I started writing this post in August 2014. The title was “Today is my Friday! Just kidding; I’m unemployed.” At that point I had a slightly disdainful opinion of my position as a stay at home mom. It’s changed since then…so we’ll see if I can have it all make sense in one post.
I didn’t plan to stay home. But moving to Germany six months pregnant, where the job market is slim to begin with, meant it just kind of happened. I could have applied for a short-term contract position as a counselor (multiple times,) but since Annika didn’t take a bottle, I didn’t even bother looking into it. Then we started having more appointments for her–we typically have three or more a week. This was another reason to continue staying home. Besides, Jason actually made better money when we were stationed in Europe, so I didn’t feel financial pressure to work either.
Things I love about being a stay at home mom: I don’t have to get up early (after getting shit for sleep the night before…I love my baby but sleeping is not on the list of things she is good at), and I get to spend all day with her. However, despite not having a paying job, I also haven’t had a “day off” since July 2013. Weekends aren’t much different than weekdays to me–in fact I do more household chores & cooking on weekends than I do during the week because Jason can sit with Annika and I don’t feel like a neglectful mom ignoring her in favor of the laundry. I can literally count on my hands how many times I have left her with anyone. I even rarely leave her with Jason, but that’s more because we tend to do things together than anything else. The other night I left them to go grab hamburger buns for dinner. You know, glamorous things. He is on leave, so he stayed with her the last three Tuesdays (including today) while I worked. (More on that later.)
I didn’t miss working. I didn’t miss doing my job. I missed making money and contributing to our household income. For a long time, I felt lazy and worthless. Yes, worthless. This is not a plea for people to tell me, “you are doing the most important job in the world! Yay you!” This is just me emotion-vomiting all over my blog. Shut up and let me talk.
I do almost everything around the house. It’s not because Jason told me I have to–it’s because that’s just the way things have pretty much always been with us. He has always made more money and worked longer hours, so I kind of took it upon myself to take care of everything at home. But in Germany, I wasn’t working, while he got up at 6 every day and was gone for 12+ hours at work. I was home. I don’t think it’s fair for me to expect him to come home and do laundry or clean. I just don’t. Some people may say that’s old fashioned but he has already been awake and worked all day, while I slept until somewhere between 8 and 9:30, and either played with Annika at home or ran errands/went to appointments with her. Some days are busier than others, but overall I have more time to vacuum or clean the bathroom. That’s not to say he never does anything, but I do most of it. (Not always well. One day we will be millionaires and I will have a cleaning lady.)
I think that’s why I was so insanely, deliriously exhausted and overwhelmed in the first weeks/months after Annika was born. I tried to do it all. I used to go to bed, wake up every hour or two (side note, she still wakes up about 4 times a night on average, even if just to latch onto me and go back to sleep. We’ve got some work to do but we are still cosleeping.) then got up with Jason at 6, made him breakfast, and stayed awake the rest of the day in a haze, trying to nurse her 18 times a day (I used to keep track, that’s how often she wanted to be fed), never being able to put her down without her crying, which of course I never want her to cry, so I never felt like I could put her down, while cleaning up after 3 (shedding & shitting) pets, cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, oh shit, I need to shower today…I have never felt so overwhelmed. The whole “making J breakfast” ritual died out when Annika and I went back to the States for 3 weeks in April 2014, and luckily never picked back up. Sure, it cost more money for him to eat on base every morning, but I got to sleep later after waking up all night (as long as Annika sleeps in the bed with me.) I’m okay with that trade off. Now that we are back here, he can eat even cheaper at the DFAC. And the multiple nursing sessions have been replaced by feeding her at the high chair every 3 hours, either with baby puree (she still doesn’t eat anything more substantial and can’t self-feed) or a tube feed. So it’s a different kind of exhausting.
I think the reason I felt so lazy and worthless is because I felt like working moms do more. They work 8 hours a day AND manage a household. So when you say, “you’re in charge of the home! Making sure everything runs smoothly!” I think, “I did that before. While holding down a real job.” Granted, I now have a little 18-pound (!) “job” to take up my time, but I didn’t feel like it was the same. I was not impressed with myself by being a stay at home mom–especially for one child. I guess I might have felt differently if we had two at home right now. I feel like if she is my job, then I should be attending to her 24/7. But that leaves little time for myself. So this rambly paragraph just told me that I am simultaneously thinking “you’re not doing enough” and “there isn’t enough time for me to do everything.” Good times.
I felt more validated and needed once we started all of the appointments for Annika. We had physical therapy twice a week, the Army early intervention home visitor once a week, then frequent pediatrician weight checks/lactation consultant (due to her not gaining weight)/other specialists. Not to mention the frequent phone calls to make arrangements for said appointments/referrals. Now we are doing OT and Speech every week too, in addition to sporadic specialist appointments. I am trying to stack appointments so we only have them two or three days a week, not four or more. This week and last week, we have at least one appointment every day except Tuesday, the day I went to work.
We came back to NC, and my old job wanted me back for whatever hours I could work. For now it’s one day a week, though Jason is pushing me to do two. It could probably be done, but first we need to figure out childcare. My girlfriend Emily came to the house (with her two kids) the first two weeks. My friend Jaime’s mom watched Annika the third week. Jason was off the last three. After that we still need to figure it out. Ideally I wanted someone to come to our house, but that’s more expensive than most alternatives. It doesn’t cancel out my working, but it certainly makes a dent in my income. It would be hard for me to think about going to work when half the day I was just making enough to pay for childcare. An in-home daycare is an alternative I am looking into, though it depends on a myriad of factors (Annika gets overstimulated with noise/chaos; it has to be close to the house/my office; will they allow her to come once or twice a week.) We qualify for free “respite” care through the Army special needs program, but only for 24 hours per month. So far 3 out of 5 have said they live too far away, and I’m still waiting on the other two. We are considering paying whoever we choose out of pocket for the additional weeks each month, but that may not really work if I go back to work two days. I have thought about posting a job on a babysitter website to see who responds, but they are asking for more per hour than I feel like I can justify. It’s frustrating when an in-home daycare costs less per week than I would have to pay someone for two days to come to the house (based on their requests from the website.) I mean I feel like an asshole saying I don’t want to pay someone $10 an hour to babysit my precious baby, but that gets expensive when we are talking 1-2 days a week, all day long. But most in-home daycares only want to take on kids full time, which is understandable. I may look into paying for full time and only sending her two days. Annoying, but more cost effective.
Have I mentioned I don’t even really WANT to work two days a week? When I said that to Jason, his response of “two days a week” made me realize how ridiculous I was being. It would help us out financially (twice as much income, imagine that!) if I would just suck it up and take on another day. This is especially helpful after days like last Tuesday when two out of my six clients canceled on me.
So the moral of this story is that I went from not wanting to be a stay at home mom, to loving it but hating myself, to really loving it, to feeling like I should be working more than I really want to.
I don’t have a nice way to tie this up. I will have to report back on what we figure out. I wish my mother lived close by. Then all my problems would be solved.
SOMEONE PAY ME TO STAY HOME WITH THIS PRINCESS! Thank you.