Stay-at-home vs. Working

I think there’s a point in every new mom’s life when boredom sets in and she contemplates going back to work.  Mine hit after 3 months.   Three years and two kids later, I am still at home full-time.  I have been keeping my eyes open for a job, and go back and forth about whether I want to go back to work now.  I am one of the lucky ones, though.  I actually have a choice.

I could talk about how much staying at home sucks, and that my brain is atrophying while my education and experience go out the window along with my sanity being with the kids all day.  But I won’t, because honestly, it’s not a bad gig.  I can choose what to do each day while my husband is forced to go to the office.  I can decide to do fun-kid-stuff like go to the zoo or museum, or fun-me-stuff like go shopping.  I can even opt do nothing and stay in my pajamas all day long at home.  I can plop my kids in front of the t.v. when I want a few minutes of computer time to check e-mail and Facebook.  I can eat the same lunch that my kids eat, such as mac and cheese, hot dogs or chicken nuggets (easier than making a salad for myself).  In the blissful hour or so that both kids are napping, I can work out (highly unlikely), watch Food Network or Travel Channel, or take a nap myself (most likely).  Really, what’s there to complain about?

Obviously it’s not great all the time.  I still have to change diapers and wipe poopy butts a few times a day.  I am pretty much a servant to my kids – getting them meals, snacks, juice, toys from the top shelf, etc.  I have to figure out what to feed my kids all the time so that I’m constantly thinking about what their next meal or snack will be.  I have to find various ways to keep them entertained so I don’t resort to sitting them in front of the t.v. for hours and hours.  I have to do piles of laundry each week, although I swore I would never complain about that here in the U.S. after having to do laundry by hand in the Peace Corps (which included wringing wet clothes out and hanging every single piece up to dry).  And the terrible-twos-and-threes tantrums that I deal with on a regular basis make me want to go running back to crunching numbers on SPSS.

Seriously, though, I do want to go back to work eventually, and it’s not only because I have to pay off my exorbitant school loans.  I actually enjoyed working (not too many hours, though), especially when I worked abroad in international health and development. Unfortunately where I live now, opportunities in my field are limited and the job openings are few and far between.  And even before applying for a position, I have to ask myself if the position is interesting and meaningful enough to make it worth being away from my kids (not to mention pays enough to cover childcare costs).  I am worried down the line about my candidacy for jobs the longer I stay out of work.  After all, long gaps in employment are a big red flag, even (or especially) for new moms.

My husband tells me that I have my whole life to work and to take a few years off to raise our children.  And I know that once I start working, I’ll long for those days I stayed at home.  So for now, while the job market is still bad and the kids are too young for school, I’ll enjoy this time at home.  After all, the first few years are so amazing in terms of their development, and as the cliché (which I’ve heard a thousand times since my kids were born) goes, they grow up so fast.  And being with them as they grow is a gift that I won’t take for granted.