How I decided to stay home
I know that some of you ladies are home on maternity leave, trying to decide whether to go back to work. I thought it might be useful to you to read a little bit about why I made the decision I did. I want to emphasize, however, that this is the decision that worked best for my family and is not a judgment against choices made by anyone else!
I went back to work when Quinn was four months old and it took me six weeks to quit. Part of me knew immediately that I would leave, but I was terrified at the idea of not working and of giving up a good job with a boss I actually liked so I tried to hang on.
I just kept thinking of how great it would be if I could make it work: I could retain some of the self I knew AND embrace this new self who was all about the babe.
But when I worked (outside the home), life just got so chaotic and I felt like I was failing everybody all the time. I felt guilty that I was so sleepy and out of it at work, and then I would get home and have to rush into mommy mode and I felt worn out and disinterested. I had a new cold every week and I just felt like I looked about 89 years old (my husband would swear I didn’t look a day over 65 though, bless him).
There was also the reality of how much of my salary was going to childcare. We were lucky to have my parents helping out one day a week in the beginning, but they were getting restless. We wanted to keep Q out of daycare for at least the first year so we were paying $15 an hour for a nanny to care for her when my parents weren’t. My husband was also taking her for some of the time. In our case, this was kind of a silly situation financially as hubs made $20K more than me annually, though it would of course have made sense if I really wanted to work.
One day, I broke down all of my work and childcare expenses and figured out that I would be netting only like $25 a day after taxes if I had to pay for the nanny full-time. That would have made sense if I had no other doubts.
But I did have doubts. I just felt wrong being away from Quinn, like it was unnatural and ridiculous. I felt especially unnatural and ridiculous while pumping my breast milk in the bathroom . I really missed her, yes, but it was more that it didn’t make sense for everyone to be making all of these sacrifices and having a more stressful life in order for me to work a job I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be at anymore.
I was really scared of having this gaping hole on my resume and losing professional ground but ultimately I figured that since the decision was tough, I should just err on the side of spending more time with my kid and let the chips fall where they may. I am also saddled to an aging dinosaur of an industry that might not even really exist in its current form in 10 years, so that helps a bit, too. Though it made it even sadder to kiss my sweet gig goodbye.
I also have the luxury of having a hubby who makes (nearly) enough for us to survive on. We’ve definitely hacked away at our budget, but you do spend a lot less with one person staying at home. I cook most of our meals and when I go out it’s usually for a cheap lunch with another mom. Still, we’ve burned through some of our savings, but what were we saving it for if not something like this?
Staying at home has certainly made it easier for me to make the choices that I really want for Q, like sticking with breastfeeding. When I pumped at work, it just felt like I wasn’t keeping up with all the bottles she was downing at home, though my supply was always fine when we were together. I was also able to make it through the first year without ever resorting to “crying it out.” I know that lots of moms have had great experiences with sleep training, but I was grateful to just catch up on Zs while Q napped and wait here out while she learned to sleep through the night on her own (it took a year but it DID happen!).
I am also a lot happier than I think I would have been at work. I sit and watch Quinn play. I look out the windows and watch the trees swaying in the breeze. I sit with a friend as our babies explore the world together. I get lots of wet kisses and lots of warm, sleepy cuddles. There are also the days where I clutch a screaming, teething monster and implore the universe to “shoot me now,” but they don’t happen nearly as often as the good ones.
It helps IMMEASURABLY to have a partner who values your being at home. While he totally would have supported me staying at work, hubs is grateful I made this choice and he expects to still have to do some of the housework. Some of the moms I know have husbands who wonder aloud what their wives “do” all day. I can’t imagine making this kind of sacrifice and not being appreciated for it!!
I took great comfort in remembering that the decision isn’t finite either way. I know lots of moms who are staying at work this time around but hoping to take a few years off with their second baby. Others plan to just take a year or two off for their baby’s earliest years. I’m reserving judgment on myself for now. The one thing that I’ve learned so far about motherhood is that you and your baby are full of surprises.