Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stay-At-Home Parenting--The Glamorous Side

I am a SAHM.  That is the acronym for my job.  I have been doing this for three years.  In previous posts, I expressed my desire to start working again, and I am sure that will happen...eventually.  However, I now completely accept my current gig without reservation.  I no longer feel the need to talk to others about future career plans.  I no longer fear stigmatization or stereotyping.  It has been a long time coming and I am pretty excited about it.  After all, whenever I do eventually start working for money again, I want to be able to look back on this moment and know that I enjoyed it 100%. 

What is life like for a stay-at-home parent?  It differs in each individual case.  It varies based on the number of children and their respective ages.  It varies widely based on what the spouse is like, if indeed there is a spouse at all.  Admittedly, it varies dramatically based on income level.  Uniformity is no fun.  As the French say, vive la difference!  The key is to like what you are doing and take ownership of it. 

My SAHM job goes a little something like this: I have two boys 19 months apart in age.  The oldest is just shy of three years and the youngest is nearly sixteen months old.  Both boys are active and healthy.  They are now fully capable of moving most of our furniture.  They are both able to open the fridge and pull out its contents.  My husband and I have decided not to gate them in.  I do a lot of running around.  I chase them to feed them.  I chase them to stop the floor lamp from breaking.  Occasionally I clean up broken glass at warp speed.  I change a lot of diapers.  These are the unglamorous aspects of the job. 

Now for the glamorous parts:  my boys nap each afternoon for 2-3 hours.  I have roughly 15 hours per week of childcare.  I personally manage my own household.  My husband gets home at 6:30 p.m. each night and we all have dinner together.  My husband is a very involved father who is constantly supportive of me and the boys.  I give a lot of love to my family and receive so much love in return.  These gifts are incredibly luxurious and I do not take them for granted. 

The naptime is hugely glamorous, allowing me a chance to read, write, meditate and catch up on whatever needs to be done.  I never had a 2-3 hour break during my former jobs.  Then again, I wasn't on duty from 6:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m.  I still count it as a luxury. 

My childcare provider is an enormous help and is now like a member of our family.  She has known my youngest from birth and she calls us when she is not with us to check on our boys.  I can trust her completely and she is a good friend.  My children get to benefit from a third caregiver and all of the variety that she can bring to their upbringing.  I don't know if I think "it takes a village", as Hillary Clinton says, but I am of the philosophy of "the more the merrier!"  Sometimes I am able to spend time with one or another of my children while she takes the other one to do something fun.  Other times I clean the entire house, or go to a doctor's appointment without two toddlers.  It is a luxury that makes me a calmer, more centered mother.  Additionally, my husband and I get a date night twice per month.  I feel like someone in the MasterCard commercials: "Childcare? Priceless."

How is it glamorous to personally manage one's household?  Well, let's see: I get to choose what we eat, how it is cooked, what we wear, our standard of cleanliness and the routine of our days.  I feel like that is a treat, but that's my perspective.  I would rather pay for childcare than for a housekeeper, because I am picky about housework.  I like to be able to walk barefoot on my floors and not feel any sand from the sandbox.  I don't like dust on the ceiling fan blades.  That is luxurious.  I can't get that from a bi-weekly housekeeper, and probably not even from a weekly one.  I also find cleaning to be an exercise in mindfulness.  Buddhist and Catholic monks and nuns garden, clean and cook to gain a clearer mind and a better spiritual perspective.  Mindfulness is a beautiful practice and housework, if done mindfully, can be quite therapeutic. 

Having dinner together as a family on a regular basis is becoming old-fashioned, it would seem.  I can't praise this practice enough.  I look forward to dinner all afternoon.  Our oldest tells Mom and Dad what happened at pre-school, Dad tells us about work, and the one year old squeals to drown us out.  Food gets thrown all over the floor and the mood is generally festive.  The happiness of the boys is measurable as they have the attention of both parents.  It is a wonderful ritual, and in our society, it is glamorous due to rarity. 

The icing on the cake is the support that I receive from my husband.  He does not resent the fact that I stay home with the children.  He never belittles me.  I don't see how he could have the time to be unfaithful, like the fictional fathers in "Mad Men."  He does exceptional professional work and is fully engaged with us at home.  He respects my intelligence and my goals and we are full partners in all that we do.  I feel more liberated now than I have ever felt as a woman. 

What is it like to lack a respected career?  Honestly, my opinion on this aspect of stay-at-home parenting continually evolves.  I have forgotten how to use attorney timekeeping software and I couldn't tell you about the latest and greatest regulations from the SEC.  I don't wear suits and heels and blow-dry my hair every day.  No one calls me on my cell phone to yell at me at 9:00 p.m. when I am with my husband.  Just this week, a doctor said to me, "It is a shame for you to waste your education.  You must have worked your ass off in school."  Actually, I didn't work my ass off.  I love school.  I could be an eternal student.  Staying at home with my kids allows me to pursue a lot of interests that I never had time for previously.  Do I care what others think about my life choices?  I used to care.  I used to care too much.  Formerly, I lived my life in pursuit of approval.  Now, I live my life in pursuit of survival, love, enjoyment and stability for my family.  The best part is this:  right now is perfectly acceptable, and anything can happen in the future.  You might say I can't put these years on my resume?  I will always be so much more than a resume could ever represent.  This is true of every stay-at-home parent and I believe that opinions are turning in our favor, irrespective of the importance we place on opinions!

1 comment:

  1. I think you have the best of both worlds. You have an education, you have had one career, now you have another. I applaud the fact that you can stay home with your children and raise them by your standards. Full-time child care does not allow you as much influence over your children's upbringing. Your education isn't being wasted, shame on him for suggesting such a thing! You are now educating your children. I assume your brain is not withering just because you have bore children... I am sure you further your education in your free time. In my opinion, you are doing a very courageous thing by staying at home and raising your children yourself. Kuddos to you!