Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pre-emptive Mom Balancing Act

Recently, with all of the baby wanting in progress, I have been preemptively struggling with how I want to be as a mom.

I am specifically referring to the balance of being a working mom versus a stay at home mom.

At the end of the day, I know I will just have to wait until the time arrives and the couple people I have talked to tell me I will just know what is right for me when it comes. But, I would not be me unless I was planning things that are happening for the next 1-5 years. 

A little bit of background on my family history on working versus SAHM (Stay-at-home moms):

My mom has pretty much always worked. She went back to work after six weeks each time after my sister and I were born and worked pretty much 40 hours a week. She also traveled during one of her jobs and from my recollections it was for a couple days out of every month. Then when I was going to go into third grade my mom went back to school to finish up college and received her degree in accounting. Those were absolutely some of my favorite years growing up. It meant we (my sister, our twin girl cousins who lived down the street that are aged right in between my sister and I) didn't have to go to daycare and we did fun things at home every day, went to the Zoo or Butterfly Museum, and generally got to do whatever we wanted (which meant adventures in the backyard or playing school most days). I feel like this worked out great since we really got to spend time with my mom and I was old enough to remember all or most of it. After my mom finished school, she became an auditor and tax preparer and was working 40 hours during the Summer and Fall months and 7 days a week during most of the Winter and Spring months. While we missed her a lot during busy season, I think it was probably harder on my dad than it was on my sister and I, mostly because by that time I was turning into a teenager and my sister was only three years behind me.

I feel like this generally worked out pretty well for my mom in terms of providing the right balance of time at home and time at work while we were growing up. She has always been pretty career/work focused and definitely needs her time to be out of the house and interact with other people. The fact that she is an auditor speaks even more to her nature of wanting to work at different places and meet new people.

I feel like one of the biggest factors that helped this work for our family was that my dad has had a great job with really flexible hours. If one of us was sick, he could help out if my mom couldn't. When we did go to day care, my dad worked early and my mom would drop off at daycare later and then my dad would leave work earlier so he could pick us up earlier. This generally worked well for us since we got to be at home more but it also saved my parents money by paying for a shorter day of child care.

I would definitely consider myself very close with both my parents. I do talk to my dad more often during the week, but he is a lot more of a phone person than my mom and likes quick phone calls when I drive or walk somewhere.

I grew up with both parents working and never had any issues being close with them and pretty much always figured I would do the same thing. I loved the fact that I got to spend quality time with my mom for those couple years when I was a kid and was old enough to remember and appreciate it. So I knew I would love to make that work out somehow, but never gave it too much thought.

Well now the ball is trying to roll that direction and I am struggling with what I want.

About a year ago I switched jobs to something that is a better fit for where Dylan and I want to go in terms of raising a family. It has definitely been an interesting year with a lot of changes at work, but I love my position at the company, my new boss and the company itself. The main issue is that I feel like I have changed so much in the last year or so, outside of work.

I know I have mentioned before how much I love being a homeowner and working on the house and making it a home. I really wish I had more time to work on it. More time to clean, more time for projects to improve and decorate it. My house has really become a passion for me.

I also am so envious of the blogs I follow that are so successful and the women who write them make such a commitment to their blogs. I know this is mostly something I would need to prioritize and I could do that now if I wanted. Many of those women work full jobs, have several kids, exercise daily, and still make time to write amazing posts and promote their blog! I wish I felt like I had the ability to pursue blogging more, but right now my time management just isn't there.

Take these creative passions I have developed over the last six months and throw in a beautiful baby and why would I want to go to work?!

The main reason is my self-expectations.

I always planned on being a working mom. Even when I played dolls, I played a working mom.  My mom set a great example of this for me. My dad did as well in terms of being there for us 100% and supporting my mom in any decision she made. 

I always told Dylan he could be the stay at home dad if we wanted to go that route. At the beginning of our relationship I was much more career driven than he was and we met at a summer camp, so I knew he was great with kids. That plan sounded great to me, especially after meeting the CEO of a major company who was a female and her husband was the stay at home dad. 

Things have changed and Dylan and I have had many discussions on this already, mostly about the fact that I don't know what I want to.  More or less ever since I met Dylan, my career-minded-ness has been evolving. I like to leave work at a decent hour since I want to come home to hang out with Dylan, whether it is cooking dinner, watching TV, or walking the dogs. I love spending time with him and I miss him a lot during the day.

When considering having a child, knowing how much I already miss Dylan, I know it will be even harder to be away. 

What I don't know is how I would deal with being at home, full-time or part-time. Having been so career-driven for so long, would I be alright without that part of me? Would I go stir-crazy at home? How hard would it be to make play dates and interact with other moms? What would I do once my kids get older? How would this affect my career in the long term? Do I care about that as much as I care about being there for my kids?

I am also worried about how my children would perceive me. Would they resent me for being home all the time? Would they still consider me an effective member of society? Will they prefer their dad because they already see me all the time?

There are obviously other factors than what I feel like doing, the biggest one being money. This goes both ways. At a certain point it could be more cost effective to have a parent stay at home instead of sending our kids to day care full time.
My personal belief is that going to day care and preschool is an important part of growing up. Without having done much research, I feel the social interaction is key to developing as a person; getting an education from other people, both kids and adults, is important; and even getting exposed to germs while they are in day-care is much preferred to build up their immune systems before real school starts.

During Dylan and I's discussions, he has been very supportive and has listened to my various thoughts and concerns. Our main thing is we still need and want to live at a certain level of comfort. I think Dylan is concerned about being the main bread-winner if that is where we end up. Even now, Dylan being a stay at home dad is still a potential option.

In the end, I think we are at a point where we want one of those perfect compromises, ha ha. We would love for our kids to go to preschool/daycare for three days of the week and be able to have one of us home the other two days of the work week. Whether this is just one of us working part time or both of us having separate four day weeks, is up in the air.  By the time we get to our kids all being in school, I think we would both be back to more full time work.

Ah! I just wish I had all the answers already! Finding the right balance in life is always hard, and when we keep changing and evolving, it makes the balancing act that much more delicate. Trying to determine the balance between "happy mom=good mom" and the concept that you someone else is that involved in raising your child is a tough one. On the bright side, we still have a good while before we really need to start trying to figure it all out!

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