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Quit your job for your kids?

Categories: Mommy Angst, Wanna Fight About It?


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?

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13 comments so far...

  • If I could quit - meaning, if my husband decided it was time for him to go back to work and leave the SAHD life behind (erm, he doesn’t wear pearls though…and I don’t wear dark suits and skinny ties) AND he was earning as much or more as I am (which was part of the decision he made to quit work to become a SAHD - he made just enough to cover weekly daycare with no $$$ leftover. Pointless to work), I might quit to stay at home.

    I’m burnt out. I miss my kid during the day. I’ve done temporary stints and it turns out that I was pretty good at it…and got a lot done around the house too.

    Now, if I won the lottery, you better believe I’d give my walking papers and go home for good. I don’t work because I am in love with my job or because it’s some sort of anti-retro empowerment. I work because I was raised to believe that we all have to work to support our households and it’s what adults do. I work to pay the bills, the rent and put food on the table.

    I like what I do. I’m good at what I do. I give my all to what I do. But I don’t do it out of some notion of power, empowerment or throwing of the shackles of an oppressive, male dominated society. I do it because I HAVE to. And that’s no fun.

    Phe  |  January 21st, 2010 at 6:11 am

  • Forgot to add, I work because I have to but I had a child because I wanted to. So yes, if I could go home tomorrow and know that we’d be comfortable financially, I’d be there in a second.

    Phe  |  January 21st, 2010 at 6:14 am

  • I could quit, but I wouldn’t. There’s more to life than wiping snotty noses and teaching phonics. And in addition to needing the relief/stimulation, I want my daughters to have a broader perspective on the world, to aspire to something beyond the four walls. (They don’t have another parent to model this.)

    That said, I wonder why anyone should get “angry” (or otherwise judgmental) about another woman’s ruminations about the pros and cons of working / staying home. We are all different, so whatever she is feeling herself (at this moment) doesn’t need to be a statement on what all women should do.

    SKL  |  January 21st, 2010 at 9:14 am

  • have many times asked myself this question, would my son be better served with Mommy at home Full Time, and each time I do, I take a few days off of work and take the little man out of pre-school/daycare to test my ability to full time parent. Gloves off, mommy Ethan time, and each time I have gone back to work with a HUGE sigh of relief.

    Now it’s not that I love my job, because I, by no means or stretch of the imagination, have a job that would make anyone jump for joy to go to. Of course I sit at my desk looking at pictures of my son and the holiday hand prints he’s made me over the past year and think how much I miss him… and there’s the sparkle, the kernel of why I will never become a stay at home mother, nor do I deeply yearn to don the apron and pearls.

    When I pick up my son in the evenings from school, we are thrilled to see one another, we make every moment special, he is only 3 but he is the best chef in the world. He can sprinkle spices better than Remmy from Ratatouille.

    I play with him while he’s in the tub and we have splash fights and then he helps clean them up. We read The Polar Express in June because he loves that book, and he “reads” me Where the Wild Things Are because he knows it’s my favorite (his “terrible rawr” is AWESOME”).

    He sneaks in my room in the morning (because he wakes up first) to tell me “We Have to Hide Mommy the Monster is coming!” and we hide under the covers pretending we are hunting the monster.

    Of course it’s not all rainbows and sprinkles, but the good times FAR FAR FAR outweigh the tantrums and scoldings. By the time he’s done playing and we are all set for bed, heck I’m tuckered out too and I get some very early bed times. It’s Glorious, a full 8 hours of sleep!

    As for the days when I am with him for 7 days in succession I can tell you…. things do not go as planned. We struggle for nap time (which he takes very easily at school since “Everyone else is doing it”). Some days he won’t even take a nap and then his little over tired body gets awfully angry without the rest. We still play and have fun, but he ends up playing by himself while I’m getting the laundry done (granted he tries to help) or bathing the dog etc etc. When we run out of fun things to do and chores and “homework,” I suggest watching a movie, which he won’t sit through to save his life.

    My patience for the barrage of questions wanes around day 6 and by day 7 I’m just agreeing to everything. (Yes the car is red, Yes the dog is furry, yes mommy has a migraine, yes you can ride the dog). That and we both miss interaction with our fellow cronies. When he gets back to school he is surrounded by friends that say they have missed him and then lead him to the very awesome playground that I can’t compete with. LOL I get to go back to my office, stimulate my brain, take my lunch shoe shopping, read up on the news, and just feel all around more grown up.

    Then, somewhere around the 59th minute, of the 6th hour, of that first day back sitting at my desk I start to miss him and can’t wait for the exact second he sees me come into pick him up and I hear him say “Mommy! Pick up a me!” Then we get to go home and tell each other all about our days and talk about what we are going to make for dinner….together.

    I may not be a Stay At Home Mom….but I’m an ALL IN MOM. Because for three hours a night before he and I hit the hay Monday through Friday, the world is his….and I’m his mommy. I’ll take our Quality over Quantity, any day of the week.

    Better Suited for a Desk  |  January 21st, 2010 at 12:46 pm

  • Wow, Better Suited for a Desk, I could not have said it better myself.

    I stayed home with my little guy for 4 months and then out of financial obligations, went back to work. I miss him every day, but cherish each moment I have with him after the work day. We sing on the way home from work and school and I am VERY fortunate in that I work 4-10’s each week so we have 3 days together each weekend. It’s the PERFECT balance.

    I’ve often thought about staying home. I really enjoyed it and loved it while I did, but I also love having my own money and contributing financially to our family.

