October 5, 2009

Guilty as charged.

Thank you for not allowing that last post to devolve into a bitter debate as to which lifestyle is better.

Thank you.

It was inspiring to see comments and emails rolling through my inbox that were respectful and thoughtful.  Ideas were expressed that added to the conversation - certainly, my post cannot stand on its own without your comments.  And I would not want it to. Yes, not everyone agreed with me and a few of you were a little disjointed to see me write in great detail how I would not enjoy the life of a "working in an office" mother.  I cannot blame you.

I was left wondering to myself why on earth I would write a post that could be deemed inflammatory and which would surely hurt a few of my friends. Why would I potentially alienate loyal readers and longtime friends?  In the end, I decided that I simply needed to work those words and emotions through that sausage grinder in my head.  I am glad I did publish that post because after writing it, my conviction to fight for my staying home was even stronger.

And my reasons for standing strong were in writing.

However, in reflecting upon that post, I also realized how incredibly guilty I feel about staying home.

Last month, I took the kids to a nearby botanical garden and we had a lovely afternoon.  At one point, we spent well over 30 minutes at the frog pond, watching frogs and turtles.  We moved to the bigger pond and as the kids dug in the dirt and threw rocks in the pond, I watched huge hawks floating by, down low.  Really low.  It was one of those gorgeous late summer afternoons - bright, sunny with a coolness in the air and very slight breeze.  I normally despise sitting in the sun, but that afternoon the sun felt loving and warm on my bare arms. 

Sadly, that sweet afternoon was tainted with a slight sense of embarrassment.  I felt bad enjoying that spectacular afternoon while Manoj was struggling with some work-related things that day.  You see, these outings are not uncommon - nearly every day, I am doing something enjoyable with my kids while my husband deals with all sorts of work-related crap.  We live in an area that has a plethora of parks, nature centers and gardens in addition to a wonderful zoo and children's farm.  They are mostly free or reasonably priced and we take full advantage of them throughout the year.  It still strikes me as pure insanity that I could have so much fun doing something that is supposed to be work.

I have a bachelor's degree AND a master's degree in accounting.  I am a licensed CPA.  And sometimes, I do wonder if it was all a waste.  After all, I hope to never go back to that life, even later when my kids are in school.  And yes, it is difficult to stomach that I am not explicitly contributing to our family's bank account.

My greatest wish would be for all mothers to have that sweet luxury of choice.  It does not seem fair.

And perhaps, on some level, it is not. 


Mamma Sarah said...

You know I feel the same guilt about being a working mom and being jealous of those who do get to stay home. We all have our trade-offs in life. Think about the bank account thing this way... how much are you SAVING not having to pay for childcare! :-) That's contribution enough for me.

FFF said...

Even if I had the complete financial freedom to make a choice between working or staying home without worrying about money, for me it would be a difficult choice. Or at least parts of it would. I would gladly trade in the commute, the rushed dinners, crammed weekends, for a chance for some physical and emotional quiet and connection with my kiddos. But what paralyzes me from making that choice is the what if factor. What if I want to work again and can't get another job with the resume gap? What do I do when they are in school to fill my day? What do I do with myself when they start having their own friends and thinking I'm not cool? And what do I say to my mother, who made a lot of sacrifices for me to be the lawyer that I am, when she says but you would be letting your gender down to throw opportunity away? I work 8 to 5 (more occasionally) in a non-partnership track (oh, lets call it what it is, mommy-track) job as a lawyer. I'm considered part time. And I feel stuck.

If I were to quit tomorrow, I could go teach or sub in a couple of years, but then that would mean a drastic pay cut.

I don't think there are easy answers. But I love getting your thoughts and perspective and mulling these ideas over with your smart commenters.

CPA Mom said...

One of your lines really resonated with me "My greatest wish would be for all mothers to have that sweet luxury of choice."

What a luxury choice is, especially when you do not have it. If I could so choose, I would stay at home in a heartbeat. I DO envy your life and your choice. And you.


Anonymous said...

I hear that a lot "guess you're wasting that master's degree!" but it goes back to the statement, of who better to spend their days with my children than me? I do have a master's degree and I"m proud of that work, and commitment and yes sacrifice.

And I think that just makes me even more qualified to mother my own children. To teach them about the world to open their eyes to all the things I was exposed to in education. I don't think my level of education is wasted, nor do I think my time is wasted by spending those days with my kids....

I totally agree with you that this issue, like so many parenting issues, really gets folks dander up, when again it's not about you. My choices? are about me, they are not an attack on you or a slight on your parenting, they are what works best for me, and I get sad when folks take my choices for my life as some sort of attack on them, because really...I'm only thinking of me. Your life and your choices aren't something I took into consideration, and I hope you didn't take mine in when you were making the decisions that work best for you.

(you, general of course, not you, specific)

shizzknits said...

Oh I know how you feel about the guilt sometimes. As a recovering atty who hopes to never go back to that field again, I also know how you feel about 'wasting' your advanced education.

But my point of view on the guilt: there are also MANY MANY times I have to deal with kid stuff crap, just like my DH has to deal with work crap. I worked full time before kids, in a demanding job, and I know about work crap. There are days I'd gladly go back to work just so I wouldn't have to deal with the kid crap! Ask any SAHM and she'd prolly tell you the same thing. When my kids were younger I sometimes felt guilty about doing things like taking them to the beach, or park, or having fun without DH (who was working). But one day DH said, "You shouldn't feel guilty because this is your JOB. And every job has good days and bad days. Don't feel guilty about the good days!" It struck a chord for me, and I feel less guilty about doing the fun stuff with the kids now.

