Monday, May 7, 2012

Motherbored.

My husband and I have decided that I should go back to work part-time, which means my daughter will be in day-care. I'm struggling with how I feel about it. Part of me is so excited to get out of the house and be among grown-ups again and then the other part of me feels guilty for being so excited. I would never say this, but I don't really like being home with my daughter. Am I a horrible person? Do I just need to try staying at home a little longer? How do I know if I'm making the right decision?


In general, I'm not a big proponent of listening to your heart, or inner voice or whatever mushy Jiminy Cricket-esque rationale we piece together from 80's hair ballads whenever we want to justify doing something stupid. This dilemma, in particular, cannot be addressed using emotions, because there is way too much emotional and social baggage associated with moms who work outside the home. Luckily, you've made my job easier. If you are excited to get back to work and it is financially worthwhile, you should go back to work. 


The guilt you are feeling isn't coming from your inner voice; it's coming from your inner neighbor. She's the nosey busybody that saunters over to talk about how your other neighbor down the street must be having marital problems because the grass hasn't been cut. Then she casually mentioned how surprising it is that your child isn't walking yet because her child walked minutes after birth like a suburban Secretariat. You've internalized that woman and she thinks that only poor women and bad mommies work. 


Your inner neighbor is part of a shrill minority that believes that mommy knows best, so if baby isn't with mommy, then baby isn't getting the best. These people must be stopped. Let me go on record by admitting that I am fiercely competitive. I inherited that trait from my mother, who I swear tripped me the first and only time we ever engaged in an ice skating race. I don't fault her. It taught me a valuable lesson. ("It's easier to win a race if your opponent trips and leaves a trail of bloody knee tracks on the ice.") The point is, I don't accept mediocrity. If I'm going to do something, then I'm going to be the best. With that in mind, recognize how difficult it must be for me to say this and how important it must be to understand: I am not the best at doing everything my children need. 


Here is a brief list of all the things I'm not the best at:

  1. I can't name the parts of a flower or explain what makes them grow. I think it's some sort of elf snot and "Brawndo."
  2. I can't watch an entire episode of "Mike the Knight" without making sarcastic and hateful comments about dragon encephalitis. 
  3. I can't share. 
  4. I can't teach someone how to tie their shoe laces. Apparently there is a fox involved, but I'd rather teach the Shiftless Babies to say, "Loafer, please."
So a child that spends time only with me is going to be missing some crucial experiences, although she will know how to shuffle a deck of cards and which sushi place has the best spicy, crunchy tuna roll.
The Downside of Attachment Parenting
When I was pregnant with Shiftless Baby 1, I read a book about attachment parenting. (It's a pretty famous book that you have probably read and I refuse to mention. I don't own it anymore. I could feel its judgmental eyes on me while I slept.) The book said something to the effect that mothers should never feel that someone else could take better care of their children. That is a load of sentimental horse manure, out of which grows only guilt. (I do know what makes guilt grow.) There are definitely people who can take care of children, including my own, better than I can. That doesn't make me a bad mommy and I'm not going to delude myself into thinking 1.) that I'm just as good at it as they are or 2.) that I prefer taking care of my children to working. 

I'm not into conspiracy theories, but I can't help but wonder whether this "Mommy Does It Best" attitude is a sneaky way to get out of subsidizing childcare and ensuring fair pay. If children are better off being in the home, why should the government subsidize something that is sub-par? Plus, it allows society to create this "Cult of Motherhood" where women are prized for their childrearing skills and rewarded with gifts and platitudes once a year. I always get nervous whenever someone pontificates on the honor and dedication of a job I have to do. I can't imagine CEO's and Presidents get that kind of pep talk. They don't need to hear how valuable they are because they know their net-worth...in money...which is a currency that can be exchanged for goods...I can't buy a latte with filial devotion.

If you want to work because that makes you happy, for love of Jeebus, please work. The world does not need another generation of children raised by resentful, bored, passive-aggressive mothers. It doesn't mean you shouldn't have had kids anymore than not wanting to rebuild an engine block means you shouldn't drive. You cannot, and should not, be all things to your child. People are educators, clinicians and childcare providers for a reason. They are good at. They have training. They are held to a public and professional standard. They might not do everything the way I would do it, but unless they are particularly egregious, I'm going to let them do their jobs and they are going to let me do mine. 


_________

Now that the torture of exams is subsiding, I'm back with Yeah Write. I can't wait to read all the great blogs I have been missing as I wallowed in privity and...dear lord, I've completely forgotten Contracts. Oh well. Head over to Yeah Write and check out the great writers.

