Stay At Home Mom Week
I did something extravagant and self-indulgent this week while my husband was in Wisconsin for a big work pow wow. Something a lot of people can’t do anymore in our society, and something you may not approve of. I took the whole week off from work…so I could stay home and take care of my kids.
Sure we have family that I could have called on to fill in gaps, but that’s stressful for them and stressful for the kids and stressful for me. Shuffling from person to person depending on who’s available when and me running to get home and take over. It makes for a crazy week and when Dad gets back we’re all pulling our hair out.
There are a lot of stay at home moms, and it is a full-time job in itself. I have always worked outside the home; I wasn’t made to hang out with kids all day and I think that’s ok. What made me feel like what I did this week was unusual is that it seems you have to be one or the other, a working mom or a stay at home mom. Why can’t we be both?
When you have a job you have to commit fully, to be there even if there are things going crazy at home. Your company needs you; your co-workers rely on you. If you stay home with a sick child it’s harder on them, there’s guilt and fear of punishment. And what do you do if you have to take a week off for a family issue? You use your vacation PTO for this non-vacation family time, which means no trips for you this year.
We are looking for more of a true work/home balance. That’s a phrase that gets tossed around a lot, and I think it’s supposed to mean that your company wants you to have a life outside of the office. But we all know it’s just not good business to have people stay home, no matter what the reason. If my husband stays home with a sick child he still works from remote on his computer, which is a convenient compromise, but that means his attention is divided. It’s a lot more than many people can do, and it helps, but it isn’t always enough.
This week of taking care of kids alone I was able to focus on what it really takes. My youngest goes to preschool until 11am, and the other two go to school all day, so you would think that would make it easier to take care of them. That would be wrong. Every couple of hours I’m a kid taxi, and my day kind of has to revolve around that. Some days they do go to our awesome daycare, so then they are bused over after school and we pick them up at 5pm. This week, though, she had a death in the family and had to close unexpectedly. Good thing I already had the time off or I would have been calling in. Does this sound like a familiar dilemma yet?
So when do I work? I was working a clinic job that had a long drive, so I left at 6:30 am and got home around 7:30 or 8 pm. The job was good, but the pay was not, the drive was awful and I always felt like I was missing out on things at home. We decided that wasn’t working, that family was more important than job. So I quit-and it felt good. Revolution of the working mom!
I went back to “agency” nursing, meaning I am a fill-in for a variety of places when they run short on staff. I work in long-term care, clinics, hospital, occupational, and home nursing environments. This is what gives me the flexibility to take a week off when I need to be there for my family.
I truly have control of my schedule; I can always say “no” to a shift, and if I want more hours there are usually plenty of shifts available. Is it always fun? No. Do I feel like I’m lost sometimes at a new work site? Yes. It’s not ideal, but few jobs are, and it allows me to put my family first.
This isn’t the first time I’ve stayed home with the kids by myself, but this week I found I really enjoyed it. I didn’t have to feel bad that I had let my employer down or used up precious PTO. I didn’t have to worry about anything but getting my kids where they needed to be and spending time with them. We had a good time, and when Dad came home I think he was a little surprised that the kids didn’t go running at him screaming “Thank God you’re back!” and neither did I.
When you both work it’s like you both have a double load of career and parenthood, where in the past we’ve only had one or the other as our main role. Women are trying to do everything that our mothers did: have a clean house, dishes washed and laundry done, homemade dinner on the table every night, help the kids with homework and be involved with the PTO, kiss them goodnight and make breakfast every morning, all of it. The difference is that we are also working full-time, and quite a few of us are back in college again too. Each parent is doing the job of both our mothers and our fathers and then feeling like failures because we can’t get it all done.
I want you to know that whatever you’re getting done or not getting done, you are not a failure. No one gets it all done.
Now I want you to feel better too, so I suggest you take a look at what’s most important to you and try to make everything else revolve around that as much as you can. That’s what I did this week. I decided that taking care of my kids was the most important thing, and I gave myself permission to say I wasn’t available to work right now. I picked one thing and gave it my full attention, and it was so much more fun. I didn’t feel pulled in four other directions this week, I didn’t have to be a nurse and a student, all I had to be was Mom. I think my kids could tell the difference, too.
It was a temporary reprieve, of course. Next week I have to whip another paper into shape for my BSN classes, and I will pick up a few shifts so we don’t go broke. But it’s a step in the right direction.
One of the things about our culture that bothers me is that money and “hard work” is often valued above family and relationships. We still want family and relationships, but put it somewhere else during work hours please, and can you come in on Saturday? Part of what we’re looking for in our travels is more family time. A smaller house, fewer possessions, less screen time and more days off to spend together. This is a theme you’re going to see more of because I’m determined to find ways to get there, and this week was just the start. Living in Mexico will only be part of the journey, getting there and thinking about what we want out of it is a big part of it, too. Keep reading.