Sometimes, thanks to social media, the internet feels like a very small place, a limited orbit. I shared this on the blog’s Facebook page last night after seeing it posted on another site, but by morning it was everywhere.
Maybe you’ve read it by now, in which the “luxury” of stay at home motherhood is contrasted with the “necessities” for survival, as so deemed by society at large.
I thought it was a well written piece that walked the fine line between values statements and judgmental proclamations handily. Not everyone agrees with that assessment, but I think that’s more to do with the emotionally charged nature of the debate (mom-at-home vs. mom-at-work), and not any fault of the writer’s.
My own impression? I thought it was spot on. And before that gets me in trouble with my working mama friends, hear me out.
I see you, too. I know you must struggle to leave them every day, to put on your professional face and set your primary mom identity aside from 9-5. I know because you love your kids as much as I love mine, and that while I get a thrill of freedom and relief over the occasional half day in the office every other week or so, spent in meetings or working on a special project, you have to do it every single day, and that it probably doesn’t feel much like escape to you.
Home probably feels like your escape when you pull into the driveway at night, because that’s where you left your heart when you pulled the door closed behind you that morning.
And I don’t envy you for that. Because I know that no matter how much you love your job, that can’t be easy, and that no amount of uninterrupted time in the restroom can make up for the pain of that separation.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be working outside the home, by the way. You’ve made your choice and I’ve made mine, and we’re both doing our very best for our children.
But when I contemplate the idea of luxury like the New York Times piece touched on, when I stop to think about what makes life sweet and satisfying and ultimately, worth living, it isn’t cars or a beautiful home that come to mind, or honestly, even being able to pay my bills on time.
My children are my luxury.
So in that sense, yes, I have embraced the most luxurious life possible, in choosing to stay home with them, to work a job that fits mostly into nap times and late nights, and in forgoing some of the more typical decisions that might otherwise accompany one’s early to mid thirties in modern America.
We’re nowhere near buying a house, but that has more to do with me choosing to spend invisible money on higher education more than a decade ago than with the cost of diapers. We drive older, sort of ugly cars. But there are two of them, which sometimes causes me to catch my breath at the sheer indulgence of it. We did the one car thing and then, living overseas, the no car thing. A car is an enormous luxury.
But I’d trade my minivan for the chance to be home with them if it came to it, honestly I would. And I know couples who have made that decision, no regrets.
There’s something that only another parent can understand: your child is an unstoppable and ever-changing force of nature, and childhood is fleeting.
And every time I leave them, even if just for a weekend away with their daddy, or an hour or two at the coffee shop, I long to be with them again. Sometimes I even miss them while they’re sleeping, an admission that only hormones can be responsible for. (You know you’ve made the late night forehead kissing pilgrimage too, don’t deny it.)
And I know too, that no matter how far my eyes roll up into my head in Costco when yet another well-intenetioned stranger tells me that I’m so lucky to be able to stay home with them all day…in the end, they’re right.
I am so lucky. And I need to do a better job keeping that in mind, day in and day out. Because I chose this life, and we are choosing it daily, as a couple, and there are sacrifices and sufferings and little deaths involved, as there are in any other big decision. But when we add them up nothing compares to the immeasurable luxury of time with our children.
And I don’t have to explain that to a single other person. Besides, they couldn’t possibly understand what I do: that these particular kids are beyond worth it for this particular mother, and that no matter what else I could be doing in a professional capacity, it pales in comparison to what I’ve been asked to do within the 4 walls of my own slightly ill-kempt home.
And that’s not a judgement on anyone else’s lifestyle choices. Just the recognition that my own life is, indeed, immeasurably privileged.