43 comments:

  1. Ah, I've blogged on this before. Don't let that guilt get you down! I stay at home, but some days I hate it. I used to hate myself for admitting that, but now I know it's absolutely normal...well, as normal as I can be anyway. PS-Mike the Knight sucks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! I do NOT get the appeal of that show. Basically it just teaches kids how to be a jerk, because mine don't have the attention span to make it to the end when he learns his lesson.

      I knew staying home wouldn't be right for me and I struggled with it. Luckily I was able to achieve a balance. Whenever I start to feel like quitting school/work, I get a stretch of 2-3 days at home and then I'm begging to go to Walmart at 1 am just to get out of the house.

      Delete
  2. Thankful that an entire world of "Mike the Knight" exists and I am not privy. I don't miss that tart Dora either.

    WG
    http://itsmynd.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My kids are obsessed with Diego, who has way less episodes than Dora. Hence, I've seen the one where the iguana poops out the strawberry seeds at least 10 times.

      You read that right. He poops them out, then they grow into strawberries. That is a show on NickJr.

      Delete
  3. VERY true--especially the passive aggressive part. Go get 'em, and good luck with your new venture!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! We go to look at the day care this week, so fingers crossed...

      Delete
  4. Bottom line is every parent has to do what you feel is right. If you get guilted into doing something that you don't want to do, how successful can you really be at the task?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true. Your true feelings are going to come out.

      Delete
  5. I think the bottom line is this: You cannot, and should not, be all things to your child. I have always thought that a happy mom is a good one, so you just need to be honest with yourself about which path would make you happy. I, for one, am happier with the flexibility and time that comes with staying at home, but there are things I miss about working too. Interesting, honest piece. Erin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I enjoy spending, like, 1 day a week alone with my kids. That's where my balance is. You're right, though, we all need to find our own. I'm glad this post didn't offend you, because it was not my intent to downplay staying at home. I wanted to show that we can all be happy doing what we do best.

      Delete
  6. Interesting! The idea of it being pushed as a way to keep women down - that doesn't sound like a weird conspiracy theory to me at all. Sounds like history.

    ReplyDelete
  7. You know what is so good? How velcro shoes are totally fine now until at least grade...6? I'm saying that because my oldest is only in grade 1, and I really hope not to have to teach him to tie his shoelaces for another five years. I just can't be bothered. At least I'll know not to ask you for tips because you are a BAD MOMMIE!

    Jade
    http://jadeluxe.wordpress.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, I would totally where velcro shoes if it wouldn't be considered ironically hip.

      I can only give tips on how to be a bad mommie :)

      Delete
  8. You are so right - it's society that's making us feel bad!! My kids are probably much happier home with the sitter playing Connect 4 and play-doh when I am at work - then when I am home taking them to Target and the bank.....
    But yet...the guilt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hate running errands with my kids. All of a sudden neither of them remember how to walk and I end up carrying both of them like 2 sacks of squirming potatoes.

      Delete
  9. I am on my one-year Canadian maternity leave and honestly truly loving it. Now I'm trying to work out a way to make this a permanent gig with some side work. But if I wasn't feeling fulfilled I would happily return to work. Because if Mama ain't happy ain't nobody happy. Do what's best for you and your family.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I envy your one-year leave. I always thought I might enjoy staying at home more if I wasn't going to school in the evenings and I could really focus on staying at home. The problem is then I start inventing a "curriculum" and "structure of planned activities" for my kids and I realize all I'm doing is creating work for myself at home because I am fundamentally incapable of having unstructured time.

      Delete
  10. I've learned, after raising one of my own, is that the best thing you can show your children is you taking responsibility for your own happiness. A parent who is happy and satisfied with their lot in life is the best example you can give to your kids. When Mom is happy, everyone else is happy.

    It always gets me how people have to view motherhood as an "all or nothing" thing. You can work outside the home and still be happy and love your kids and give them the attention they also need.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a wonderful philosophy. I think we just need to speak up more because we are the majority.

      Delete
  11. "You cannot, and should not, be all things to your child." I love that line. One of the things I struggle with, as a mother, is learning that lesson.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think we all do that. There is so much pressure on us to make sure kids succeed.

      Delete
  12. i happen to be a proponent of "listening to your heart" (as hokey as that sounds). AND i agree wholeheartedly with your post. you're teaching your kids about being happy and fulfilled. xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm a complete BS-er in that regard because I've made major life decisions based on songs that come on the radio and "speak to me." I just don't ever promote my way to anyone else. :)

      Delete
  13. Great, great, great advice. I don't know why people get all high and mighty when it comes to what they think is "best" for mommies and their children, but really...do what's best for you and your family no matter what, the rest will fall into place.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a great way to approach motherhood...and really life in general.

