Once upon a time, in the world where men wore dark blue suits and white shirts with skinny ties and women wore housedresses and aprons and pillbox hats, it was easy. If you had a vagina and you didn’t marry while getting your liberal arts degree, you worked as a secretary or teacher or nurse until somebody did marry you, at which time you quit your job to spend your days vacuuming in heels, pearls and pedal pushers, telling the kids to go play in their rooms, and waiting for your blue-suited man to come home and ask what’s for dinner.
That was awesome.
(No wonder they all drank martinis.)
Now, things are so complicated. Sigh. Choices! We have choices! And besides vaginas, we have paychecks! Which are sometimes bigger than our husband’s! (our husband’s what, ba dum bum…)(that’s what he said)
I read this Motherlode post in the New York Times the other day about a woman pondering whether to quit her high-paying job to stay home with her one-year old and got sort of angry. Angry! Here’s the gist:
1. Wife works in a job she doesn’t like.
2. Wife earns more money than husband.
3. Husband isn’t down with that last part.
4. Kid has a nanny.
My take on the whole thing:
Wife wants to use quitting for the kid as an excuse to ditch a job she doesn’t like. She doesn’t want the burden of being primary breadwinner but also doesn’t really want to be home with her kid — if she wanted that, she already would be home, yanno? So now she’s looking for advice/attention on a national parenting blog! (Which is where I always go for advice, myself, because who can you trust more than a few hundred people who know nothing about you?) even though she admits that her husband is not really on board with losing 2/3 of their income (and likely affecting their lifestyle dramatically) in one fell swoop. But she can’t resist the siren song of idealistic retro motherhood that is embroidered into all our fantasies. GUILT.
So it all boils down to guilt. Which is why I got angry. This mother is detached from what she really wants but feels obligated to create a certain experience with her kid. I should be home! I’m missing so much! Should! Where are my pearls?
Reasons to not stay home with your kid
1. Hello, guilt. Any whiff of “I should” means you should not. Not.
2. Everybody’s not on board. Sure, we might have fears of the unknown. That’s normal. But if you’re squishing a two-paycheck lifestyle into a one-paycheck new reality, it’s a must that everybody concerned be totally okay with the changes. And I don’t just mean money — when one parent stays home it shifts the entire balance. Who does chores when one parent stays home? Who does MORE chores? See? It’s not so easy.
3. You love, love love your job. Even just a one-love love will do it. If you love what you do, the best thing you can do for your kid is to show him your passion. Be you, which means working at what floats your boat. Trust me. That’s a gift worth giving to your kid.
Reasons to stay home with your kid
1. You really want to. Really, really. Like, you get high on the smell of your baby’s head. You can’t wait until Yo Gabba Gabba comes on every day. Jumping-up-and-down excited. You can’t stop counting fingers and toes, even though he’s three years old. You adore PBJ cut into triangles. You love bodily fluids, all of them, and you don’t mind wearing most of them.
One last bit of advice
No matter which you choose or have already chosen — staying home or not staying home — expect some grass-is-greener pangs while you consider the what-ifs of the other side of the fence.
And what about you? If you could quit your job today and stay home with your kids, would you? Have you? And if you’re home now, are you thinking of going back to work?