Sometimes, the decision to stay the course, involves just as much risk and faith as pursuing the path of change.
I officially decided on Monday, after more than a week of deliberating with the babies’ daddy, that I will be staying at home longer instead of pursuing an opportunity that would have me working full-time as early as June.
We went over this time and time again last week, listing the pros and cons and how it would affect our family.
We sought wisdom in Scripture, sermons, and people, though I tried to avoid talking to too many people but I needed prayer. It is tricky to consult people as we naturally dish out advice based on our experience and justifications for our own life choices. I also didn’t want my head to be needlessly cluttered with unhelpful “I would NEVER leave my kids!” or “I would NEVER be able to just stay at home.”
I also looked for signs everywhere, sometimes not so wisely, like in the season finale of my current favorite sitcom, The Mindy Project – “…sometimes you just say ‘Yes.'”
This opportunity and crossroads came at a time I had been praying for confirmation that I should continue to stay at home 2.5 years after my firstborn had arrived.
Would Mama be taking her talents to South Beach or would she sign with the Cleveland Cavs for an eighth season?
Micah will be starting preschool a few mornings in the fall so we have to be responsible for that additional monthly payment. My bringing in an income would be WONDERFUL. I miss that luxury, that cushion.
We’d be able to save substantially more and move into a bigger space as we burst at the seams in our current place. We’d be able to get stuff from our Wants List, like eating out often, taking exotic vacations, and signing the kids up for unlimited extracurriculars, without having to deliberate carefully.
I told Kevin that part of this pull towards rejoining the workforce immediately was 70% due to income. But I had to dig deeper and examine the remaining 30%.
A paycheck for my time and efforts was about more than just the scrill, the cheddah, the greenbacks. It was largely tied to how I measured my worth. While the efforts of moms are priceless, I wasn’t satisfied with “priceless.” I craved a price! I wanted a quantifiable measure of my contribution to my family. Digging even deeper, I wanted to set myself apart from the stereotype of a stay-at-home mom whose only identity is linked to her kids, having no recollection of who she is apart from them and when her kids become more independent, she has nothing left to call her own.
And finally, it represented freedom from some really hard days with no relief. It would allow me to thump my chest and say, “I am MORE than just mamamamamama. Mama gets paid! Mama gets haircuts and trendy (while age-appropriate) new clothes and huge tubes of Bliss lotion from Nordstrom Rack just because she can! Mama will eat lunch whenever she wants to at Hale and Hearty, not at 3 pm after the kids’ naps overlap, while glaring at an avalanche of toys and clothes that needs to be picked up.”
I also longed to go to work to escape the thankless duties of motherhood. Just to name a few:
Pleading with the toddler to please refrain from doing his repeated, giggly pelvic thrusts while mama wrestles him to change his poopy diaper. (What the hell is this about? I have to BEG dude to let me change his diaper because it is such a lovely task that I look forward to daily?).
Pleading with said toddler not to beg for Mommy’s phone and make emergency calls featuring Chinese characters on the screen while mama at dry cleaners.
Pleading not to ride his infant brother like a horsey though #2 plush and solid.
Pleading not to touch all public surfaces, then proceed to place four of his five fingers in his mouth, like a dust and germ lollipop he whipped up.
Turning each mealtime into a game with mama telling overly animated stories and making Jim Carey faces so that he will be interested enough to eat a decent portion.
Eating leftovers just to soothe my growling stomach, not actually tasting the food, while feeding baby his avocado banana mush and toddler some chicken noodle soup. And constantly picking up food and drinks that toddler keeps dropping, both accidentally and on purpose.
Recently, the boys and I visited their daddy at the office. I quietly strolled in with the boys in their double stroller, having taken the subway from home. I was surprised by just how out of touch with that prior life I was, even though I have the same expensive degree. His co-workers were going for lunch and contemplating what to eat at their desks. Without two warm cute little bodies to factor in. One of our friends held Ellis for a few moments and then announced half-jokingly that that’s enough for him since he has to take care of his babies at home.
Had to pause right there to really let it sink in.
I, too, wanted to be On Break. And GET PAID FOR IT. Of course I know that working outside the home is not a true break but in that frazzled and overtired phase I was in, Kevin’s office seemed like the freaking spa. The quiet. The food. The peace.
This whopping 30% of my temptation to rejoin the workforce was turning out to be a disproportionately huge “30%!”
There is no need to make this a Stay-at-Home v. Working Mama debate. Absolutely no need. I learned this past week just how personal this decision is. I needlessly beat myself up for “not being like other moms” who go back to work after a standard maternity leave. I also felt it was too “luxurious” to stay at home for my second to grow into toddlerhood, like I couldn’t justify it. (And yes, I know I am SO blessed to even be able to weigh the options but we have been practicing living on one income since we got married).
After having made the choice to STAY THE SAME, to continue being at home for now, just like I’d been doing for the past 2.5 years, I am surprised to feel a change. I feel excited to form and solidify our own value system, for just our own little family, no one else’s, after surveying friends, acquaintances and strangers alike.
So this is The Decision. FOR NOW, FOR ME, FOR US. Never set in stone. Always up for reassessing periodically. FOR ME, I want to be the one to NOT get paid to play with my boys all day, for better or for worse. FOR ME, to take them to music class and see their faces light up with delight. FOR US, to pick #1 up from his first preschool and let him know that Mommy will always be there for him. FOR US, to nuzzle on both at home on our playmat and after taking a fall at the playground. FOR US, to tell stories to while strolling them in different configurations in our double stroller. FOR US, to discipline and chase and plead with.
To not miss out on Micah saying, “Be ‘shareful’ Mommy!” when he sees me opening the oven door in our cluttered little kitchen. To hear him say to his little brother, “Don’t cry, Ellis, Mommy’s hee-ah,” and even to hear him saying, “Go office, Mommy. I miss Daddy.”
An unexpected answer to prayer confirming that I would choose this same path all over again even with the whining, the diaper battles, the incessant demands.
Sure I can still experience my kids’ milestones and moments even if I went back to work now, but I don’t want to juggle FOR NOW. I want to be here for all of it, as Micah transitions to part-time preschool after being with Mommy his entire life, and as Ellis gets better at crawling without crashing head first into the TV stand.
FOR NOW, FOR ME, FOR US.