Ever since the thought of having children crossed my mind when I was a child myself, it always seemed a given to me that when I did, I would stay at home and take care of them. My mom was a stay-at-home mother, and her mother before her, and I never thought to question it.
Fast forward 20 years or so to the birth of my first, and this all of a sudden was not so clear cut. I’d had a career. I was 7 years into teaching. I was a professional, I liked (if not loved at times) my job, and it was a large part of my identity. But that sort of clashed with my new identity as a mother, which for me trumped everything else. So I questioned what I would become.
A working mom, like so many of our generation? One who bundles up the child(ren) in a mad dash out the door each morning only to see them for a couple of hours each night? One who pays a good amount of her salary to daycare and wonders whether her child is being treated right? For a type-A personality like mine, this was hard to stomach. For the overprotective mother I was quickly becoming (who isn’t with their firstborn?), this seemed an impossibility.
But what about the lifestyle to which we were so accustomed? The mortgage and car payments, the Amazon shopping and eating out. Not to mention the place I had made for myself at my school, in my classroom, with my students.
Fortunately, my daughter was born in May, so maternity leave ran through the end of that school year, and I had all summer to stay at home with her. I worked out a plan to convince my mom to drop her work down to part time (I would compensate for the pay decrease) to watch my daughter while I was at work. She is the only person I trust with my children for any extended period of time, does not act like a grandparent (doesn’t cave to requests for cookies), and comes with the added benefit of speaking only Mandarin. So my daughter went to Grandma’s at 3.5 months, right when she began to reliably sleep through the night. She’s gotten good food, daily love and discipline, and is now fully bilingual. And I’ve gotten every afternoon and all holidays with her (which are pretty numerous as a teacher). It’s worked out great for 2.5 years.
Now, our daughter has a set of siblings, 11 weeks old. Three children under 3. This impossible decision is upon us again. I have already decided to take the rest of the school year off. That part is not in question. There is no way I would have left my twins after 8 weeks of maternity when my firstborn singleton got 3.5 months.
In fact it’s hard to imagine leaving them at all. As it is they are getting one third the attention our firstborn got. And though I am “off work” at 3pm daily, by then I’ve already had a full day of 5 classes, creating lessons, grading papers, and managing teenagers. To take on 3 kids after that may just break the camel’s back. Not to mention how an aging grandmother is supposed to handle them all…
But then again is the mortgage, the car payments (I’ve caved and accepted the fact that we will need a minivan sooner rather than later), the lifestyle we like to live, the TWO ADDITIONAL members of the family to support, and our future dreams to consider. Can we, do we want to, make the financial sacrifices necessary? Am I comfortable putting my career on hold, and if so for how long? The husband says he will support whatever decision I make, but I know that he is terrified of being the only wage earner in our family. Am I being selfish in not wanting to miss out on my children’s babyhood?
What to decide? I have until the end of the school year to do so, before the contracts for next year are signed. I’m hoping by then I will have either fallen in love with the life of parks and playdates, or can’t wait to get back to work.
lunchldyd is a mom to an almost 3 yr old daughter and her 11 week old twin brother and sister. She is also a high school teacher. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, 3 children under 3, and two neglected dogs.