I had my first paying job at 15, by 16 I was up at 6:30 a.m. on Saturdays working the local Mc D’s drive-thru window, at 17 I waited tables and so on. I worked from 15 to 29 without interruption and then all of the sudden just stopped.
After we had Ava I started working from home almost immediately and by the time she was three months old I had directed the entire marketing plan and public face for a new Children’s Museum. I was busy! I had great flexibility at work and often while I was typing away or reflecting on strategies Ava was right there in my arms. My husband works in the retail industry and so we just adjusted our work days so that she went to daycare only three days a week and we sucked it up and paid sky high bills for a daycare with internet cameras in the classrooms and really good teachers. It was the hardest thing I have ever done taking a 10 week old to daycare but really with the camera I kept open in an internet tab all day at work and the cool stuff I had going on professionally I didn’t really have much time to reflect on my feelings about motherhood. We just made it work, like most parents that work do.
I still planned stuff for Ava to do on my days off. As soon as she was old enough we were building her kitchens and filling up sensory boxes. We had all kinds of little infant learning activities thanks mostly to stay at home moms who blogged about what cool things they were doing at home. I started this blog and although I certainly have increased my level of sewing and decorating and cooking I think that for instance building a light table would have been something I would have jumped on even when I worked. All that to say that I really didn’t parent all that differently when I worked from how I do now – I just like to make and do stuff, it is who I am.
Overall, society was incredibly generous to me. Sometimes I had a few instances where professional people treated me differently when I was pregnant and several times where people planned to take over my job when I was on maternity leave. Overall though, everyone seemed very impressed that I could work and still take time for Ava. After I had Lilly I did work for a very short time but I haven’t gone back to work since we moved from Florida to Georgia last January. Honestly, the traffic situation in Atlanta makes it pretty difficult to consider most of the jobs I am qualified for. Almost all of them would require an hour commute each way for me. Leaving my girls in daycare for 10 to 12 hour days isn’t going to happen. Plus, I really have been overwhelmed by how amazing this (almost year) home with them has been. When you are working a pretty intense job it takes up almost all of your spare thoughts. When you stay at home there is quite a bit of ‘down time’. Life slows down. There is time to think, time to play blocks for an hour, time to fix lunches and breakfasts and dinners. Going to the park or the museum or to meet up with other mom’s is your task of the day, not how you relax on your day off.
Sort of like a brain renaissance really.
The one thing that has been totally crazy is how all of the sudden I am under a weird mothering microscope. Not just other stay at home mother’s but lots of parents compare their children to my children right out loud in front of me! ‘They’ criticize my parenting choices or other’s right in front of them! I mean LITTLE things like how you feed your baby or what TV choices you make for your toddler. When I was working people were just happy my baby did eat, they didn’t care how I fed her and I guess TV was just something working mom’s need. (I feel the stay at home parent need to insert here that we only let Ava watch one hour of commercial free TV a day max* – SEE HOW BRAIN WASHED I AM!)
People were proud when we made Ava a wood kitchen not jealous that they didn’t make their kid one – hey for the record it is cheaper to buy a wooden play kitchen – we just like to make things! When I would tell a friend that Ava could walk or recognize her letters or something else fun and new I wasn’t seen as taunting or comparing I was just proud of my kid. But now I am sadly realizing that maybe it was ‘o.k.’ that Ava walked early because she had the ‘handicap’ of being a ‘daycare kid’. Can you believe that I have actually felt bad before that my kids were behaving and almost all the other kids were going crazy – as in ‘look at the weird well behaved kid, their mother must be crazy and scary at home if they are still listening to her in this situation’.
Can I just say that I want a big huge sign that says ‘WHOA!’
Being a fairly confident person from a pretty intense childhood I never understood the need for slogans like ‘Be Yourself’ or ‘don’t let anyone rain on your parade’ until now. I have no other thoughts on this topic except that writing this has made me feel better and so I hope it makes someone else feel better too.
Staying at home to see every little yawn and look of excitement on my girl’s faces is amazing and life is so short and I am so so so blessed. So next time I get bombarded by someone who hasn’t learned at 30 or 40 to play nice and take responsibility for their own feelings I am going to remember to ‘Be myself’ and ‘Not let anyone rain on my parade’.
*on the TV note above also add “Unless I am sick, busy or feeling lazy.”