Thoughts, mixed with memories, on staying home.
So, I’ve been meaning to write a new blog for a while, since I’ve only managed to write a total of four since—when did I first start this blog?—October? Anyway, you know, it’s always the same story: I get inspired by something and feel like I want to write about it, and then my actual job and/or life takes over, and by the time I have time, the feeling has passed.
But, today, this morning, it’s Friday and my boss isn’t here and my brain is simply unable to handle the strain of comparing two HTML files at the moment, trying to determine if all appropriate changes have been made. (If it sounds tedious, it is.) Which sort of ties into what I’m wanting to talk about, because I randomly read this other blog this morning about stay-at-home moms vs. working moms vs. moms that sort of do both. This is something I’ve always thought about kind of a lot, but which has been especially on my mind lately because I’m five months pregnant with my first child.
I’ve always said that I didn’t want my kids in daycare, but I think I always imagined that by the time I got around to having kids, I’d have figured out how to stay home with them. I guess thirty-one sort of snuck up on me, and while I’ve definitely come a long way in the past ten or so years, I still haven’t worked out all the solutions that I thought I’d have long since worked out by now. My husband is more or less self-employed; my job provides the stability and the health insurance in our household. But I’ve never been a career-minded person. I’ve been at my current job for two years, and frankly, that’s about my limit for an office job. Obviously I’m sticking around for a while longer; I’ll have to, with maternity leave and all that coming up at the end of the summer, but honestly, I have no idea how I’m going to take care of my baby and commute forty-five minutes to and again from a job that leaves me drained, frustrated, and ultimately flat and uninspired. And one of my friends just pointed out to me that if we’re going to need daycare, we better go ahead and get on a waiting list.
So here’s my thing about daycare. I never went to one. But my first job was at one—the same one at which my own mom has worked for the last…let’s see…18 years. There were kids whose parents dropped them off when we opened at 6:30 and didn’t pick them up again until 6:30 that night. The parents weren’t raising those kids—we were. I don’t want to have kids just so other people, especially people who aren’t family or friends, can raise them. And frankly—and I know some are better than others, but—daycares, generally, are just odious places. They are noisy, stinky, and germy. Sure, they help with socialization skills—I guess. The one at which I worked was, back then at least, one of the better ones. But I still don’t want my child going to one, especially not on a daily basis.
My mom desperately wants to retire and keep our baby at least part-time, which would be wonderful, if she can work it out financially. My husband can probably do two, maybe two and a half, days a week. Well, he says he can, but while I know we’re both going to be overwhelmed and somewhat blindsided when the baby is born, I think men just tend to have less realistic expectations where this is concerned. He’s used to very much being able to make his own schedule and do what he wants to do when he wants to do it. So we’ll just see how that all works out.
Myself, I’ve always been something of a homebody. I’m not one of those people who ever gets bored just staying at home. If I should ever run out of things to clean, I have boxes of old spiral notebooks full of my early fiction to sort through, new fiction to write, other people’s fiction to read, and maybe occasionally nonfiction as well. Walks to take, meals to cook…gardens to plant. And that’s all before figuring a child into the picture.
Oh, but it’s hard. The hardest job you could have. You’ll want adult companionship. You’ll go crazy.
Of course. But my mom stayed home with us until I was in eighth grade, when my youngest sister started first grade. She frequently babysat other children at our house to bring in additional income—a whole hoard of them when I was little before either of my sisters was born; then the baby girl of her best friend when I was in fifth grade in the year or so before we moved to Texas; and then a flight attendant’s baby who would stay with us overnight after we moved to Texas, when I was in sixth grade or early junior high. Then, when I was in eighth grade, she went to work at the daycare 6:30 to 2:30 Monday through Friday. This worked well because she was home by the time we got out of school, and in the mornings, I was old enough to get my sisters ready for school when our dad was out of town. I was also the designated summer babysitter for my sisters, but honestly, those were the best summers. I loved playing with my sisters; we had our own special system, devised by me and taught to them, for Barbies especially. We generally weren’t allowed to have other kids—friends or neighborhood kids—over while our parents weren’t there, so we didn’t have to try to explain our system to anybody else. We watched Family Ties, played Barbies, I hung some clothes out on the line and flipped the breaker back on as required in the tiny rent house (three small bedrooms, one bath, and no garage , attic, or storage space of any other sort) the five of us shared for our first three years in Texas. When Mom got home at 2:30, we’d run errands with her, all walk around the corner for a snowcone, go to the park or go swimming, whatever.
My memories of earlier years in Oklahoma City, days home with Mom, are similarly comforting. Watching General Hospital while folding clothes, the glorious quiet of my sisters’ naptimes when I read my book and Mom sometimes sunbathed in the backyard—it was our rest time too. Sheets were always fresh and sun-dried, dinners typically home-cooked, the house clean and mostly orderly. We had two dogs and a swingset, drew in chalk on the concrete floor of the screened-in front porch, the driveway, or the front sidewalk, and Mom made sun tea. We made homemade play dough and cookies, listened to albums on the turntable. There were errands and visits to Grandma’s house. I know there were times that Mom got angry and frustrated with us, but like I’ve told her, “Even then, I never got the feeling that you truly wanted to be anywhere but there with us.”
It’s hard to say where exactly I’m trying to go with all of this. That I know it’s hard, that it’s a fulltime job…but it’s the one I want, the one I firmly believe I would not ever truly tire of. I am a nurturer and a caretaker…I always have been. I’ve always taken in the strays—cats, dogs, people, anybody who I felt could use a good meal and a little love. And I’ve always had a connection with children…shared moments of understanding and laughter that are different from what you get with adults. Frankly, I think those moments at home with my own children would provide far more daily fulfillment than these forced, sometimes extremely fake interactions with coworkers that simply leave me drained and exhausted—but not in a good way. In a “you’ve-just-sucked-all-inspiration-out-of-the-world” sort of way. I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job of explaining myself. I just know myself and what I feel in my gut, my blood, my bones to be true.
I don’t think every woman should be a stay-at-home mom. I think it’s important for one parent to stay home if possible, but I don’t think it should necessarily be the mother. In the beginning, Jake will get to be home more than me, and I’ll probably resent that a little even though I’ll try not to, because in this case I honestly feel like it’s the job that should be mine. The job I got a taste of in childhood—just a taste, mind you, but still, my mother and I were very close, and I was the oldest, and I was there. I’ve often said that the problem with women’s lib is that now women are expected to both raise families and have careers, but I know that some women probably wouldn’t have it any other way. They love their careers, and I think that’s wonderful, but unless I can someday figure out how to get paid for writing novels, I don’t think that will ever be true for me. For me, writing and nurturing tend to go hand in hand, bleed into each other. It’s all part of creating something, whether a home or a story.
So, that’s that. I’ve once again rambled on far too long and not managed to be half as brilliant and coherent as I was in my head. If I managed to write anything actually worth reading—well, that’s awesome. If not, I apologize, and let’s just blame it on my being five months pregnant, having been staring at HTML for the last four days, and/or it being Friday the Thirteenth…or just Friday in general.