Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Stay at Home Debate

As a preface to this post, this was extremely difficult for me to write.  This is such an emotion driven topic for me, which is why I feel that it needs to be shared.

I was very fortunate to be able to stay home for two years with my T Bear.  From the moment that I became pregnant I knew that I wanted to stay at home with my baby as long as I possibly could.  If it was possible I would be a full-time stay at home mom until my children start school; it is clearly not possible.  With T Bear, due to the hip dysplasia that she was born with, she was in a harness for seven months and then was in a full cast until she was almost one.  Hubby and I knew that she needed me to take care of her.  Then she needed special attention to catch up with her gross motor skills, so it was obvious that I needed to be at home.  When she turned two years old I had to return to my teaching position.  It was by far one of the worst days of my life.  We were able to manage because my mother and Hubby's mother alternated days and watched T Bear.  I was beyond a basket case when I returned.  I was so angry that this was the path that we were on.  I remember clearly that first morning back to work.  T Bear always slept late, but this morning she happened to wake up (I am sure she could sense that her world was changing), so she wanted to be rocked, which I did as long as I could, but we had to leave.  My poor mother-in-law had to take her from me, T screaming for Mommy, and me sobbing as I cursed Hubby out walking out of the house.  That ride in to school was a somber one; I don't think I uttered one word to Hubby (and if I did I am certain it was not a pleasant one!).  I saw one of my favorite colleagues as I made that long walk down the hallway to my office; he made a comment about me looking like I was walking the Green Mile and I started crying again!  Poor guy!  I mean I was carrying a box of tissues with me.  When I had to get up in front of my first period class I was beyond emotional.  I remember hearing my voice trembling as I attempted to explain how positive it would be for them to have a new teacher half way through the school year (needless to say I was trying to convince myself as well).  We did survive the next five months, but I did not enjoy it at all.  I literally had an upset stomach every morning; it did not get easier for me.

I believe it changed my relationship with T Bear.  She had to grow up a little bit, become independent from me, and her world was different.  It was not as consistent and routine as it had been.  Obviously children are resilient and being watched by two devoted grandmothers is pretty special, but they are not Mommy and do not do things the way Mommy does.  I felt like I didn't necessarily know what she needed, because I wasn't with her every second of the day.  It was extremely hard on me, and probably on her as well.  I would call every single day at lunch, and she either didn't want to talk to me, or became upset and wanted to see me.  Most of my calls ended up with an update from a grandmother and that was about it.

When I returned to work in the fall it was a little easier, because I knew what to expect and I was pregnant so I knew I would be at home in five months!  T did get to experience new things with Mima and Gramma, and they each play and interact with her differently than I do, so there were some benefits.

Flash forward to a few months ago when Hubby and I started talking about my inevitable return to work.  I had requested an extension to my maternity leave which was viable until the end of January.  I had no interest in returning to work.  I am not one of those women who is a better mother while working.  I fully respect every mom's needs, but being a working mom is just not my thing.  I do not not need to work to feel whole.  In fact I had never felt more like me than when I first had T Bear.  Currently, I believed wholeheartedly that neither I, Mad Man, nor T Bear would benefit from my return.  Hubby did not necessarily see things the same way.  He also felt that the kiddos were better off with me being at home, but he was well aware of the bottom line: financially we needed my salary, and there are serious discussions about my position being cut due to budget issues.  Also, we purchased land last year and have been making strides toward building (which is something we both really desire - we have definitely outgrown our house!).  None of this really seemed to matter to me.  As we discussed and discussed this issue it always became a hot bed for disaster.  I would become overly emotional, he would get frustrated, and nothing would get resolved.  This brought us to the last possible moment for me to request another extension.  Now along with the fact that we had to decide what the best thing for us would be, we received so much solicited and unsolicited advice.  Everyone seems to have an opinion on my return to work.  I have to ponder how it affects anyone besides the four of us??

It was finally do or die time, so to speak.  So we had an actual adult conversation and laid out all of the possibilities, pros, cons, hypotheticals, etc.  Even though financially it is not the best decision, we decided that I would request the extension.  So it is official:  I am home with my babies for the remainder of the school year.  I felt alive for the first time in months when I received the confirmation.  We don't know what will happen with my position, but no matter what happens I know that we put our family's emotional welfare first.  I have never been one to let finances guide my decision making and I wasn't about to start now!  We know that sacrifices will have to be made, but the pay off is huge:  our babies get Mommy all day.  I love being at home, in spite of the craziness!  I am so very grateful for this opportunity.     

High:  Knowing I have at least eight more months as a stay at home mom.
Low:  The stress of living on one salary.  

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