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The Mommy Wars At Home

Apr08

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Dear Amalah,

I’ve read so many of your blog entries and advice entries and have constantly thought, YES! THIS! when reading them that I hope you can help me with a problem I’m having.

After quite a bit of trouble with infertility, my husband and I finally had a beautiful little boy this past December. We both love him to death. (Gee, this is a problem? Yes.)

If you do the math, you can see that it’s now been a little over three months since his birth, which means I have now returned to work. My employers have been great, and *very* supportive, and have even adjusted my hours for this spring so that I can go in late and stay late. My husband made arrangements with his to go in early and leave early. Thus the kiddo is only in daycare for half-days (from 10am until 2pm.) But as supportive as my employer is, they still have a business to run and they need me back to a regular schedule in the summer. So the arrangement is only temporary for the next three months.

The problem is that my husband is violently against having the kiddo in daycare. It’s not that our daycare is bad (it’s not, it’s great, relatively cheap, and we both love the teachers) or that the kiddo hates it (he’s never unhappy or crying when we pick him up, and in fact, is always all smiles.) He just hates the idea of it. (He thinks parents or family should do the day to day caring, which is great in theory, not so much in practice.)

He knew going into the pregnancy that I always intended to return to work. Not necessarily that my job means so much to me, but because I actually need it for my mental sanity. I’m extremely introverted, have trouble making friends, and quite honestly need regular daily interaction with other adults to keep me on an even keel. Even while I loved being with my kiddo while on maternity leave, the longer I was home, the less patient I became with the kiddo and the more resentful I became of my husband for getting to go to work each day. (There were some weeks I went days without showering because why bother? I wasn’t going to be seeing anyone.)

Somehow, though, my husband missed the memo. He wants me to stay home full time. (Actually, he’d love it if HE could stay home full time. Unfortunately, while my job is optional – it helps with extras but isn’t needed – his isn’t.) I guess he thought I’d change my mind once the kiddo was here. (Also, I don’t think he fully understands what staying at home all day with an infant or toddler entails.)
I’d love it if I could find a part time job or if my current job would accommodate part time hours, but it’s not an option. We live in a rural area with not many employment opportunities nearby. (I laugh when I see in your column about choosing a pediatrician, a daycare or a hospital, because in order to have a choice, I’d have to drive over 40 miles from my home – so not an option!) We also don’t live near any family, so using family as daycare also is not an option.

Anyhow… my husband and I have been going round and round on this *constantly* and it’s giving me a headache. And to top it all off, the other day, my husband had the audacity to utter the words that I never thought I’d hear him say. “My mom stayed home, yours did. Why can’t you? They only had five TV channels and no internet. You’ve got 200+ channels, your laptop, and your online friends.” I honestly don’t know how I restrained myself from choking him right there and then. (Perhaps it was the sleeping baby not ten feet away? Whatever the reason, he should count himself lucky.)

Do you or your readers have any advice on how to handle this? I don’t want to have the same argument over and over for the next four years. And short of having my two best mom friends (who live clear across the country!) come out and kick his butt, I just can’t see a solution. (Or even a compromise.)

Thank you,
Cass
(Queen of parentheses)

Here’s a little scoop on the behind-the-scenes goings-on here at Ye Olde Advice Smackdown: Most of the time I read a life-dilemma-related question and write my answer almost immediately, since I’ve found that my gut-reaction answer seems to USUALLY be the best one, or at least the best one I’m capable of coming up with. Sometimes, though, I’ll read a question and opt not to answer it right then, preferring to let it marinate in my brain a bit, or play Devil’s Advocate with myself to make sure I’ve looked at it from all angles.

Confession: I read your question a couple weeks ago. My gut reaction was to give your husband a verbal smackdown into the next Millennium. I decided to maybe take a little time instead. And a walk. Outside. While gesturing furiously with my hands while preaching an imaginary sermon until my neighbors called the authorities.

So here we are. I have thought about your question and had a very nice state-mandated rest at that hospital where they gave me lollipops without the stick. And…I still just want to sit here and point out all the million zillion things that he is TOTALLY WRONG ABOUT.

Look. I stay home. I had pretty much the opposite experience as you: my weeks of maternity leave advanced with increasing dread of having to go back. As soon as I returned, I was essentially plotting my exit. I also had a husband who wanted me to work, who had no problem with daycare, who was deeply nervous about the prospect of being the primary breadwinner and worried about my future earnings and career path and all of that.

So we made compromises (I didn’t quit until I had X amount of steady freelance work coming in [including this very column, huzzah!], and we’d figured out how to reduce our monthly expenses by X amount) and made it work. Because ultimately: IT WAS WHAT I WANTED. Both as a mother and as a wanna-be fledgling writer-type person. I’m not saying we as women get to make these decisions completely on our own and independent of our partner’s wishes, but…you know…we are adults who deserve some autonomy in our own major life decisions. And choosing to exit the workforce is a major life decision that can affect the rest of your life, even when we’re talking about a job that’s “optional” and only provides money for “extras.”

And while we’re on that subject: STOP TALKING ABOUT YOUR JOB THAT WAY. Don’t let anyone talk about your job that way. Your incomes are both important, and it’s total crap to assign one paycheck randomly as “extra.” No. Your household earns what it earns, together. So you have a certain amount of disposable income. That’s awesome! Why should the person who earns less automatically get their contribution assigned to that column of the budget spreadsheet?

(Whew. Sorry. Just as someone who chose to enter a lower-paying field [publishing] than her husband [software development] despite having the exact same level of education, this sort of household math makes me very twitchy.)

