The following was written by my wife, Mrs. Craig. She was kind enough to share her take on our current lifestyle. We changed things up in our household a couple of years ago…I’ll let my wife tell the story.
The last time I wrote a story for this site was almost 3 years ago. Much has happened since then! I wrote a narrative about my decision to take a leave of absence from my job, as a school counselor, to stay home and raise my 1 and half year old son and 8 yr old daughter.
[Glen: here’s the article – A Mother’s Struggle Between Work And Kids]
Many events have taken place since I shared that story with you. It was an account of a working mother who became a stay-at-home mom. The story changed as you will see below.
Life as a Stay-at-Home Mom
I was delighted to be home with my son, loving every second of that time. The moments that I cherished, such as walking my daughter to 3rd grade each morning and waiting outside her school, as her class dismissed, with a great big hug. And when my children were sick, I could be their caretaker. These were the times that I appreciated like no other.
Only working mothers can empathize with the agony of having to choose between taking a day off of work to take care of your sick child or scrambling to find someone, ANYONE, who will babysit for you while you run out to work after being up all night with a vomiting kid. What kind of mother would choose to go to work over taking care of her sick child? Because if you take another day off of work you might get docked pay or better yet, a disciplinary letter in your file.
I treasured having the liberty to choose my children over work. Every day was a day I could make a positive immpression on my children’s early development.
Soon after my leave from work, we were surprised to discover that we were expecting again! Our 3rd. At first I thought to extend my leave of absence for another year. But as months progressed my perspectives and thoughts began to take form and I felt stressed. There was talk of my position at school being “excessed”, meaning I wouldn’t have a job in that school and that precarious nature of being in “excess” made me quite fearful.
Then the economy crashed. At the time we were living in a 2 bedroom co-operative and I was worried that we needed more space for a family of 5. After living there for 11 years, it was time to put our apartment on the market but who was going to buy it in this economy? Nevertheless we put our all into selling our home and were successful!
So, towards the later part of school year, I got to thinking (I think a lot) and began pondering the idea of myself returning to work the next school year and my husband working from home, while taking care of the kids. On the one hand, If i didn’t return to work in September, I ran the risk of losing a really decent position, in a really bad job market. On the other hand, if we both worked outside the home, we’d have to place both children in daycare, leaving us with very little money leftover and a lower quality of life (our opinion).
Let’s Get Unconventional
Shortly after, I posed the question to my husband one night about being a stay home dad. Much to my surprise, he seemed amused! For the next few months we tossed the idea around while in the last stages of selling our co-op and my pregnancy. We sorted out the pros and cons. It was a practical idea; my job had good hours, 2 months summer vacation and excellent benefits. And if he stayed home, we’d save thousands of dollars on daycare, have more family time and he could explore his blogging passion.
[Glen: I should note here that my wife’s salary was more than mine. By switching roles, we would have more money to save and put towards a home. Daycare would mean I would be virtually working to pay for it, with not a ton of money left over.]
We had apprehensions though. Could this arrangement really work out? My passion and strong convictions about the motherhood experience left my husband worried about how I would handle leaving such a young baby and returning to work with 3 kids behind at home. I was concerned about that too and about how he would manage taking care of a baby and a toddler for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (out oldest would be in school).
Despite our anxieties, the first day of school arrived and I just did what I had to do. Armed with my breast milk pump, I set out to go back to work. So, I made it through the first day of work. Then I made it through the first week of work. The weeks turned into months, months turned into 2+ years and we are still using this system. Why? Because it works for us.
Do I wish I could stay home with the kids? Yes, I do. But, I appreciate that I have a great job and I am home by 4pm each day, off 2 months during the summer and 3 weeks during the school year, medical benefits, retirement plan, etc… We have more time together as a family than when my husband worked and I stayed at home and that’s what’s important to us and really counts.
The World Reacts (Maybe not the world…)
What was a surprising disappointment? People’s reactions! I made the mistake of presuming that the general population would understand why we choose a practical solution to benefit the whole family. Instead, when people would inquire, “Who is watching the kids?” I would reply, “My husband.”
I got the weirdest reactions and those responses became predictable patterns.
Mostly people would present with a nervous chuckle or giggle (my mother flat out laughed when I told her). Another time, a fellow, older teacher chuckled and said “Oh! How funny!” I also got the cliche, “Oh…Mr. Mom” (ha ha ha). [Glen: By far the most popular reaction.]
The other type of responses were of a speechless nature, coupled with a perplexed facial expression. On my end, I could see the person trying to rationalize, in their mind, why we chose this arrangement. Most assumed my husband got laid off or even fired. Some even tried to imply that he is some kind of deadbeat. I soon discovered that if I followed their confused looks with the statement “he works from home,” their anxieties were subsided.
But to tell you the truth, I found these negative reactions to be very disturbing. I thought that in the 21st century people would be more open minded and maybe even commend us for trying to raise our children without outside help (daycare/babysitters). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying daycare and babysitters are bad, it’s just not our preference.
Isn’t more than half the work force women now?? I still can’t believe the narrow-mindedness that was unleashed on to me. I did however, find comfort in discovering that other families were being flexible with gender roles, as well. I met another fellow educator who’s husband worked nights and took care of twin babies and a 3 year old while she went to work!! “OMG!” I thought. That’s impressive!! Another friend of mine’s husband watches their twin daughters 2 days a week, on his days off, cutting their childcare costs. He even takes them on errands to Target and food shopping! I don’t think I could manage to leave the house with baby twins! I also take notice of all the men I see pushing baby strollers these days and walking around with a baby in an Ergo or Bjorn! And the Grandfathers! A lot of grandfathers are chipping in too and helping their families with childcare!
The bottom line is that you do what you have to do to get by, for your family. I still pine for the day when I can take time off to be with my children again and I still find it very hard to be separated from them, while I go to work. I want to be there to witness everything and guide them through their early years. But would their childhood experience be better with both parents working outside the home, ripping them out of their beds each morning, shlepping them to daycare, at about $2,500 per month, and a husband/father who doesn’t get home until 7:30PM each night and has limited days off in the year to spend time with us?? That doesn’t seem like a higher quality of life to me.
Life’s too short and the days go by very, very fast. You have to enjoy every second you can with the people you love.