For a little over a year now I have had the privilege of staying home with my children. I feel very lucky to be able to do so, because I know not everyone is able to do this. I feel very lucky that my husband supports this decision and is willing to work hard to make sure I can stay home with my children.
A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were talking and he told me of a conversation he had with one of his fellow co-workers that went kind of like this.
CW: What does your wife do for a living?
DH: She doesn't work, she stays home.
CW: Is she looking for a job?
CW: Well why not?
DH: She doesn't want to.
CW: Well that must be nice. Maybe I could tell my husband I don't want to work anymore so I don't have to.
My husband said he really didn't respond to that, didn't see a need to. I will say that at first I was hurt that my husband didn't defend me. Granted, I wasn't there, and Nick said, "Oh, don't worry about it," but the way he described the situation really made me feel like this person honestly thought I didn't work because I just didn't want to work. So here is my rant on the situation
I have had a job since I was 11 years old. I started babysitting then and did that even into college. After school, during the summer, I worked. I didn't do extra curricular activities because I worked. When I was 14 years old I lied about my age and started washing dishes at a restaurant in my home town. I worked fast food during the summer after I gradated. Around those jobs I still babysat every free moment I had.
In college I had two jobs at the same time, the entire first three years of college. I worked in the library (where I met DH) and I also worked at a gas station. I liked working when I wasn't at school. The last year of college at Central I had three jobs - I worked as a direct care worker in the area.
Between Central and Purdue I worked at a hospital as a dietary aide. When we moved to Atlanta we had a hard time finding work so we did temp work, and when we moved up to Lafayette, Indiana I also did temp work until school started. After school started I did office work on campus while going to school, until I had to do my internship. At that point I couldn't work because of the internship. When I graduated I worked at a small hospital in Crawfordsville, Indiana (a hospital I interned at who offered me a position when I graduated).
When Gabe was born it became apparent that he couldn't go to daycare. Now, I know, ALL kids can do daycare - you just make them go. Gabe was Gabe from birth and he couldn't do daycare, so from there I did jobs where he could be with me. I compiled a database for Purdue university about herbal medications. I babysat for family members children. I was an assistant at a day care. I always did something to bring in a little extra money.
When Evelyn was 8 weeks old I started my job at the health department. I was a WIC and MIHP dietitian. I LOVED my job. LOVED IT! I would have done it for free if I could have afforded to. I loved helping people. I loved working with pregnant ladies and young children. LOVED IT!
Six years after I started that job I was offered a position at a local hospital with higher pay that I had to take, but I so loved my health department job that I didn't want to give it up. With the increase cost of gas and food we hit a point where the WIC/MIHP just wasn't even paying for itself. We had the twins so we now had four kids in daycare - and during the summer there were days I ended up paying to work. Thus, I quit the WIC portion of my job but was allowed to keep the MIPH portion, and added the hospital portion. Between those two jobs I was working full time.
So there I was, husband unhappy in his current job and thinking of going to graduate school, I was working full time, caring for four children (one that was special needs), while still trying to keep the house work up and trying to be there for my kids. Things really started to fall apart. For the first time ever we had enough money to start paying down our debt AND get a newish car AND take a vacation, but my family just was imploding.
I think about that time and wondered what was wrong with me. So many women can do it. They have the kids, they have the career, it all works out and is wonderful. I worked with a lady who totally is my hero (love you Lisa) who has four kids, her and her husband work full time and her husband coaches in the evening, she finds a way to run marathons around it all and she always seems so happy and put together - yet for me it was all falling part! Every morning the kids woke up screaming and yelling because they didn't want to get up and go to school/daycare. I would pack them in the car at 6:30am and drag the older two to the daycare attached to the school. I would then drive the twins the 35 miles through blizzards and two feet of snow to their daycare, wondering if I would be able to make it up the driveway or have to walk the 1/4 mile through knee deep snow while carrying two one year olds the entire way. I would get to the job at the hospital at about 8am already exhausted (and I so HATED that job!!!) Somewhere between 5pm and 7pm I would stumble out of that place, head pounding, not even able to think straight, then drive the 15 miles to the twins daycare to get them, and then the 35 miles back home - again in two feet of snow. I would get home anywhere between 6:30pm to 8:30pm. I would then have to make a dinner, try to do some housework done, lunches made for the next day, and get the kids to bed to start it all over again. Weekends were spent trying to catch up, cleaning the house, planning menus and grocery shopping, trying to find a little time to visit my Grandma. . . .we had money for the first time ever but we weren't happy. Live turned into totally functioning and not living.