Okay. I’m flying all over the place with this answer, but let’s just roll with it: Yes, you are exactly right when you say that your husband doesn’t seem to have a real grasp on the realities of staying home with a small child. The fact that he brought up how many TV CHANNELS you get is proof of that. Um. I don’t even really know what to say to that, or how to point out how many levels of wrong that is. You know who stays home and watches TV all day? DEPRESSED PEOPLE. Not healthy, vibrant and effective stay-at-home mothers.

It’s great that he wants to stay home — and let me interrupt myself for probably the hundredth time already to interject that I am rebuking your husband’s naivete about SAHMomming and not HIM, because really, he sounds like a loving, devoted father and we shall have no OP-husband-bashing in the comments, chickens — but it’s interesting that he clearly realizes that’s not a good fit for your family, financially speaking. What he NEEDS to realize there is so, soo, sooooo much more to this question than finances or whether you can afford to stay home. His heart is in the right place, but…yeah.

Let’s try looking at it this way: I’m sure he looks at his job as more than a paycheck. For many of us, it’s a social outlet, a confidence booster, a place where we can gain some bit of emotional satisfaction and pride in our own self-worth, especially when you can get yourself a raise or promotion or even just a “hey, good job” from a boss. I’m thinking that maybe your own short-selling of your own job (it doesn’t “mean that much” to you, it’s “optional”) is contributing to his idea that this simply about money and the “right thing to do.” If your job doesn’t mean that much to you, clearly YOUR BABY does, so…
But I can tell that actually, your job DOES mean a lot to you, for reasons beyond the paycheck, for reasons that your husband probably values his own job too. The intangibles like…other adults, conversation, of accomplishing finite things each day — all things you do give up to some degree to stay home with a baby. (Not to say that there aren’t plenty of new intangible benefits that come with being the primary caregiver, but I seriously could not imagine doing this if I hadn’t wholeheartedly chosen it. ResentfulUnappreciatedville, man.)

I feel like there’s no sense in even addressing his preconceived notions about who is “supposed” to care for children Monday through Friday, 9 -5. I mean, welcome to 2010, dude. There isn’t one right answer or perfect one-size-fits-all situation. Plenty of perfectly wonderful, functional children are being raised by mothers and/or fathers who work outside of the home full-time, part-time, at home, on the road, or deployed overseas, You name it, somebody is making it work with probably not much thought about the decisions their parents made 30 years ago, because you know? Not them. Not now.

I’m sorry this column turned into more of a rant than a practical solution-type thing. It’s…hard to change someone’s mind about this topic, male or female. Choosing to stay home does not automatically make you a good mother. Choosing to work does not automatically make you a bad mother. Or even a slightly less-good mother. Childcare — full-time, part-time, by family or “strangers” — is not outsourcing motherhood or letting other people “raise” your children. Fathers who work full-time still get to take credit for how well their children turn out, right?

My advice would be to drastically change the way you view (or at least TALK ABOUT) your job. Stop selling it short. It’s not a hobby or a distraction. It’s important to you. Create some new columns in your household budget — college fund, Disneyworld, preschool, loss-of-husband’s-job-or-income-because-oh-my-heavens-it-happens fund — and start putting your income there. (I know you mentioned very limited childcare options in your area but…I don’t know…maybe a nanny would make your husband happier than a daycare center, if it’s at all possible to find one? I only suggest that because ours is like a member of our family already, and honestly more patient and qualified than any actual family member.)

But…yep. I’m all for marital compromise and trying to find solutions that make everybody happy, but I’m siding with you on this one. Tell your husband that you will continue to keep an eye and ear out for a more flexible part-time job (if that’s what you want, truly) but in the meantime this discussion is over. You need to work, and he needs to respect that need. And you both definitely need to stop fighting about it. You both love your son and want to be the best parents you can be. Daycare is absolutely no big thing, but parents who can’t work out differences of opinion without wanting to throttle each other kind of IS.

*************************
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About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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42 Responses to “The Mommy Wars At Home”

  1. soontobethree Apr 09 at 1:25 am Reply Reply

    Wow. I completely disagree. A million percent. Don’t you have children because you want to raise them? Not schlep them off to daycare when they are THREE MONTHS OLD! If your job was THAT important to you, you should have considered that BEFORE having a child.
    And you and your husband should have figured this out before hand as well.

  2. Muirnait Apr 09 at 2:19 am Reply Reply

    Amy, my gut reaction was the same as yours, sort of FEMINIST RAWR heh. You raised some really good points, though, in looking at this in a fair and balanced (not Fox news Fair and Balanced :P ) way!

  3. Antra Apr 09 at 3:23 am Reply Reply

    Cass, Queen of parentheses, your argument is so rational, so considered, so MEASURED(even your vent at your husband is on the kind side of venting) that I find it incredible that anyone could argue against your case.
    All I can add is my perspective as an early childhood teacher working in a daycare centre and its one that anti-daycare parents so often overlook: DAYCARE CAN BE SUPER-DUPER BENEFICIAL FOR KIDS. Their days at care are chock full of socialisation and stimulation, and activties that most parents wouldn’t dream about doing at home (especially when they’re feeling tired and “resentful” about being home 24/7). Most parents I encounter recognise that their children are picking up new skills and confidence from being in care – just look at the success Amy has had with Noah in the right school program!
    So my advice would be to play up the benefits of daycare for your kiddo, so your husband doesn’t see it as the lesser option. Maybe google some research on the benefits of socialisation etc?
    OK, and I’ll stop now because its Amy’s column, not mine.

