My mom was a SAH mom, and for that I'm grateful. You hear that Mom? I'm grateful. As I watched my mom bake, cook, clean, take us to the doctor, take us grocery shopping (in an age where people didn't call CPS every time we were left in the car so my mom could get a quick item), play games with us (a personal favorite being "Stone School"), work as room mother, etc., I became convinced that this was my future. I would go to college, meet my dream husband, teach for a couple years, and stay at home to raise our four to five children.
During those years I often heard my mom discuss the virtue of staying at home with us. I also heard her recount her days working at a daycare (before I was born) and her disappointment (to put it lightly) that there were mothers who would bring their kids to daycare even on days that they didn't work. It appeared inconceivable that a woman would bring her kids in to daycare on days that she could instead be at home with her kids.
I have a confession. I'm now one of those moms.
Parenting is hard. SAH parenting, working parenting, part-time working parenting: they all have their different challenges. For 10 months out of the year, I spend time at school and at home prepping, reading, and grading. It never stops. And if it did stop, I would know that I wasn't doing my job. I teach reading and writing. To make my high school students better at both, I have to assign a lot of both. But that also means a lot of reading and then grading of said writing. Add to that a final class in my Master's program and I'm pretty busy. Then I go home to my family. Between playing with the kids, reading to them, cooking, cleaning (although not nearly enough), doing laundry, and completing all the other tasks that my SAH peers do all day long (only they are surrounded by the extra challenge of doing it with their kids in tow), I often feel like my world is spinning. It's not out of control, but times like now when I have grades that need to be posted in less than two weeks, my world is teetering. When I can get time to get things done, I really need that time so that we can spend time together as a family when I'm not distracted by work.
Yes, I love spending time with my kids. Summer vacations are just long enough for me to appreciate the time with my kids and to appreciate just how hard a job it is to be a SAH parent. When school starts up again in August, I treasure every moment we get together as a family, but occasionally we have days off that are not holidays at daycare and I take full advantage. Why? Because I have prepaid babysitting that allows me to grocery shop, clean, grade when the pile has gotten too high, and on very rare occasions go on a daytime date with my husband, saving money since we don't have to pay a nighttime babysitter and giving us family time at night. There are times I feel guilty doing this, but then mornings like today happen.
The last time we had a snow day I didn't get the text until after I had already dropped the kids off at daycare. Kids like routine and habit, and I knew that if I turned around and picked them up it would throw the day off for all of us, so I just left them there. Last night when I realized that there was a strong possibility that school would be cancelled for me, and possibly daycare closed for the kids, I was excited about all three of us (four if the Level 1 snow emergency had held out into the morning hours) having the day at home. I woke up to 10 to 12 inches of snow on the ground. When our daughter woke up and walked into our bedroom, she was thrilled to find out that we would have a day at home. And I had a fairly productive morning. Even though my son likes to dump everything, I had enough laundry on the bed out of his reach that clean laundry finally got put away and with him watching from the family room window, I got enough of the driveway shoveled to get our car out of the garage. I was starting to think that with the kids being a little older, I might actually get more done this coming summer. That is if my son learns to stop dumping things on the ground. In attempts to maintain our Christmas/Summer vacation schedule, I had plans to take the kids with me to the Y so they could play with some other kids for an hour while I got a workout in. I went upstairs do find my nearly four-year-old daughter feverishly cleaning her bedroom so that she could take her play table upstairs (I had told her that her room as far too messy to put more things in it). Then she asked the question that changed the rest of our day:
"Mommy, I want to play with a friend."
"Well honey, I was going to get us ready to go to the Y. Do you want to go play at Childwatch?"
"No, I want to go to school."
A call to daycare and I got the kids dressed and we drove the four minutes to daycare. I intended to keep my son with me, but as soon as he was there he wanted to go play with his friends too. Today I felt guilty, but I guess that it says something about where we send them to daycare. They like it and they have good friends there. I know that my daughter's request had more to do with a desire for the happy routine of playing with peers than it did a lack of desire to spend time with her mommy. Some might say that giving in to my daughter's desire instead of keeping her at home with me was irresponsible. I don't see it that way. I got cleaning done and a quick lunch date with my husband, and my kids demonstrated for me that we made the right decision about childcare.
There are times I feel like I need to defend the decisions I make as a working mom, but then I conclude that I have to make decisions that are best for all of us. Today that meant taking my kids to daycare even though I didn't have to. And in the end, it's a decision that I feel good about, and today that was good enough for us.