations despite my 2 degrees and respectable working past-for some reason I am now...just...a...SAHM. I would never change my situation, and am very very thankful we are able to make it work. That being said I do roll my eyes at people who say they could never afford to stay at home while clutching their designer bags and hopping into their luxury SUV's. It is a huge sacrifice, and so so totally worth it. I appreciate your honesty, and bravery!!

Anonymous said...

I came here to read the comments after reading your post. Others have said what I thought when I read your post, "you would hate my life." It kind of made me sad, but, then again, I knew what I was getting into when I decided to start a family and work. It's a shame that we women don't have more choices. Part time work = no benefits. Full time work = no time with children. It's a tough compromise.

I try to remember that my mother worked full time, and I definitely knew she loved me and I worshipped the ground she walked on. So, there's that.

Erin said...

I never thought I'd want to quit an outside job and stay home with my kids. My mom worked outside the home...but my maternal grandmother lived with us and was there to care for us when my parents were working.

When my son was first born, I suffered from postpartum depression. Getting up and having to go to work kept me sane and away from the edge. But I still wasn't happy.

My son is now nearly two, and every single morning I dread leaving him at our babysitter's house—a fantastic woman and friend with a son just one month older than mine. But I'm jealous. I'm resentful.

Thank you for writing this and sharing it. I feel exactly the same way, and so does my husband. We're making moves to change this situation to one we're comfortable with. Sure, it'll be a major financial sacrifice. But it's worth it to have these few short years.

M&Co. said...

I work outside the home. My husband stays home and takes care of the house and kids. It's a choice we made because of finances (I'm a lawyer and he's a teacher-you do the math). I leave my office at 5:00 every day, earlier if I can get stuff finished, because my BoyChild has to be in bed by 8:00. So, we eat together, we race cars, we take a walk. It's not the ideal situation, and it wouldn't work for everyone, but like you it beats having both of us working and the BoyChild in daycare for part of the day. Oddly enough, the BoyChild and I like spending our weekends at home vegging out, playing games, reading and watching DVDs and it's my husband who wants to go out and do more things. I think he spends so much time at home or with the BoyChild that he craves more activity. I don't do anything in the evenings except spend time with the BoyChild but that's my Husband's opportunity to go to meetings at church and interact with other adults. We all make choices and I wouldn't dare to criticize someone else's choice because I'd resent their criticizing my choices.

LuAnn said...

One of the things that I know you can do part time and have freedom and NOT be in a cubicle is to be a substitute teacher (you're so qualified) or even a paraprofessional (again, so [over]qualified here)in yours and my school district. The pay for these positions is not too shabby. It would work around school times for Arun and Anju (since you'd be working in a school, too), the school folks are generally non-corporate-mindset kind of people, and you'd have some flexibility, freedom, and stimulation that does not come in a CUBE. You wouldn't have to worry about email nor would you have work to trot home to do--and weekends and breaks are Always. Free. And no last minute traveling. Lots of up sides if you really think about this for your (near?) future. Food for thought, anyway. Good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

It is cold and windy today. The kiddos and I staying in bed for a good 40 minutes debating hot oatmeal vs pancakes. We decided on malt o meal. I was a latchkey kid- I knew my parents loved me more than anything- it was still incredibly lonely to come to an empty house. I would (and do) sacrifice material happiness to enjoy countless mornings like today. My situation would not work for everyone, theirs would not work for me. I don't think any less of anyone who has a different lifestyle, and wish the JUST A SAHM talk vs OMG you are a WORKING MOM debate could end. What works for you works. Thanks!

Christine said...

I hardly classify my few hours a week as really working outside the home. However, doing that has given me great insight into myself: I could never work full time right now. Not because of daycare or whatever, but because I would totally and completely suck at it. I don't have the energy or focus right now. And I am really bad at making the transition back to home after being at work. I think it's because it's a caretaking kind of job I end up cranky at home because I don't want to hear anymore about what anyone else wants from me.

So mostly right now this works for me, although I admit to sometimes staring at the walls of my house and wondering what exactly was the purpose of all of those years of school.

D. Jain said...

This was a great post, Cagey. It also scared me, because the life you don't want is basically what we're setting ourselves up for. We live in such a high cost-of-living area that as long as we live here, I'll probably never be able to stay home. Plus there's the commute, the traffic, etc. It's already exhausting and we don't even have kids yet! There's a lot of great stuff about this area too though.

At least we've got my MIL. After we have a baby and I've had my maternity leave, she'll come from India and live with us to take care of the kid(s) so they won't have to go to day care.

The thing is, as much as I like my job, it's not what I really love to do--which is to take care of the home, cook, garden, etc. Well, that's life right now, I suppose...

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Alright, I'm posting because I think 30 is a nice round comment number. My OCD won't let me keep it at 29. It's kind of like when I'm working out and I'll be done but then I'll exercise a wee bit more so the calorie counter ends on a rounded number.

It's good that you love your life.

lorib said...

My apologies to Monkey for messing with her nice round comment number, but I had to add my two cents to your lovely post. My life is pretty crazy right now with work and home life (which is why it has taken days for me to get around to writing this comment), so this post definitely hit home. I think it is wonderful that you are able to stay home with your beautiful kids and I hope you can find a way to manage the finances so you can continue to live your life in the way you most desire. I'm facing going from four days back to five and am really struggling with the impact that move will have on our family.

Me said...

I'm glad that you speak up for your lifestyle. Even though we ended up with a stay at home parent through happenstance since Roger's layoff - and it's not me dammit - we've decided to work really hard to figure out how to make our life work with one of us working only part-time, if at all. It makes our household run so much more smoothly to have one of us home to care for the house, and plan meals and be around when the kids are out for yet another Inservice day. I hope we're able to figure things out as gracefully as you and X have.

Gori Girl said...

I don't have much to add that other's (on both side of the fence) have said - but I loved being a latch-key kid. My favorite part of the day was coming home to an empty house, and all of the wonderful possibilities (mostly in book form) that an afternoon by myself represented.

So, you know, just as SAHM & WOHM lifestyles can fit perfectly for different moms, they can also fit perfectly for different kids.

-R- said...

I was really ok with this post. I still stick to my point that it is hard to hear that someone else would hate to make the same choices I have made, but that doesn't meant that I disagree with you for making different choices or for thinking that your choice is the best choice.

HOWEVER, I just read your comment over at Jessica Gottlieb's blog, and it was interesting to see your true feelings on the issue. I am sorry that you feel some work-out-of-the-home moms have judged you or been rude to you. That doesn't make it ok for you to judge or be rude to all work-out-of-the-home moms.