  4. From Belgium Apr 09 at 4:55 am Reply Reply

    Just like Amalah my first instict was to take a breather and then rant against your husband. Rest assured Belgian husbands are no better than American ones.
    Why is he against daycare if your child loves it? Doesn’t he know that is a great way for childeren to learn to share and socialize at a young age and helps building a good immune system?
    Clearly he has no idea about taking care of a child and a household full time. So here is a little trick I played on my hubbie : I left him alone with the baby.Unsuspected. I just announced: ‘I’m going to going to run a few errands, but I’m not taking her with me because it is raining and she sounds like she might have a cold, bye’. I was only gone for two hours, but when I came back I was greated by an exhausted husband and a smiling baby. Héhéhé! It worked wonders I tell you. Before he justed to utter remarks like : ‘why haven’t you done the laundry/cleaned/etc’. Afterwards he’d be like : ‘oh whow, you cleaned’. And it was just two hours. Victory to me!
    About the ‘my mother’remark, play the same trick on him. ‘Why honey, no I don’t think we need that beer/football channel/leafblower/Ipad/Iphone/….(insert anything he craves), after all, my father and your father did well without it, why can’t you?’. It worked for my hubbie and me (who like all males sometimes makes stupid remarks of the ‘my mother’-type). Perhaps you should make him stay at home with the kiddo and actually do the housework (ALL of it)and take care of the child for a week or so? Might help.
    Anyhow, best of luck and I really hope you can work it out.

  5. Michael Apr 09 at 7:13 am Reply Reply

    …is it just me and my English sense of things, or is ‘kiddo’ an odd thing to call your three month old bundle of joy? In my mind this is something my dad called some of his friends.
    Doing numbers for a living means I agree with Amy here, you need do need more columns for your income and its uses. Your work is important for all sorts of reasons. Daycare can be amazing, I believe that the ability to instruct qualified adults to look after your child as you wish is a big positive, and something you may not always get family or grandparents to do. You said it yourself, he is happy being where he is, and it works for you. It is a shame that you don’t have the same rules for working parents in the US that we do over here. It is very difficult for an employer not to agree to a permanent change in working hours in the UK.
    Compromise is vital unless it will affect your sanity, so stay at work.

  6. Jamie Apr 09 at 8:34 am Reply Reply

    Michael, my Dad often called me ‘kiddo’ when I was growing up. Now I find it quite endearing. Maybe it’s a US thing?
    (And, AMEN to what the rest of everyone said. I’m a working mom and I can tell you, it really makes me feel good that my son plays all day with other kids, learning and laughing. There are true benefits to daycare if you find the right fit.)

  7. As usual, I think your response was right on, Amalah. What you said about people who watch TV all day: SO TRUE. Cass, is that really what he thinks will satisfy you?? Would that satisfy him?
    I’m fascinated by the fascination with how our mothers did it (or the fantasy of what we think they did and what we think they felt). I would really LOVE to hear how this father’s mother REALLY felt about being home all day (if, in fact, she was). Both my mother and my MIL were SAHMs and I felt a lot of internal pressure to stay at home, partially because they did. I assumed they thought it was the best thing since sliced bread but when I actually SPOKE TO THEM about it, they both talked about almost going crazy (or NOT ALMOST) and how they wished there had been better options for them. They both were super supportive me working part time in the past and, hopefully, in the future.
    When I had a rough patch after our second child was born and I was home again, feeling that loss of identity, my husband, a normally supportive, rational, wants-to-keep-his-balls-where-they-are man, used the same line: “I’m having a hard time thinking you need a nanny for some relief when our mothers did it blah blah CLUELESS blah”. I very gently told him to ask his mother how she actually felt. Because I already knew. And he did.

  8. HomeValley Apr 09 at 8:44 am Reply Reply

    I couldn’t even read your entire response, Amy, without commenting. I have the same visceral reaction as you to women who refer to their incomes as “extra.” I get all stabby. I can’t tell you how many times I hear of women who choose to stay home because there income will just about cover daycare, and so what’s the point of working?
    I want to shake these women a little and tell them that the POINT is to do what makes you happy and fulfilled, whether that means being in the workplace or staying at home.
    I am about to have my first baby in 6 weeks. My husband and I actually make close to the same income (he still edges me out, grr) but I also travel extensively for work. We’re not sure exactly how we will end up working this out, but I do know that he places a high importance on my well-being and the things I want out of life as a woman and an individual, not just as a mom.
    Cass, I am sure your husband just needs a good wake-up call. Much luck!

  9. Cobblestone Apr 09 at 9:12 am Reply Reply

    My husband started out at “Daycare, bad, ugh, man say so!” I countered with a bunch of things which made him give it a chance and he started to see the light.
    It sounds like he is picking the baby up, so it seems like he seeing how happy and loved your son is. So, it seems to me that he is pushing back because his reality isn’t meeting his imagined life with child.
    You mentioned that getting your son was difficult work and I wonder if that makes the whole situation feel more fragile and vulnerable for your husband? That nobody can hover like mama and hovering is REQUIRED!!!
    In the last 18 months my husband has really warmed up to daycare, and I hope yours will too, because your son is happy and loved, your mental health is solid, and your checkbook smiles at your whole house – I don’t see much to argue with there.

  10. Missy Apr 09 at 9:29 am Reply Reply

    I am one of those people who is making a n odd situation work. When our daughter was born, I took my 3 months of maternity leave, quit my job and started working for another company – my parents’ research firm. My baby came with me to work every day (at grandma’s house)and the nanny came to grandma’s house, too. It worked wonderfully for 2 1/2 years, at which point the munchkin really NEEDED more peer interaction. So we signed her up for a full-day daycare/preschool which she LOVES. My family and I also moved back in with my mom.
    So now I work at home full-time and send my kid to daycare all day every weekday. Is it the choice that most other people would make? Um, no. But as far as I know my husband and I are the only ones parenting our daughter and it works for us. More importantly, it works for BOTH of us. The kiddo is thrilled with her “school”, and hubby and I both are able to work full time at challenging, fulfilling jobs. Sounds like a win-win to me.

