To Work or Not to Work

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Categories Classroom Placement, Mommy Issues, WorkingTags , , ,

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.

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lunchldyd is mom to 3 year old boy/girl twins and their 5.5 year old sister. She is now teaches part-time to juggle the needs of her young children. When not at work and the kids are asleep, she is addicted to watching TV and sometimes sacrifices sleep to read in bed. She lives in the Los Angeles suburbs with her husband, three kids, and two dogs.

7 thoughts on “To Work or Not to Work”

  1. This is such a personal choice, and I feel incredibly fortunate to live in a community where there is mutual respect between the career mom and mom+career camps.

    I, personally, never considered staying home full time, although there was a period when my girls were 4 that I halfway thought I could pull it off successfully. I just find myself being far more patient, creative and competent a mother for having having a career I love that doesn’t involve the kids. Do I wish I had more time with them? Absolutely! Do I think I’d be a better mom if I stayed home and mommied full time? No.

    When my husband left me almost exactly a year ago, I was so so so so glad that I didn’t quit my job to stay home with the girls. I can’t imagine how much harder the divorce would have been on everyone had I needed to find a job, and had the girls had to adjust to my returning to work.

    Whatever you decide, it will be the right choice for your family. Good luck!

  2. This is definitely a tough one that I think every new mom/parent wrestles with! My husband stayed home with our boys for the first 16 months and at that time, we both 100% agreed that their personalities needed more socialization and interaction than they were getting through home/family/playdates. I cut my hours down to part time, my hubby returned to work full time, and the boys started a great daycare 2-3 days/week. It was the best decision we ever made- watching them blossom socially, developmentally,etc.- it was wonderful to see and they loved it. You will determine the best route for your family- and if you feel it is right in your heart, the children will do great with it!! Best wishes!

  3. This is such a tough question! I spent YEARS on my education (I am a PhD, research scientist) and never thought I would stay at home or that I would even like being a stay at home mom but once the twins came along, I have found it very hard to stomach the idea of having someone else take care of them. I do not have to work right now, and we are taking the decision in 6 month increments. I never in my whole life imagined having twins or that I would feel so strongly about wanting to control the environment they are exposed to as infants and young toddlers. I know that I can go back to work in some capacity when I want (and I think that time is coming within the next year) but I would never give up the time I have been allowed to spend with them during the first year of their life!

  4. This is crazy. Just when I feel I have my mind made up, I change it. Seems like every few days. Everybody’s comments are all valid, and I think it will come down to whether I like being a SAHM full time.

    The thing is, people can say teaching is a great job when you are a parent–and it is because I’m done at 3 (I’m super efficient and never take on any extracurriculars), except it’s a job where my day starts before 6, is then dictated by bells, I rarely get any adult interaction, and there is hardly time to sit for a cup of coffee or even a decent meal. Then I pick up my children and it’s more of the same. No time to nap when they’re napping, no time to take things leisurely, no leeway whatsoever.

    I know because every summer it’s a jarring transition going from working to not working, and then an even more jarring one going back to work. And that’s having only one child.

  5. I agree with others that it’s a personal decision and different scenarios work differently for different people. I do feel strongly, however, that women who do stay at home, need to also find time to develop/maintain their identity as a woman outside of being a mom.

  6. I was actually preparing post on this very same topic :o) I’m also a teacher of 7 years! I would start back in August, when my guys are 11 months old, after staying home with them since birth. It’s so tough to make this decision. I, too, am waffling back and forth every day. Does it make sense to leave my kids in another person’s care so I can go take care of other people’s kids?? And like you say, there is literally no downtime at school. I am on my feet, responding to a little person every second, not to mention staying on a strict schedule. Then again, staying at home can be really lonesome, and I love my school community. It’s so tough to make decisions based on what will make you happy because nothing will make you happy all the time! We’re looking at two equally good and equally bad options :o) Keep us posted on your decision-making process. I have til May to decide, and I think I will change my mind every day until then.

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