This is bothering me.
Why am I so convinced that I am making a good decision to stay at home with my child (and children to come)? What bothers me is that by feeling like I am making a good decision, by implication the decision to put my child in care and go back to work is a poor decision. And I am not comfortable thinking that parents who put their children in care are essentially poor parents. I know it is not true from observation. Not easy, but not true. So why have I made my decision to stay at home?
1. I was not wildly happy in my previous job. I was working long and very intense hours in hand rehabilitation for a very poor salary and lets say a less than supportive work environment (not getting time to go to the loo happened regularly, as did not having time to eat – there are complicated reasons). I love the professional challenge of treating patients along side some very talented hand surgeons. I loved making a difference in the lives of patients committed to rehabilitation. I loved finding a niche where I could make a real difference in the lives of the people I treated. I enjoyed the status of working in a prestigious hospital. I *hated* sitting in traffic 1 hour each way and being out of my home for 10-13 hours day for a wage that barely covered our mortgage repayments. I hated not having the time or energy to look after myself or make a nurturing home…. I hated living off fast (healthy) food and coffee.
2. Not having a huge motivation to go back to work I allowed myself the fantasy of staying at home. My position was being kept for a year, so I decided to take it as it comes.
3. I read and read and read and kept coming back to the idea that children thrive at home at least until the age of 1 1/2, and 3 being an age I kept getting to. Could I allow myself the priviledge of 3 years at home with my child? Was that not WAY too indulgent?
The word ‘thrive’ became important to me. It also guided me in my choice to sleep share with DS. But does that mean that parents who are in a position where they have to choose between being at home and going back to work, mean that they aren’t allowing their children to thrive? I am not comfortbale with the answer no.
I remember just after graduating from university I was talking with a cousin who grew up with a SAHM all her childhood. Both her and her mum were getting a bit snotty with me about a woman’s place being at home and this cousin’s aspirations being to have a home cooked meal on the table every day. This seemed so confining to me, not to mention demeaning. I was firmly defending a woman’s right to go back to work. I saw it that if I was going to be miserable at home I would not be a very good mother and my child would be better off in care while I go out and work and then come home with the renewed passion to be a mother. I still think like this – but for the most part in my present situation I see going back to work as being a serious trigger to *not coping*.
This question became more pressing in my mind today as I explored the possibility of becoming a La Leche League leader. In order to do so I am required to agree with the philosophy – part of which is that the mother is the preferred care provider
In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.
And while this is my experience, I am hesitant to apply this to all babies and all mothers. I am inclined to think that a baby requires a sensitive and nurturing care provider at all times and that the mother is defeinitly a most natural choice as she is breastfeeding. But other people can also meet the babies needs without mum being 100% the port of call. It is so much pressure on a mum to be 100% there for her child (children) and feel like only she can offer the required care. I do not think this is the way children are meant to be brought up. It is crazy making. And yet women (myself included for now) are making this choice. In my optimal world I would able to be with my child or at least in their vicinity while I got on with the tasks of daily living. I would have friends and family around who shared my values and who were an affirming part of my experience as a mother. My children would know me as mother and have many adults and other children as part of their growing up experience.
This sadly is very far from my reality. DH is my support, and my LLL meetings. I have just recently said good bye to the one friend I had who shared the parenting values that I do….. I am a bit sad.