  11. jive turkey Apr 09 at 9:47 am Reply Reply

    First of all, I want to commend and thank you, Amalah, for always being a SAHM with a comprehensive understanding of why some of us work outside the home. My job is not my “career,” but I need it for all those reasons you mentioned: social outlet, confidence booster, self-worth-raiser. I’d love a 4-day work week, but I know in my heart I’m not 100% SAHM material, and – looking forward – I wouldn’t want my daughter to grow up and force herself into SAHM-hood unless SHE really wanted to, either.
    That being said, taking the peanut to daycare is hard at first. I totally understand that. The one thing that helped me & my husband was talking to the other parents we know who have one or more kids in daycare (or whose grown children were in daycare). They empathized with how tough it can be, but more importantly, they told us about how much their kids benefited socially and developmentally from being around other kids…and now that my daughter has been in daycare for roughly 8 months, I totally see it too. Every week she comes home with a new skill. She has gained SO much from daycare, that I sometimes feel guilty when she’s sick/we’re traveling and she CAN’T see her beloved teachers and her other little friends!
    Cass, is there someone your husband can talk to who has walked the daycare walk who might be able to make him see that it’s not the evil “I’ve abandoned my child!” experience that he thinks it is? I know your baby is still pretty young (we didn’t really start noticing all the little things she was learning at daycare until about 5 months or so), but maybe hearing from someone else how much their kids gained from daycare would help?

  12. Kate Apr 09 at 10:49 am Reply Reply

    How odd…we’ve been having the reverse discussion at my house. My son is now 15 months old, and my mom watches him every day while my husband and I work. While this was LOVELY in the beginning, the question about socialization is now being raised. He’s fabulous with adults, but when he encounters other children, he just seems at a loss. If they take something from him, he just stands there confused and a little upset. None of the adults in his life do that, so he’s not really sure how to stand up for himself.
    Moreover, whenever he spends time with other (especially older) kids, we notice an increase in his speech and motor abilities as he tries to mimic them. Kids like to mimic other kids even more than they do adults.
    Therefore, despite the fact that my mother LOVES having her grandson with her every day, we’re probably going to put him in some sort of childcare for the next school year. It may be daycare, it may be a babysitter (have you thought about that option? Your child could still be around other kids, but not in a daycare setting). Perhaps you could explain all these reasons to your husband about why childcare can be good not just for the mother, but for the child, too?

  13. heidi Apr 09 at 10:56 am Reply Reply

    Okay, here goes…
    I had 4 kids in 5 years. I stayed home starting with pregnancy #4 until the youngest was in kindergarten because it was cheaper than daycare. (Seriously, my income would not even cover day care expenses for all those kids.) I also became clinically depressed the longer I was home. I was told by my therapist to GET A JOB WOMAN. I would have gotten one much sooner but it took forever for me to actually get a job. (Why yes I have a college degree and no even the local grocery store didn’t return my calls.) Anyway, work is worth much more than your paycheck. I loved being home with my kids but I do need to work. (And just for anyone that thinks we shouldn’t have had so many kids, that was not the plan. That was failed birth control.)

  14. Had to come back to say this, because it’s been nagging at me:
    Even if Cass and her husband were to ask their mothers how they felt as SAHMs, and even if they were to say they thought it was better than sliced bread TOASTED WITH NUTELLA AND BUTTER, it doesn’t really matter.
    How SHE feels matters.
    (and they might be remembering things a little hazily, with some rose-colored glasses.)
    (Okay, now I feel better.)

  15. Kate Apr 09 at 11:08 am Reply Reply

    Wonderful advice Amalah, and also everyone that’s commented here. I just wanted to share another “daycare is awesome” story for Cass. I was the one feeling trepidation when we put my daughter in daycare. I felt all of the typical mommy guilt about someone else raising my child, not spending enough time with her, etc. My husband was the one that was really supporting me getting back to work. And the reason is that he saw how depressed I was during my maternity leave and he knew that I needed work to validate myself in a lot of ways. Not everyone needs that, but I did.
    It was hard at first, but now she’s 12 months old and has loved her daycare almost from day one. Last Thursday and Friday she had the stomach flu, and had to stay home, and then of course it was the weekend, and by Sunday she was SO BORED and on MOnday when she got to go back to daycare, I thought the child was going to freak out because she was so happy to be back with her friends and teachers. And I wholeheartedly second the socialization aspect of daycare. Kids love watching and imitating other kids, and my daughter also is more patient because she knows there are other things going on in the world, and she may not get picked up the EXACT second she cries.
    It’s been amazing for her, and for us. Really. Good luck.

  16. Amy in StL Apr 09 at 11:27 am Reply Reply

    When I was born (lo these 40 years ago) my mom stayed home with me and my dad went to work. Then my dad had a heart attack, then another one and well somewhere along the line I have a vague memory of my brother and I waiting on the front steps for dad who was being dropped off by a friend on his last day of work. Soon after that, mom went back to work full time.
    My dad stayed home and raised me. When I was three, they put me in day care several days a week because I needed the socialization. Probably also because my 50 year old father needed a break, but whatever.
    My point I guess is that everyone has different experiences and everyone has different needs. My mom is such an extrovert that I can’t imagine her staying home all day. As an introvert, I can imagine staying home all day but I become such a hermit – wow.

  17. JustLinda Apr 09 at 12:00 pm Reply Reply

    Those above me speak for me on the core question, however I was glad Amalah gave you a smack-down for talking about your job that way.
    ‘Cause if not, I was going to. LOL
    It’s not just about the income that you earn today. The reason that you job TODAY is important (at whatever level of income) is also (mostly) because it’s a stepping stone to what you will do and what you will earn TOMORROW.
    This is a real dilemma for some people who jump off the career track for a few years and take the mommy track. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, when people do it because that’s what they want, because their eyes are open, because they agree it’s right for their families.
    But being dismissive of the female’s job because it has less earning power (newsflash: it almost ALWAYS has less earning power. sigh.) is dismissing the fact that it’s a step on a steep stairway and if you abandon that stairway, you might have to start again on a lower step. Or at the very least, you will interrupt your climb to a higher step.
    Good luck. I hope you guys find an answer that works for you both.
    (I have 5 kids and they’ve all been in some sort of various and sundry care plans – center based, after school, nanny at home, etc. and for the most part, it’s all be POSITIVE. I guess I don’t understand the evils-of-daycare worry because my own experience has found it often enhancing and providing of new experiences and people for my children to know.)