As for the 'wasting' your advanced education....I know exactly where you are coming from. I was still paying $$$$ in student loans up till about 2 yrs ago. I felt stupid that I was making payments on an education that I no longer used. But then I realized that even tho I don't technically use the skills I learned while in law school, they are still with me. I will never lose that knowledge...education is something NO ONE can take from me. It made me a better, more rounded person, which makes me a better mom (plus there are studies showing the more educated the mom is, the more educated the children become) And there are plenty of people out there who are happily/successfully working in fields totally unrelated to their original degrees...so I just figure that's what I'm doing. Some women I know will ask me " so what are you going to do when your kids go to school full time?" Oh dear, I have so much that interests me that I"m sure I won't have a problem filling that time....which isn't as much as you think because between drop off and pickup, and sick days and holidays....jobs that fit with elementary school schedules are hard to come across!

At times I've also felt guilty that I wasn't contributing $$ to our household. But do you know now much full time daycare costs? I checked into it when the kids were younger, and it was well over $2500/mo for the two of them. Now that they are in school (DS1 is in 2nd, and DS2 is in preschool 3x a week), we would need a nanny because of dropoff and pickup...that's well over $2000 a month in our area. Plus taking into account wear and tear on the car, extra gas for the commute, $$ for business clothes, lunches, etc...honestly I 'make' more money staying home. And DH truly makes more $$ because he's not changing his schedule to pick up kids, or worry about childcare. But we also made the decision not to buy fancy cars (we drive a minivan and a Subie), live in a huge house, and spend $$ on things we didn't really need. We aren't truly frugal, but we budget our money and try to plan ahead because we are on only one income.

Finally, I just wanted to say that your post was timely because DH and I were just talking about some of this stuff yesterday. We came to the conclusion that while he is the CEO of our household, I'm the COO...and he can't do his job without me doing mine. So give yourself a title if it makes you feel better LOL I'm going to make up little cards with my name and "COO of the ______ Household"!

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

To everyone,
Yes, yes and YES.

Also, one of my real life friends, Amanda, made the following comment on my Facebook wall and I wanted to share it with you: "wow, you have some eloquent friends and followers. I enjoyed reading the blog and posts today. A lot of great thoughts."

How lucky am I? Thank you to everyone who has commented. So far, not a single mean comment has been left. That may very well be some sort of blogging record.

zoot said...

Donnie and I have chatted about this a lot...how I feel guilty playing with the kids while he's at work. He openly admitted jealousy over me not working...but he also openly admitted he wouldn't be playing with the kids. He'd be napping. So I think that made me feel better. ;)

Anjali said...

Don't feel guilty. Does your husband have time on the weekends to take the kids all those great places you take them during the week? That's what mine does. Saturday, he strapped them all in the van and took them to a fantastic park, while I was at a book fair. It's not the same as getting to do it during the week, but he still has a blast and doesn't feel that he's missing out.

flybunny said...

Forget Judaism, Motherhood is loaded with guilt. I think that almost any decision you (not you in particular but you anyone)make there is a small part of the mothering psyche that makes you feel guilty - or maybe that is just me.

Honestly, I don't think your education is wasted. I think you are very interesting to talk to and you always have a refreshing perspective on situations.

Let go of the guilt. You are doing what you love with people you love and what more could one ask for??

LOVE LOVE LOVE the picture!

Olivia said...

I sometimes feel jealous of my husband for getting to spend the days with our baby. I think that's why I am not, and won't be anytime soon, ready to stop bed-sharing. Nights are my time with her and I cherish everytime she wakes up to nurse.

I was also deeply resentful for every "I can't believe you are back are work already!" comment I got 3 weeks post partem. I wanted to scream at how it was not my CHOICE. It was/is necessary to keep a roof over my family's head.

*sigh* Oh well, my commute is short and my life relatively non-hectic, so I work and count the days until my husband can enter the workforce again. Maybe, just maybe, we'll be able to afford me working only part-time.

April said...

Whenever the tough times come up, whether you're a working mom or SAHM, we all tend to think the grass is greener. I don't really feel guilty that I get to stay home with our children since it was my choice. We made the plans years in advance and tried very hard to make steps in order that I could be home once we had kids. We bought the used mini van 3 years before kids, we bought a reasonably sized home that we knew we could still make payments on with one income. We made all necessary upgrades in our home appliances before we decided to try to have children.

Point is, it was a CHOICE and we planned in advance. I am not assuming everyone has the same choices and situation, but it does frustrate me when I see former co-workers or people I know say, "oh I'd LOVE to stay home but we just can't afford it". But yet they drive a brand new SUV and live in a multi-thousand square foot home.

In many situations it IS about choice and sometimes people don't want to sacrifice things for opportunities. And, that's fine, your choice! But I respect people more when they are honest with me and say they don't want to be home vs. the "I can't afford it" line (again, I know there are situations where that's the honest truth).

Rozanne said...

Excellent posts. I don't have anything to add much cuz I don't have kids, but having recently returned to the workforce after 12 years as a freelancer, I have to say that I do not know how anyone with kids manages to work a full-time job outside the home--it sucks you dry. And for what?