    Stacey  |  January 21st, 2010 at 6:04 pm

  • I think if I’d stayed home when she was an infant it would have required heavy psychotropic drugs. Even my mother was recommending I “look into that” I was so miserable & detached. After I went back to work, I became a mommy she was worthy of the rest of the time. I KNOW I could not have been that mommy without going back to work.
    I think that I could quit now, but I’d still be doing something. I’d be volunteer in the school library, school marketing & fundraising.

    Mich  |  January 22nd, 2010 at 11:38 am

  • While I was home on maternity leave for 4 months with my son I enjoyed the time we spent together at his young age. But I was bored out of my mine! TV gets repetitive and I really just can’t get into the books with him needing something constantly. Plus all of the crying and feedings was a bit stressful. By the time I went back to work I was relieved to have the adult stimulation. I still visited my son at daycare everyday for lunch (his daycare is onsite at my job). So I think that put me at ease about being away from him. But the daycare has gotten him through all of the stressful things I couldn’t do: weaning from breastfeeding, eating solid foods, then table food, and now they are weaning him from the bottle.

    Now he is almost 1 and I’ll still don’t know what I would do with him all day on a daily basis. By the time the weekend is over it seems like he is tired of his toys and maybe even me and Dad LOL. I try to expose him to different activities and spend time with him on the weekends and after work. For me so far that seems to be plenty of mommy time.

    Now I’ll probably change my tune when he gets over 3 (potty trained, talking etc) and there are more daytime activities to partake in. But I’ll cross that guilt ridden bridge when I get there…If I was super rich and had a part-time Nanny: I’d quit my job in a heartbeat :-) !!!

    Acl  |  January 22nd, 2010 at 11:48 am

  • I am one of those that love their jobs. I am good at it. I love the environment, coworkers, boss etc. I believe i pushed my self through college and earn my engineering degree with the ambition of being a professional person. My mom made it and so I want it.

    With my two years old, I believe things were easier as I have a great mother in law that although she did not approved of me working, she wanted the grandson so badly that when we told her she could have him while I worked she was suddenly happy i was working (that and my husband explaining her that i make 60% of the income, which for some reason was hard for her to believe).

    I believe in Quality, the quality time b/w me and my son its fantastic. For him there is nothing better than mommy in this world. I pick him up from school now (since he was one he spends three days a week at school, 2 with grandma) and as soon as he hears me calling his name he screams MOMMY MOMMY!!!. We go to the market b/c he wants to, sometimes just to get a cookie and sit down while eating it, we come home and dance and sing and play until Dad comes home. We take long baths every night which he loves and let him play as long as he likes it and we finally all go to bed around 9 pm. All that said, i am glad the next day I am at work and he is in a place that challenges him to learn new things.

    I dont feel guilty for working. I dont at all. I think that is a choice that makes the entire family better. My husband once told me that work keeps me sane, smart, motivated. Just like going to the gym and working out in order to keep your body in good shape, so does the job, you are working out your mind.

    I like feeling challenge, i like the feeling of knowing i have a value besides being a wife and a mom. I also love being a mom more than anything, if tomorrow there was a choice, it will not be a choice at all, its a given, my son. But as far as we can handle it we will keep it this way.

    Mari  |  January 22nd, 2010 at 1:24 pm

  • I’ve spent the last 6 months pretty much at home, because my 3 year old was diagnosed with Leukemia, and the treatment schedule for the first 6 months is really intense.

    I’ve hated it and have reaffirmed my love for my work and my dislike of staying at home.

    I’m a far better mother in small doses it seems. Everyone is happier.

    Fortunately, the treatment is working and we go on a much lighter Chemo schedule for the next 2 years. I can’t wait to go back to work full time.

    spacegeek  |  January 22nd, 2010 at 2:05 pm

  • As the aspiring author of a book about working motherhood ( and a self-professed workaholic with a crazy hours career where most of the successful execs are either hard-charging 20-somethings or men, this is ironically an internal struggle I have too. The pangs of guilt I feel about my mom essentially raising my son while I am banging away at a keyboard or doing the trains-planes-automobile commute are sometimes overwhelming. And I do feel a bit burned out of the passion for PR I had at an earlier stage in my life. That said, the desire for a bigger than 900-square shoebox on a busy city intersection for my son to grow up in means there’s no choice right now than for me stay in the rat race. It’s not survival necessarily, but it is financially most sensible to stay where I am. And I also know I could never be a full-time mom without any income of my own. No way. I think a part-time schedule and the ability to work from home is the ideal solution for most of us in reality.

    Aimee Grove  |  January 23rd, 2010 at 1:33 am

  • I would lik to be a mom now ,but i do not know if i have enough time to take care of them after the burn!
    so i worried about this …………..

    stenphen jo  |  January 25th, 2010 at 8:55 am

  • I am working now after staying @ home with my boys until they jetted off to kindergarten and I LOVED it. I would stay home in an instant - but then again I hate where I work. And I only work part time so I really have no excuses to complain. I’m home with the boys when they walk in the door from school - so the best of both worlds? Some days I think yes and then I have one of those days @ the office and I think NOT!

    Laura  |  January 26th, 2010 at 9:00 am

  • “idealistic retro motherhood” - that hits the nail on the head for me, as I read your intro and cracked up, knowing full well that the last “housewives” in my family tree were the farmer’s wives. And you know they weren’t vacuuming in pearls but were out at 4 milking the cows and busting tail! (The women in my Great-Grandmother’s generation? All worked, even after marriage and children. Grandmothers? Mom’s? Check and check.)

    CV  |  February 9th, 2010 at 11:55 am