  18. Erin Apr 09 at 12:02 pm Reply Reply

    This is such a hard subject, because whatever you want for your child and whatever best for you is the right answer. I said it about breastfeeding and it’s true of SAHParenting. If Mom’s happy, everyone’s happy. Resentment is a horrible, horrible emotion that is so valid and gets into the corners of every aspect of a family. You don’t want that. The hard thing about it is that the same is true of your husband’s feelings, however badly he might express himself. I stay at home with my son, and from what I’ve seen of the daycares around where I live (not a very happening place, by the way) the daycares that I could afford would not provide good care. But if you have a good one (I want to visit! Assuage my own personal panic!) and feel like your child is happy and blossoming in daycare, then you’re probably right.
    I wish we could afford for me to stay home without stress, as it is we live with family so that I can be with my son. Sometimes I think I might be crazy, but honestly…it just feels right to me. But it’s definitely not watching TV all day and blogging and talking to “online friends.” It’s emotionally taxing to be alone trying to keep a toddler busy and teaching him the things he needs to know, even when I choose to be home. I worry about my child not playing with other children, I wish I could see more people and collaborate with them in meaningful ways. It’s a trade off I made because I want to stay home that much, and if you don’t want it bad…it’ll be an unhappy time for you and for your child.
    All that said, your husband’s desire for your child to be raised at home with a primary caregiver is important, too. I wonder if the nanny would make him feel better? Maybe you could tell him that you need to move to a more populated place to find a part time job so you can do it half and half, and he’ll just have to commute further to work. He’ll have to make changes, too. He can just “win” on this. I wish you luck in finding a way to both give a little and get a little.

  19. parodie Apr 09 at 1:14 pm Reply Reply

    What if your husband found a more flexible job? Or if he started working freelance? Maybe he doesn’t like his job and wants to stay home, but feels responsible for keeping everyone fed/clothed/housed and so won’t let himself consider it, and so it trying to encourage his wife to live what would be the ideal for him? Maybe you can find a way to make finances work very differently and allow for everyone to do what they love…

  20. liberrian Apr 09 at 1:39 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you so much for “it’s total crap to assign one paycheck randomly as “extra.” No. Your household earns what it earns, together.” I find myself thinking of my job as “extra”–partly because I make a fraction of what my husband does, but mainly because he is so entrenched in the idea that my job is “extra.” We’ve actually had the conversation where I insisted that I have a real job, not a pretend job, and he did not back down. Would we even feel a pinch financially if I quit? (I work part-time at a professional job that requires an advanced degree) no. the problem from his perspective is that his job is legitimately hard. It’s stressful, it’s high-stakes, and it messes with his sleep (shift work). And he would (so he thinks) LOVE to stay home full time. (BUT HE CHOSE THE JOB, I say).
    Anyway, the debate in our house isn’t should I quit my job, but rather it’s: is my job also my personal time, akin to the time he sets aside to go on long runs, go to martial arts classes, etc.? I say NO. It’s a job, with responsibilities and stress and all that. No, it’s not as stressful as his job, but it’s not akin to sitting around knitting with friends. He says YES, and that if I wanted to, I could send the kids to day care and sit around the house eating bon bons all day.
    Anyway, this is ongoing in our household. I’m so happy to see that it’s not unique to us. And, of course, to see that, at least here, I’m in the right. :)

  21. Dawn Apr 09 at 1:51 pm Reply Reply

    It’s never easy. After my first was born, I couldn’t wait to go back to work especially since I was (am) the primary earner. We love her daycare/preschool and she loves it too. She always talks about seeing her friends and is learning so much. But things change; after my second was born this past August, I was fully ready to stay at home with him even though we knew I couldn’t (again, that whole primary earner thing). But he is being watched by my MIL while my daughter is in preschool. We’ll be putting him in the same daycare/preschool come January 2011 for the learning and socialization piece. The reasons your husband gave for you to not work are self-serving. You have to do what is best for you and your mental health. I had always thought that I would have been just like my mom and stayed home with my kids but it’s a different environment now. And she did it because they had to, not because she wanted to. It was a 10-year career interruption for her and took a VERY long time for her to return to the same compensation level she had left at. So just because our mothers’ did things one way doesn’t mean that it is the best way for how things are TODAY. Good luck and try not to brain him (though there are times….)

  22. Tracy Apr 09 at 2:16 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks, Amy. This was awesome.
    Here’s another angle… Cass, you struggled with infertility. So did I. There’s a pretty good chance the kiddo will be an only child, isn’t there? I mean, even if you want/plan to have another one, there’s no guarantee it will work out. So, going to daycare also provides something he does not now and may never have at home – peers. Competition. People he has to learn to get along with. A chance to learn how to fight and then make up. To learn how to share. We knew our daughter would be an only child, and we knew she needed some time, some place in her life where she was not The Ultimate Princess of Everything. The occasional playdate does not provide this.
    And liberrian? Tell your husband that your job is not playtime, it is an investment in your future.