      Delete
  14. The next person that gives me advice on the best way to raise MY kids is going to get smacked. I'm a SAHM with 5 kids. I drink a lot of wine. Those things are most definitely related. Do what is best for you and for your family and ignore everyone else's opinion. If they're not paying the mortgage, they don't get a vote! Hopping down off my soapbox now. Ha!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't get as much advice as I get little snippy comments. They don't even have the nerve to paint it as advice. It's just a little off-handed remark or even the underlying meaning. They can sting just as much.

      Delete
  15. I tried the full time at home thing. It wasn't for me. I love my kid dearly, I do, but he and I alone together all the time wasn't what was best for either of us. Things got better when I stopped feeling guilty about that! Good luck on your new gig!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I start next month!

      I definitely think Shiftless Baby 1 will flourish in day care. I'm glad you found what worked for you and your son.

      Delete
  16. "The world does not need another generation of children raised by resentful, bored, passive-aggressive mothers." And that's exactly the point. Happy moms are better moms so do what makes you happy. If that's working, more power (and income) to you. If that's being at home, there are ways to make that work too. I've been the work all the time mom, the resentful SAHM and now the very content part-time SAHM. There's something for everyone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Part-time SAHM is hard for me because I can't set limits...which is completely MY problem, not the job's or my children's. I get into something and the time slips away. It is all about balance.

      Delete
  17. This is such a good, good post. I don't have any kids, so I can't add anything practical to the conversation. But I've long felt that the cult of motherhood as a brand of feminism just doesn't quite cut it for me. I mean...motherhood is important. Children are important. But women are more than their child-bearing hips. And if women want to stay home - because it makes them happy - then fabulous. And if they don't, then that's fabulous too. But the whole judgemental thing, where moms who choose to work when they're financially capable of staying home are thought of as somehow "less" than women who choose to stay home - yuck. Happy families need happy adults.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "cult of motherhood as a brand of feminism "<--this. This mentality is so dangerous for women. I wish we could celebrate motherhood and non-motherhood without resorting to judgment. (Now I feel like I need to be singing folk songs around a peace-fire, but it's true!)

      I think the important message is that adults are part of families, too. It's not just children, with adults as supporting roles. It is an ensemble cast.

      Delete
  18. Love this, well said. I think the problem is that there really isn't a right way to parent, and it's so important so we're all kind of freaking out a bit. But we all should just do what works and stop panicking. Also, I'm a SAHM and my kids can't tie their shoelaces. The lessons always end in tears and yelling (and the kids get upset, too.) They wear Crocs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I'm glad to hear I didn't offend SAHMs. :)

      Wasn't there some weird little gadget that was shaped like a head? Lace-biters or something? I remember wanting them as a kid, but mom told me I just had to learn to tie my shoes.

      Delete
  19. I loved this post. Having children at all seems to open you up to the judgements and criticism of others. I've been lucky enough to work only a few days a week since my kids were born, the days they go to daycare are they days they actually learn shit. Like new songs, stories and games I don't know. I know that staying home all day, every day would drive me to drink-so I've struck a balance that works for us. Like Mondays with Mac said, if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy! To each their own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it is wonderfully ironic when people who would certainly scorn the idea that "it takes a village to raise a child" nevertheless want to tell mothers how to do their jobs. I guess it doesn't take a village--it just takes "me."

      I'm looking forward to my child teaching me child-things, like songs and dances and such.

      Delete
  20. I hope it all works out fabulously! I wish us moms could let go of the guilt, I struggle with it too!

    ReplyDelete
  21. You have to do what make you feel good and what works best for your family! Glad you're excited to go back.

    PS I cannot teach my kids to tie their shoes either, and I homeschool. Talk about an attached parent problem. No?

    ReplyDelete
  22. Boo on guilt! And yet, what the hell? Why not? Guilt can be good sometimes - like if you're cheating on your spouse or stuffing an entire bag of Milanos into your mouth before your partner gets down the stairs.

    I see guilt as a sign that I should stop and think about whatever I feel guilty about. WHY am I feeling that way? I may decide I'm feeling that way for no reason, or maybe it's because I need to change it up a little. I think that's why we're hardwired for guilt - to encourage introspection.

    ReplyDelete
  23. It sounds like you will make the best decision that is best for you. (That sounds like something my grandmother would have said.) Maybe working outside of the home part-time will help you feel better connected with the outside world and make you feel whole. There are pluses to every scenario. Keep me posted!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I do believe for most of us, there's always some level of guilt in the "Do I work/Don't I work?" dilemma. Do what you think will be the best for your family? At the end, it's great we have the chance to choose, right?

    ReplyDelete

I love comments. They make me feel like I'm not talking to myself. I try to reply to all of them, eventually.