June 22, 2014

Is it worth it?

It's 3pm. I am on my second attempt to get my daughter to nap. Baby starts to cry. I leave my daughter to rescue son from his failed nap, put him in his bounce chair, bring him into her room, and she starts to cry. We pick up her nap routine again, and just as he starts to fuss, an anxiety filled list starts to enter my sleep deprived brain: dishes, laundry, bathrooms.... nap time has been a struggle all week long and my house is starting to show it.

Toddler down!

I take my threatening-to-scream son out of the room, and try three times to get him to go down for a nap. As I'm rocking him for the third time, trying to sooth him back to sleep, the 'Is this worth it?' thought pops into my head.

Are my kids worth it? Heck yes. That has never been a question. They are worth my life and I would give it for them all day, every day.

The 'is it worth it?' question is regarding being a stay at home mom. I see kids with nannies, getting one on one attention every day. I see kids at day care, receiving enriching curriculum, while their parents work hard to better their financial future. I see parents making enough to afford the best day care, house cleaning, and cooking services, all categories receiving professional care and attention while I try to be the 8-5 combination of the three.

So why? Why try and do all of the things that some professionals spend their full day attending to. Why stay at home when every politician and feminist is trying to create rights for the opposite to happen, for moms and dads to rejoin the workforce together?

Because my husband appreciates it. When he is at work, he can just focus on work. He doesn't need to worry if the daycare/nanny is doing their/her/his job correctly. He doesn't need to worry about what is going to happen if one of the kids gets sick or hurt. He trusts that they are being taken care of, and that he will be immediately called if something goes wrong so he can help as well. Also, even though I feel like a majority of the day is young-children-induced chaos, it must not be. By 6pm most nights, the house is mostly organized, the kids are peaceful, and an at least semi-homemade meal is ready to go. Because of this, he is more than happy to step in and take care of something when he gets home, and we can tackle the evening chores together.

Because I have strong opinions on how the kids need to be taken care of, and I have a very humble BA in Psychology backing up my opinions. I took many human development courses in college, and read many studies showing what parenting techniques work best for (the studied) children. No two kids are the same, and no two kids can fit into any model outlined in an undergrad psych book, but it is a foundation of knowledge that I am using to build my parenting off of. Studies show kids that go to sleep early and have a schedule do better in school. Therefore, my kids have been on (attempted) schedules from infancy. I also have strong religious views, and want to make sure that my kids are being exposed to Catholicism on a daily basis. Some day my children will be in school, facing challenges I won't be around for. I want to make sure that in their early years they can absorb as much strength from me as possible so they can face those challenges head on and succeed.

Because when they do go to school, I want to have the time to genuinely wonder how their day went. I also want to have the time to be able to listen to them when they want to talk. I can't expect my kids to come chasing after me for advice when they grow older. It is already human nature to avoid parents at certain ages. I don't want to make it harder for my kids to come to me by acting busy with an outside job. I want to be there, ready and welcoming, to help them when they need me.

Because I'd rather be around babies acting like babies, than grown adults acting like babies. What is it these days about corporate work environments that encourages 'not nice' behavior? Go hug your mom.

I've read many articles debating the stay at home mom vs the work outside the home mom. I think the 'debate' is just in our heads. At the end of the day, we do what we think is best for our family. Many women don't have the luxury of participating in this debate. They can't afford to feed their family if they don't work. Other families are facing unemployment, so either spouse is ready to jump at any job possible. Even for those of us who have a choice, it is still about doing what we think is best for our kids. Creating a strong financial future for them, working hard to afford a bigger house, send them to good schools, being able to pay for their college, having extra time for them, making the home into a sanctuary from the world... we do what we can so that they grow up into amazing adults.

If in 10 years, we are still living in the same condo, driving the same cars, working with the same budget, will I look back and regret? I don't think so, because every time I get frustrated at myself, and tell myself that I'm not doing enough for my family, something happens. Thomas smiles at me. Clara learns a new word and tries to use it all day. We take a trip to the zoo, and both kids stare with wonder at the same animal. Clara has figured out that when I'm about to loose my mind, she can sing "It's your birthday to YOU!!" while dancing and pointing at me, and it will make me laugh. If I miss out on most of those moments by choice, I will regret. That is my ultimate reason to be with my kids. I recently read a quote that said not to give up what you want most, by giving into what you most want now. Professionally cleaned house, perfectly prepared dinners, a few more dollars in the bank... these things are not my ultimate wants. They are good now, but I will not sacrifice what I want most for what I want now.

What do I want most? To know that by the time my children are grown, I gave them everything I could, and to know that I supported my husband in every way possible.