  23. Lisa M Apr 09 at 2:36 pm Reply Reply

    I feel like it’s a love-in for daycares! But seriously, my provider is an extension of our family. She’s not only an expert on kids in general (and at my disposal for immediate questions, too) but she knows my kids as well as I do. And she can be much more patient with them at times, because she gets to send them back home to me! But she’s also invested in things that I value, too. Like it saves her sanity to teach all the kids to become more self-sufficient as they develop (appropriately) and they have chores at her house, too. She would lose her mind at times if she didn’t have an older kid (my 5 yo boy) to help corral the littles; so it really is less a daycare, more an extended family that we pay.
    That’s just the icing on the cake AFTER the main benefit of saving your mind. You are a family and have to make decisions together based on what fits for the whole. Having your husband make a unilateral decision for YOU based on an experience that he’s not familiar with (ie staying at home with kid), is not the way a family works. You have to take into account all three of you.
    Good luck to all of you!

  24. Jennifer Apr 09 at 2:43 pm Reply Reply

    Is there a different daycare option that would appease him? Maybe an au pair or nanny, even just for half days? (Because I do feel that daycare has a valuable place in a child’s early years at least on a part-time basis).
    I was all about working with my first, I had a job I loved (and at the time I was the primary breadwinner), and I honestly didn’t see myself as the stay-at-home type. I don’t think the measure of a good mother is how many nursery rhymes you know or how many playdates you can squeeze into a week. But as she started school, and I got ready to have number 2, I find myself more interested in staying home.
    We moved to a place where I can’t get an interesting or fulfilling job anymore and my husband’s job is more demanding (and pays much better) than any I could get. I feel more strongly about the importance of my kindergartener coming home to a parent and having help with her homework than I did about a 1 year old being home and sleeping for 6 of the 8 hours I could have been at work.
    Maybe if you go on to have a second you will start to change how you feel, or when your son starts school. In the meantime I wish you luck in your decision making!
    Oh and PS – the biggest thing my husband is excited about with me staying home is that he won’t have to cook dinner or do laundry anymore – something I suspect is at least partially behind most men’s desire to have their wives home all day!

  25. Lydia Apr 09 at 3:11 pm Reply Reply

    Cass,
    I’d suggest having your husband take a Monday and Tuesday off from work entirely and stay home with the baby all day while you go to work. Then come home and ask him how much TV and internet he used while you were gone. Ha.
    Other practical advice includes asking him if he prefers to have an unhappy mother taking care of his child 24 hours a day, or a very happy mother taking care of his child outside the hours of 9 to 5 where she leaves it to some professional baby lovers to squeeze the bebe.
    Let us know how it goes!

  26. Jennifer Apr 09 at 3:52 pm Reply Reply

    I am always most amused by husbands, especially mine who was all for my career until we had a child and then he was more concerned about our kid being in childcare all day than whether or not I was continuing with my career. Excuse me?
    Let me say that part-time is working well for us. The pay is absolute junk (I am an adjunct instructor of English at a local university), but it covers Jackson’s tuition at his preschool (5 days a week!) and I get to continue teaching and even have a day off (Fridays) to run errands without the child. I am still annoyed at how little I get paid and how long it’s been since they’ve given the adjuncts a raise, but, when it comes to taking care of my child, this works out perfectly. I drop him off around 8.30 am and pick him up around 3 pm. I get two hours or so with him before I have to start dinner and then the couple of hours before he goes to bed. He gets to be around other kids and socialize and play without me worrying about him. He’s also speech-delayed so all of this socialization helps him with his speech, something that is just as valuable as the work we do with him at home.
    Though I know my career is technically on hold because of the absence of opportunities as well as the fact that we’re going to have a second child, at least I get out to work. My job is as important to me as my husband’s is to him and I don’t let him forget it. I didn’t go to school for seven years to sit at home with the kid unless I decide that’s what I want to do. For the next child, I will need to stay home until Jackson starts public school because I simply cannot imagine paying tuition for two children. However, that’s something I’m choosing to do rather than something I feel forced to do.
    If part-time works for you and your family, I highly recommend that you seek it out. It will save your sanity and your husband’s as well (though he doesn’t know it yet). And, as the blogger here says above, don’t treat your job as optional if it isn’t to you!

  27. Sasha Apr 09 at 4:59 pm Reply Reply

    Reading this post and these comments has been enlightening to me – so thanks. My husband is unelmployed, and when he was employed I made more than 2x his salary. I am now pregnant with my first and have been in near-depression mode over the fact that there is no question but that I will have to return to work fairly quickly after giving birth. I’ve been so jealous of my friends who were not the primary earners in their house who could decide whether or not to return to work. Why did I work so hard to get an advanced degree and climb the corporate ladder when now it seems that all it has done is eliminated the chance for me to stay at home with my children?
    Anyway, it has been good for me to see this from another perspective. And maybe Cass can see that it is good to have a choice, even if that choice brings about its own issues and problems. (And no, I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me because I make too much money.)

  28. Anonymous Apr 09 at 5:12 pm Reply Reply

    If the husband wants to stay home and she wants to work so badly, she should accept a little responsibility and find a better paying job so she can support the family. Everyone seems to be saying that what the mom wants she should get. What about what the dad wants? He has to work according to her. Where’s his CHOICE? (For the record, I’m a woman but this discussion was sounding a little one-sided and this had to be said.)

  29. Nicole Apr 09 at 5:12 pm Reply Reply

    Everyone else mentioned all the good stuff, but I just had to say, as a SAHM myself (whose husband wishes she worked)…how much TV do I watch in a day? ZERO! Who has the time between playing with/occupying with my 17-month old, cleaning up his messes, feeding him, cleaning up after the feeding, changing him, etc. Yes, he naps – when else would I get a shower, fold the laundry, clean the bathroom, dust, mop the floors, pick up toys?The list goes on and I didn’t even include answer my email or read Amalah!