Now, I know most women do this. Like I have stated before I wonder what is wrong with me that I can't do this. What is missing in me that makes this overwhelming, because most women I know do something like this everyday and at the end of the day they don't seem to want to either get drunk and pass out or be so agitated by everything that they yell, but I can't do it. I can't.
When my husband decided to go to graduate school (while continuing to work full time) I realized something was going to have to give. Add in a breakdown by my oldest son that had him in the suicide room at the local hospital and it became very obvious that I wasn't the only one in our home that couldn't handle the way our live was going. I quit the hospital. I loved the MIHP - and that was so flexible to where I only had to work outside of the home one day a week. I could work evenings and weekends when DH was home. It as a pay per visit job, so I could get enough visits in my one day to equal 20-25 hours a week of working. I could do paper work at home when the kids were sleeping. And, again, I loved it!
Nick and I both decided that our family just doesn't function with two parents working full time. Our children are wonderful children, but they are children who need to be able to come home at the end of the day and have things in order and in place. Gabe doesn't do well with school and daycare, and although he may be 12 now he still can't be home alone for more than an hour. He just can't. I am not being overprotective here - he is him and he can't be alone that long.
Nick and I both decided that his goal was to get a job that would allow me to be home with the kids. When Nick was offered this job in Tampa we knew we wouldn't be wealthy, but the pay is not something we can complain about. Thus, I quit my job at the health department, a job that I really loved and really gave me a sense of purpose, and we moved down here and I stayed home with the kids. The cost of living down here is much higher than we anticipated, so financially we are pretty much in the same place we were with me working at the health department, but I am home with the kids.
I do realize at some point I will have to go back to work, but right now our family isn't in a place where that can happen. At this point in the lives of our children working just isn't really an option for me because - a -dietitian jobs down here won't pay enough to make it worth it (with daycare, extra taxes and gas) and b - our children are not at a point where they can handle that extra stress of daycare and two working parents. Again - I know what people think - they have said it to my face - you just make your kids go to daycare. You don't give them a choice and you just take them. Thing is with that, Nick and I decided a long time ago that parenting children was more than just giving them the physical things that they needed and wanted, we needed to make sure they were able to become functioning adults who were confident in who they are and could become successful. For our children this is not possible if we only have them two hours a day and in that two hours we are doing nothing but cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Our children are not your children. Our children are who they are, they are all very different and have very strong personalities that need to be tended and cultivated. They need more than two working parents can give. Maybe that is why God gave them to us.
I stay home with my kids because my kids need me to stay home with them. I am so thankful we are able to do this and still feed them and pay the bills, and we are able to do this with my husband's income and no help from any government agency. I miss my job at the health department. I miss what I did. I miss my clients. I miss my co-workers. Staying home for me isn't an easy thing, I have worked since I was 11 years old. I do feel a lot of guilt about the fact that we aren't adding anything to college funds right now. There are times I find it boring, it is hard to get excited about washing more laundry and cooking another meal or snack. I feel very guilty that we can't take them to Disney, or even to the movies, but at the same time I know that me being here with them everyday is giving them an even bigger gift than those trips to Disney or the movies would give time. I feel guilty that I can't be a super mom and work full time and still be the parent I need to be.
I don't stay home because I don't want to work, I stay home because my children need me to put that time and energy that I would be putting into my job into them.