Random stranger at the park: “Do you work, or do you stay home with your girls?” Listen lady. I’m sure you meant no harm by that question, but stay at home parents everywhere cringe at those words. Raising children full-time is work. A lot of it. Without a salary. The benefits are awesome though. 🙂
A lot of people have been asking me if I will be going back to teaching. Every time I run into a parent of a past student, they ask if I can come back in time to have their younger child as a student. Each time this happens, a small part of me gets sad at how many students I am missing out on while I am on a teaching hiatus. But then I think about my current job and realize that I am where I am needed most.
I want to pause here to preface my writing by saying that I know and am so thankful that I have the choice of staying home to raise our children. Not everyone is given that choice, and even some who are decide that staying home is not the best option for their family. I have friends that want to stay home, but financially can’t, friends that can stay home, but feel it’s not the right decision for them, and friends that stay home because they need to, but don’t want to. Every family does what is best for them. Please don’t take offense to anything I say or feel guilt in any way no matter what decision you make for your family. There is already enough stress in parenthood. We don’t need to worry about what other parents are doing or not doing. I just want to share why we are making the decisions we are for our family 🙂
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I always knew I wanted to be a mother. Both things were laid on my heart at a very young age. I like to nurture things, and both of these roles allow me to do so. Teaching is a lot like I thought it would be, plus a lot of extra hoops to jump through. Motherhood, for me, is not like I imagined it would be. Who in their right mind would ever draw up my situation in their mind for how they would have children? No one. That’s who. Maybe Octomom…but she has an… ummm different?… imagination.
(Sorry about the photo…I don’t have may photos of me in my classroom since I am always taking the photos)
I didn’t think we would go from no children to three right away and then a short two years later have another one. Four girls in two years. At the age of 29. When Jovie, Sienna, and Rowan were born, I took a year leave of absence from teaching. I literally spent 24 hours a day with them (I still slept in their nursery at the time I had to make the decision whether to go back to work or not) and I couldn’t fathom going back to work, plus they were premature and we had to be very careful about taking them into public due to exposure to illness their little bodies couldn’t handle, so daycare wasn’t a good option for us.
It is obviously exhausting taking care of three newborns 24/7. I needed some help. Not only for the physical demands, but the emotional as well. Add in the fact that we were outgrowing our tiny townhouse and the stress began to pile up. Thankfully, my parents offered to have us live with them while we tried to sell our townhouse and they could help me with the triplets while Tommy was at work during the day. When spring came I had to make the decision to go back to work (any position available, not my old classroom) or stay home. I was then presented an AWESOME opportunity to job-share with my awesome friend Michelle at the same school, just in fourth grade instead of fifth. It worked perfectly for both of our schedules/teaching desires. She wanted to teach mornings, and if I had to be gone any part of the day, I wanted to be gone in the afternoon while the girls napped. The only way I would do it was if my mom would watch the girls, which thankfully she did. If their Mama couldn’t be with them (or Dad) then what’s better than a Grandma right? Again, totally blessed situation. For my kids, my parents, but especially us.
Here’s the truth. I am a selfish parent. I am a control freak. I knew that if I was at work from 12:30-4:30 each day, I would only be missing the end of lunch, 2 1/2 hours of nap, and a little play time. I like to know every little thing that happens in their day. Job sharing worked out so well for that. I wasn’t missing much, and what I did miss, I probably drove my mom nuts asking detailed questions about the afternoon’s events.
I decided to take another year leave after Lola was born. I knew how fast babies turn into toddlers and I didn’t want to miss a minute of it. Again, I am so thankful that this was an option for us. In our district you maintain your seniority, staff development credits, and they even guarantee you a position in one year when taking this leave. Since finding a teaching job is very difficult right now, I was happy to know that I could stay home and have some sort of employment if and when I was ready to go back in a year.
HR called two weeks ago. After many discussions, we have decided that staying home with our girls is the best decision for our family. The plan is to take an educational leave for two more years and take a few night classes to complete my masters. They are currently looking into the possibility of taking my leaves back to back. That means that in two (and a half) years, Rowan, Sienna, and Jovie will all be in kindergarten full-time and Lola can do preschool 3 afternoons a week. Ideally I would find a job-share position again and teach whenever Lola was in preschool and have my mom, or close friend watch her when she was not.
Here were my main decision-making factors.
#1- Cost of daycare.
A friend recently told us that they pay $900 a month for one child in full-time daycare. I was shocked at first, but then I did the math. $900 /160 hours a month is paying someone only $5.60 an hour. Makes sense. However:
$900 x 4 = waymorethanImakeasaparttimepublicschoolteacherinamonth.
So, even if I went back to teaching this fall, it would have made more financial sense for us to hire someone to come into our home instead of taking our girls somewhere. Unique situation.
#2-The selfish factor.
A point was brought up in one of my teacher meetings in the last year that some of the students we have spend more time with me than they do their own parents in a day. Even though that is normal and natural, I had never thought of it like that. It changed my thinking as a teacher. It influences the time I have with my babes. I saw Michelle Duggar once give this as a reason she homeschooled her children. While I am considering homeschooling the girls, most likely the aforementioned plan will ensue and all too soon most of their waking hours will be spent with wonderful teachers.
Also, our girls do hilarious things. So many hilarious things in fact, that when Tommy would come home from work and ask about said things, I would forget half of them. Enter the iPhone. Seriously. The main reason I got an iPhone was to take snap shots of the funny moments of the day and text Tommy at will. If neither of us were with them throughout the day, we would both miss out on their hilarity. I wouldn’t expect someone else who is watching them to remember every silly thing they did or have a slide show of pictures each day of their hilarity. And folks, I need that hilarity to counter-act the whiney, crying fits that seem to happen every five minutes in my house.
#3-People will always need teachers.
I love my profession. I love the students. I love watching lightbulbs go off. I love teaching. But some very wise friends I have discussed this with reminded me that teaching will always be there, but our girls are only young once, and again, I am selfish of that time.
Finally, I don’t want anyone to think I poop rainbows and unicorns about motherhood. Being a stay-at-home-parent is the hardest job I’ll ever have. There are many, many days where I just want to sit in a corner and rock. I lose my cool. I cry. I want to give up on all the fun activities I plan for them when they throw fits two minutes in and just turn Team Umi Zoomi on all day. Some days I have to stay in the bathroom for an extra minute just to enjoy no one touching me. Our house is constantly a mess. Sometimes Tommy is the only adult I see for days (good thing he is very easy on the eyes).
All that being said, I try to enjoy every day with my ladies and remember that time passes way too quickly. The good always outweighs the bad. While I will miss teaching other children for a while , I’ll still get to teach the four most important children in my life. Our girls may miss out on some things due to the limited funds of a one-income family, but I think it will be worth it.
Once again this post is mainly for myself. To sort out my feelings about the choices I am making for myself as a teacher, myself as a mother, and purely myself. When I am having a horrible day and am covered in multiple person’s urine, no one wants to play the game I spent three hours arranging the night before, and I’m searching for anything to stop the whining, I hope to look back at this post and have peace in my decision.
I know that someday all too soon our girls won’t want to hang out with their lame mom, the sound of pitter pattering tiny feet through the house will be replaced with music I won’t understand, and I may have to ask for a hug instead of getting them constantly throughout the day. For now, I just want to soak it all in.