  30. Lesley Apr 09 at 7:19 pm Reply Reply

    Amy is right – stop calling your income extra, stop placing your work under the heading of expendable, stop down-playing the importance of having somewhere to be outside of the house. For you, it isn’t extra; it’s completely necessary. I know you (I’m 99.9% sure, at least) and you are one of my favourite ladies, one who knows what she needs to be at her best. And you’ve said it yourself – you NEED to work. Even if you can get by on one salary, it’s not about the money. It’s about your sanity and that, my dear, is not something “extra” that you can toss aside. It’s about the interaction with adults, the push to socialize that you won’t get without a place you have to go. Because, let’s be fair – mom and tot/baby groups can be fabulous for some but they’re not for everyone and when you live in a rural area, it’s hard to find people to hang out with.
    Daycare is going well for the kiddo, so there are no worries there. Aside from which, what is really best for him (and any kid) is having happy and fulfilled parents.
    If I lived nearer, I’d be over in a flash to back you up in person but you’ll have to settle for me having your back in spirit. I hope you get the husband to understand just what you’re getting from your work. Oh, and give the kiddo a squeeze for me (unless I’m wrong about knowing you, since hugging your kid for a stranger on the internet would be a little sketchy).
    - L

  31. EW Apr 09 at 7:28 pm Reply Reply

    I do want to agree with anonymous, though, that this discussion is getting really close to “the woman gets to do whatever she wants, and the husband should just shut up and make that happen.” Can they make it if he stays home or works part time? Have they even discussed that?
    I work full time and my husband works from home and takes care of our daughter. For us, this has worked, in part because for years I had the “second” income, which we basically just socked away in preparation for this time.
    Also, you say that daycare is great, but for some kids, four hours a day is great while eight hours (or nine, with commute time) is really miserable. You will have to see how it works for you and for your baby.

  32. Tina C. Apr 09 at 8:11 pm Reply Reply

    The thing about the “our mother did it that way” argument is that no mother (or hardly any) is doing it that way nowadays. And even if you did stay home, would your kid be getting the same kind of childhood that you had?? I thought about that and the answer around here is probably not — hardly any moms stay home and it’s a pretty lonely neighborhood during the day. SAHM’s have to seek each other out — very few neighborhoods are like our moms’ were — you know, open the door and let the kid roam with the pack of neighborhood friends. That doesn’t really exist anymore to the extent that it used to. So even if you did stay home, you wouldn’t be doing it like your mom did and your kid wouldn’t be getting the same kind of childhood that your husband got, or at least, the kind of childhood that he is idealizing now looking back on his.
    So I think that argument for staying home is pretty much moot.

  33. Kathleen Apr 09 at 10:53 pm Reply Reply

    I continually argue with MYSELF on this one. I found this to be an interesting point:
    http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/05/surprisingly-family-time-has-grown/

  34. Amalah Apr 09 at 11:42 pm Reply Reply

    Well, Anonymous…what Dad wants IS important…though, if you re-read the question…you’d notice that alternate work options aren’t entirely abundant where they live (for either of them)…and while I dig that Dad wants to stay home, let’s not also forget that Dad doesn’t exactly have the best grasp on what “staying home” entails. (200+ TV channels? REALLY?) And honestly…if my husband (who out-earned me x2) had suddenly decided he wanted to stay home, it’s really not like I (as a print publishing mid-level editor) could have just “accepted a little responsibility” and gone out and doubled my income because I WANTED it more.
    I get wanting to be fair and balanced here but let’s not ignore reality. We don’t all live in areas with a ton of flexible job opportunities where Moms AND Dads can cobble together a dream schedule and it’s not simply because someone’s being “selfish” by wanting to continue working. (GARRR FEMINIST HULK SMASH) This couple has obviously gone round and round in their discussions, so if Dad staying home was AT ALL a viable option I’m assuming this question wouldn’t have ended up in my inbox, you know?

  35. Julie Apr 10 at 9:55 am Reply Reply

    I didn’t have time to read all the comments, so I’m sure I’m repeating, but….
    1) Daycare is awesome in many ways, especially as kids get older. I chose to put my kid in daycare part days at 6 months because I wanted him to get the socialization and immune boosting exposure to other kids. I know two people with toddlers who are putting their toddlers in day care a few days a week for the socialization, even though they’re SAHMs.
    2) Our moms did it, but they lived in a much different world. Including having other neighbors who were also stay at home moms to socialize with. Beingt a SAHM without a good
    *local* support network is a good way to strain your sanity.

  36. Shannon Apr 10 at 10:26 am Reply Reply

    First of all PLEASE stop calling your child KIDDO ..ugh He has a name doesn’t he? You said your husband VIOLENTLY protests daycare .. in what manner?
    I don’t think it’s fair of him to expect you to quit your job if in fact you both had the understanding that you would be returning to work. As a mother who had infertility issues myself and who buried 2 babies before the child I have now, I did decide to take a year off of work when I had my daughter. I then returned to working part time and eventually went back to full time but it always worked out to where my child never had to be in daycare and one of us were always home with her. Each family has their own preferences and ideas and that’s great but for your husband to expect you to quit when you so clearly do not want to is unfair. Why add financial issues to a relationship when you don;t have to?
    Again please stop calling your child a KIDDO .. use his name .. he is a special and unique individual and deserves that.

