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.

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The ubiquitous “Mommy Blog”

I have joined the ranks of the thousands of other moms out there who have started a blog.  I read somewhere that 1 in 3 blogs are written by moms.  Whoa.  How did blogging become so popular among moms?  My husband says it’s because moms have the time to blog.  I responded (somewhat bitterly) that although moms may have the time, we don’t have much of the opportunity, especially new moms with young kids.   I can barely sit down at the computer before my 3-year old comes in demanding to watch YouTube videos of the Fresh Beat Band and my 18-month old pulls on my pant leg.

The thing is that a lot of moms, especially stay-at-home moms (and dads, for that matter), often feel bored and isolated.  As a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), you crave that outside contact and adult conversation that doesn’t involve the potty, dinosaurs, and various threats.  Aside from playdates with other moms (which sometimes gets difficult with children’s varying schedules, the effort of taking the kids out, etc.), the easiest and most convenient way for that connection is the internet.  That’s why the worst Facebook offenders (the ones who update their statuses and comment on yours several times a day) tend to be SAHMs.   They crave that social interaction, an outlet/voice, and something meaningful to do.  Not that it’s not meaningful to take care of kids all day.  Naturally I think it’s the most important job in the world, but at the end of the day, after all the kids have been fed and bathed and put to bed, the laundry washed and folded, the dishes put in the dishwasher, and the house picked up, SAHMs still feel like they haven’t done anything.  We are way more likely to feel exhausted than accomplished (not to mention appreciated).  SAHMs need something else.  The blog is an easy way for us to channel the little energy we have left over to have a bit of “me time,” as well as share a little of our experiences in child-rearing (perhaps vent a little?), and hopefully find others who can sympathize.

As for me, this is not my first blog.  I had a blog in 2007-2008 while living and working in South Sudan (which I’ve since taken down due to an overzealous country director.  Long story).   Even though my actual job required a lot of writing (and not the fun kind, either – reports, grants proposals, e-mails, etc.), I still managed to write a blog in my limited free time (first on MS Word running on my computer’s battery while the generator/internet was out and later posted online).  Though I had regular readers in my friends, family, and international public health classmates/colleagues, the blog was mainly to record my experiences and thoughts during my time in South Sudan.  The other thing is that I need to write.  Even before blogs were around, I’d kept a journal for years, ever since I received two Hello Kitty diaries at my 8th birthday party.   If I step away from it too long, it nags at me and urges me to get something down on paper (or screen).

Now that I don’t keep a journal, this blog is a way for me to write down the thoughts in my head – whether it’s a phase my kids are going through, a news story I heard or read, or something that triggers a memory of my time abroad.  Plus, writing a blog gives me something else to do and think about aside from my kids.  For the past three or so years, I have been consumed by my kids’ lives.  Except for an occasional entry (that I never got to post), I have been knee-deep in cloth diapers, pureed organic baby food, grocery lists and receipts, and memberships to the Children’s Museum and zoo.  Now that my kids are 1 and 3 and a bit more independent, I have a little more time to focus on something I want to do for myself (gasp!).  So although writing a blog is more for myself than anything, I’d also love the chance to connect with others and share experiences and viewpoints.  Even though we may do things differently, there is something grand that we share: the responsibility of raising children.  After all, it takes a village.