I don’t normally post on here anymore, but there’s a pretty intelligent group here, and maybe I’ll find someone like-minded here. Really, this is kind-of a vent more than anything. Sorry for the length.
I had a baby about 9 months ago. I quit my postdoc, which I was intending to do anyway, baby or no, and decided to start a new career in writing after taking a few months off. Little did I know that being a stay-at-home mom was NOT the thing for me. The first two months were ok. My little guy slept a lot and so even though I was sleep-deprived, I did get time to myself too. It helped a TON to have my husband take some time off and then work from home. If the little guy was crying, it was ok if I was going to the bathroom, because his dad could get him until I was ready. Then we moved, my husband went back to his job, now working 12-hour days, and taking care of the little guy became my sole responsibility. No more time for peeing or showering. And my little guy was never happy. He didn’t sleep as much, was nowhere close to sleeping through the night, and he fussed much of the day. He took about 6 naps a day, each half an hour long, and fed every 2 hours. It was exhausting. It was like our lives were the world’s tiniest merry-go-round - eat, try to play, change, put him down for a nap, have just enough time to pump, rinse, repeat. I tried to find time to clean and make good meals (my husband came home for lunch), but I just about went crazy with boredom. I didn’t enjoy the revolving-door naps and I hated myself because I could never seem to make my little guy happy. In retrospect, I think his fussiness may have been related to him figuring out sleep…he improved by leaps and bounds when we finally let him cry it out for a couple nights, but that came later. At the time, I was sure it was all me, because I just wasn’t maternal enough, I didn’t get him. (It didn’t help matters that he latched perfectly but would scream at the breast because I couldn’t produce milk fast enough for him. I pumped religiously, every 2 or 3 hours, for his first four months.)
At four months old, I found a job writing for a magazine. It’s my dream job, and I’m so incredibly lucky to have found it. We found daycare in the form of a SAHM friend of ours who is raising her daughter. She’s a behavioral therapist by trade, and my little guy took to her so fast. He adores her. She’s always chipper and amazing with him and her daughter. And she’s a miracle worker! Within a week, she had him feeding every four hours, eating a real meal instead of a tiny snack, and napping for 2 hours at a time. (About a week before I started work, he had started transitioning to longer naps, but I always wondered if he would have slept so well at home with me.) So my little guy’s happy, and I’ve got a job I love, and when I spend time with him, I’m really with him. I love spending time with him now.
So everything’s good, right? It ought to be, but I end up feeling guilty. Not guilty for working – I love working – but guilty for not wanting to be at home. I read articles like Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” (as if a tenured professorship at Princeton plus two wonderful boys isn’t “it all”). And then there’s the comments from people at work. When I first started, one guy expressed surprise that I would choose to work with a young son at home. Another woman asked me how it was going, and when I said it was great, she said she couldn’t do that with her son, who is now 18. She told me she had quit her job at the time to be at home with him. And then there’s the very funny Irish janitor (really, he’s a great guy) who asked me why I always worked late (because working until 5pm is late, apparently – I leave every day at 5pm on the dot) and didn’t I want to be at home with my son? The conversation with the janitor was the one that made me cry. He’s such a nice guy, but why would he say that? Of course I want to spend time with my son! And I want to work! Are the two really mutually exclusive? My husband and I had the 4th off and went to the zoo with the little guy, and we all had such a wonderful day. I know that I wouldn’t have enjoyed that time if I were home all the time.
This has gotten awfully long, sorry. I guess I am just wondering why I’m feeling guilty even when I’m pretty sure I’m doing what’s best for my family. At some point, we’d like to have another baby, and I’ll still want to work. Why does everybody disagree with this? The other moms I know, they all SAH or they WOH but want to SAH. That includes moms from a working moms group I attend - most of them work only 2 or 3 days a week. That wouldn’t cut it for me. I just don’t understand how we would be better off if I were at home. My little guy knows I love him, and he knows his Dad loves him, plus he’s got this great aunt-type figure in his life, and she loves him too. How is it bad for him to have three loving adults instead of just two? I remember going to daycare when I was little, and I loved the woman that cared for us then. I still feel warm fuzzies when I think of her. She wasn’t my mom, and that was ok – she was another adult I could trust. So what’s with all the people who say it’s “best” if one of the parents can stay at home, how it’s so much “better” for the child’s development? My son’s doing just fine, thank you, better probably than he would if I were home.
(And before anyone says it, I’m fully aware that at least some of this is in my head. I really need to stop caring about what other people think. I just find it so discouraging that so many people seem to think my choice in life is wrong. And whatever will they think when I have another baby? I’ll be a truly awful mother if I work then.)