  37. Erin Apr 10 at 1:48 pm Reply Reply

    The only thing I can think of that Amalah didn’t say is something that may not even be an option if you’re in a rural area, and may not be something you even WANT to do. But if you love working for the socialization more so than because you actually love the job itself, there are other ways to socialize and still stay home. I have a lot of SAH friends who have daily mom/baby dates built into their weekly routine — mommy and me yoga, coffee dates, play dates, lunch clubs, book clubs, etc., that allow them to stay home but still socialize with other adults … granted, these are women who CHOSE to stay home, and we’re in the suburbs of DC, so we’ve got lots of these types of opportunities in the area — often organized by other people, like the yoga places. So if you don’t have a mommy and me yoga place (or whatever) organizing it, and you’re too shy to go to a coffee shop and start talking to other moms at random (hey, I hear you, the thought of that TERRIFIES me), it may not be an option. But, if the idea of staying home appeals to you outside of the “OMG NO ADULTS!” factor, it may be something to consider that would shut your husband up and also make you and baby happy.
    If you DO want to keep working because you love your job in its entirety, then I’m with everyone else who say to just tell your husband to shut it ;)

  38. Susan Apr 10 at 7:39 pm Reply Reply

    Whoa, Shannon, take a deep breath. I seriously doubt Cass thinks her son is not a “special and unique individual” deserving of being called by his name; I think she is respecting his (and her) privacy by not using his name on the Interwebz. I call my son Snackbox in my comments; obviously, that is not his real name and it doesn’t mean I love him any less.
    I quit my job when my son was 14 months old because 1) I had grown to hate it for many reasons and 2) we were dividing daycare among family and a nanny, and it was a royal PITA to keep organized about where he was going which day.
    After staying home for four weeks, I found I was going a little bonkers. I contacted a friend who is a mid-level director at a large non-profit, asking if he needed any general office support two days a week for cheap. He did, and now Snackbox gets to spend a day with his grandparents and then with his aunt, and I get to have adult conversations and make a contribution to society. I don’t always get the most glamorous assignments and the money I make barely covers groceries, but as Amy and others have mentioned, there’s far more to working outside the home than what appears on the surface.

  39. Kim Apr 12 at 11:51 am Reply Reply

    I’ve had my boys in daycare since they were 4 months old, and they’re now 15 months. Even as I sit here at work and wanting to be with my kids, I know that they are receiving TOP care. They’ve completely blossomed at school, socially and intellectually (not to mention physically). Other kids at daycare started walking early, prompting my boys to want to walk too. So, they learned. They socialize so well with others. They LEARN so many things I wouldn’t think to teach them. I sang a song to them, and they clapped along. I had NEVER seen that before, and never thought that they would want to learn to clap. Not being a child educator, I wouldn’t know how that little growing brain works.
    My kids have learned so much from daycare, that if I lost my job to stay home with them, I’d STILL try to take them to daycare. No, I haven’t been there to see all of their ‘firsts’… but I’d rather they learn and discover, as opposed to me selfishly delaying that just so I can be the first to see them do something new.
    I think my rambling point is that I feel the daycare my kids are in has been SUPER beneficial for them.

  40. Anonymous Apr 12 at 1:35 pm Reply Reply

    I know I will get severely flamed for this… but as a SAHM myself I just cannot help but to ask the question:
    If you do not have the “mental sanity” to stay home and raise your children, why have them in the first place????

  41. bo-peep Apr 13 at 6:06 am Reply Reply

    HEY, quit the anti-husband stuff! I think the problem is that there are two issues here which IMO have been confused:
    1. Should mothers of small children be able to choose to work? Not controversial really…. HELL YES. I and every other thinking rational individual in the western world is chanting this with me.
    2. Is daycare an acceptable level of care for a young toddler (17 months right?). This one? A LOT more tricky. Valid, well reasoned arguments on both sides.
    IN MY OPINION (which is based on research, personal experience and professional experience) daycare is not “best-practice” for children under 3 BUT it may be “good enough care” for children under 3 (particularly where the home environment is abusive or neglectful it has real benefits). Sooooo, daycare is not an option for my children (beyond one or two 1/2 days a week). I just don’t think the quality is there. Maybe your husband feels the same way? He doesn’t want the little woman at home tied to the sink … he just wants a besotted family member caring for his kiddo not some bored 19 yr old on a criminally low hourly rate. It doesn’t make financial sense for the big earner to stay home and it does not sound like he has the option to go part-time… SO he is saying, logically, that Cass should stay home while their children are little. Feel free to disagree with this conclusion but i am pretty sure he arrived at it out of concern for his son and not via outdated 50s notions of motherhood.

  42. Jo Apr 15 at 2:22 am Reply Reply

    I am commenting as a (former) single mom who worked and went to nursing school, turned (happily) married SAHM. Yes, there are days that I am overwhelmed, and tired and resort to internet friends and a hot bath to restore my sanity…and thats OKAY!! But when working AND taking care of a family, there are the same stresses that make you want to get mad and resort to a hot bath to restore sanity as well!!! I feel ya sisters, who have to come home from working all day, and need to cook, clean, launder, etc!! I was churning those sticks for a good/hard three years while in college, working, with a colicky kid all alone. So I hear the pains of the working mothers. My message is not of condemnation–but here my out. I think that I have seen the beauty through the ‘smoke’ of being a SAHM. My older son, now 5, was raised in day care. It was a good daycare, but it still wasn’t mommy. No matter how you cut it, I was deep down sad that I wasn’t there to wipe his snotty nose, and kiss his hurts away, as tasking as those things can add up to on a daily basis. As a society we need to really think about what the role of ‘mother’ is. Dr. Laura Schlessinger has a great book called ‘The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands,’ before you laugh at the title, realize that we are now a society that downplays the roles of wife, and mother, something that I am proud to now fully accept as my duty. I love serving my family…yes, it is hard, and sacrificial, but that is the job we signed up for when becoming mothers. Please know that my point is NOT to offend/judge others, because life is a journey, and these are just my opinions based on what I have experienced, but we need to examine the worth of a job (why are we seeking outside stimulation that requires us to be away from our kids for long periods of time, and at what costs/what are some other options that I can still socialize and gain personal worth without losing this TREASURE of spending these fleeting days without my little babes). May we all be blessed in this journey of motherhood…sorry about the run-on sentences…it’s a weakness. C:

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