Escape from The Park for me was straightforward: get an engineering degree at a university 60 miles from home. Far enough that they wouldn’t bother me much, close enough that i could get there if anyone needed help.
Shortly after graduation, i was married and a homeowner, just starting out on my career, when i backed into motherhood. We were both working full time, and taking graduate courses part time. Really not sure how i got knocked up, to be sure, but we were thrilled at the prospect of a child in our lives!
Oh, but what to do? Abandon my young sprocket to the Charles Manson Family Day Care Center? Take a chance that she’d be molested in a home day care? Stay home full time?
A brilliant and insighful post from awalkabout today brought all this back to me*. I had the good fortune to have a solid economic foundation and a supportive boss, so i opted to take 9 months leave without pay, staying home with The Girl. This also bought time to decide what to do and gave us real-world experience to sort things out.
By the time she was 6 months old, and sleeping well, i was getting restless. My husband came home for lunch one day, and found that i’d stuck paper rabbit ears on The Girl – mostly to amuse myself while i fed her. I had also taken to calling him a couple times a day, interrupting his work to ask what he wanted for dinner, or telling him about my adventures at the grocery store. He was patient, but it became clear to both of us that i should return to work. We made plans to enroll her at a local daycare center.
And so it went…
Just under two years later, we were expecting our second critter. And decided that 6 months at home might be the right amount of time this round. When The Boy appeared, we were more confident in our decision. This was the right balance for us.
During the last month at home, I’d made an Excel spreadsheet, listing the typical weekly grocery purchases, in the order i walked the store. My game? Guessing in advance what the final tally would be at the checkout. I had managed to come within $2.50 of guessing the exact cost of items in the cart one week. I returned to the office – probably just in time.
We were comfortable with all this. At least until i started chatting with others…
My sister-in-law (husbands sister) was a Chicago attorney. Somehow, we’d managed ‘synchronized’ breeding – her daughter was born 3 months after The Girl, and her son was born the day before The Boy. When i told her i was taking 6 months off, she said “what do you do? how can you be gone from your job for that long? who has to cover for you while you’re out?”
While talking with an amazing neighbor, who had given up her career as an accountant to raise 5 lovely children, i got another point of view. Explaining that i’d be returning to work in a few weeks, she said “oh, it’s a shame you have to go back to work”.
I had never felt like a failure as a mother and never felt like a failure as an employee, yet in two simple exchanges, i got smacked with both.
At the time, i was deeply vexed by all this. In hindsight, i can see that the net result was two independent, smart, well-socialized and adaptable human beings. i get deeply irritated with ‘the mommy wars’. We simply need to support each other. Every family finds the balance that is necessary (due to economics) or is right, and throwing rocks back and forth isn’t particularly helpful.
There are extremes – the parents who are so busy pursuing careers and social lives that they leave the kids with any available stranger. The women who martyr themselves in the name of motherhood, giving up their personalities in the process. But for the most part, we all find our own groove, and resilient children grow and thrive.
Biology is pretty powerful stuff…
*yeah. tapped out again. yesterday a meme. today? inspired by a great post by a fellow blogger… i’m a bit burnt out. maybe more time in The Park for material?