Thursday, May 14, 2009

To Work or Not To Work. That is the Question.

To work or not to work once babies begin to enter your nest . . .

What a topic.

A friend asked my opinion the other day about babies, working, staying at home, etc. Hoping to get thoughts from others out there, I'm going to toss this one out there and see what you have to say. I know this is a sensitive topic, and one that can really spark some emotional discussions.
Please know that I'm not trying to ruffle feathers or hurt any one's feelings. I truly want to see what you have to say!

In some ways I feel as though I'm not very qualified to answer this question. Why? Because I'm one lucky, lucky dog. I'm a nurse, and have worked in an area where experience is almost catered too. I've been able to work as needed/set my own schedule for years, and this has allowed myself and Hubby an incredible amount of flexibility. What works best for our family is for Hubby and I to do "the hand-off"; I literally jump into his running car and head off to work once he gets home. Prior to deployment, I did this once, occasionally twice, a week, and it really worked well for our family.

I'm a maternity RN, and working part-time (I don't know if you can even call 8 hours/week PT) has always been enjoyable. I'm home while Hubby is deployed, but want to return once he gets back. Time in the hospital is a breather for me, and most of the time, just plain fun. I love experiencing the miracle of birth!

The bottom line is that Hubby and I are most comfortable knowing that the kids are with either with him or myself. For the few hours that I would work a week, it just makes sense for us to work our schedules around each other. Anything else would be a hassle and honestly, with four children, cost more than it's worth.

Do I ever get bored? With four children, I am more than busy during the day. There is blogging laundry, doctor's appointments, volunteering at the school x 3, homework that requires one on one attention, grocery shopping, school projects to complete, etc. And that's just the busy work! Add the fact that the kids like to do sports, go the library, play games, run around outside, etc. and it gets even busier.

Do I ever feel like I'm wasting my education, training, etc? No. Not for a second. My Dad once told me that my college degree is a life insurance policy. If something happens to Dave, I can support our family. Spouses die, leave, lose jobs, become injured, sick, etc. Depressing, but true. I don't know if anyone who stays at home would say that obtaining their degree, job training, etc. was not worth their time. Thoughts anyone?

One thing that I do feel strongly about is this. For those planning a family, I would really encourage you to find a way to live on either one salary or one that requires you to work only part-time. Why? You don't know what that little person has in store for your family. What if baby is born with a condition that prevents him from going to daycare? You have a rough pregnancy and need bed rest, but there is a house payment that needs dual incomes to make certain it gets paid. You return to work, but discover down the road that you need to be home to help with school issues.

And what if you see that little baby and just want to be with him or her 24/7?

Life happens. It's nice to have options.

I guess my point is this; don't let stuff keep you from being the parent you truly want to be. I've heard people lament about the fact that they are working just to pay for the toys that they have at home. I can't think of any toy that is more valuable than time with my family.

One thing I do know is that every one's situation is different. Some women know that they would not be happy at home, and how can I knock that? "Stay home with your child so you can both be miserable!" What good is that? Some work because they carry the insurance and some truly need the income. For many, anything but full-time is just not an option.

I guess my advice to my friend is this. If being a stay-at-home mom is something that you think you want to do, then go for it. I have never once regretted our decision to have a smaller house, older car, lack of "toys", etc., so that I can be home with the kids. My time at home is short in the grand scheme of things, and soon I'll have the rest of my life to return to the hospital. Babies will always be coming into this world, needing nurses to care for them as they make their grand entrance. My children, however, are not going to be home forever, and until they are ready to leave the nest, the hospital can wait.

How did you make the choice to work outside the home, stay at home full-time, part-time, etc? Please share. I'd love to know.


Amy - AKA - TigerMommie said...

I saw your comment over on the
I think this is such a true question for so many mothers or mothers to be! And in reading your post, it seems like we think along the same lines.

Currently I am working full time, and am just at the jumping off point of taking the leap to stay home. My son is 2.5 years old....and without going into details, staying home is about the only good option for both his and my well being.

Advice for your friend...well, I think that no one can tell you what's the better option. It's a very personal decision about it you want to be home or not. It suits some moms and not others. One of my friends who has 3 girls now has never wanted to stay home. She loves her job and has a fabulous person to watch her kids. When her husband is away, she calls her mom to come and help....I think staying home was never something she wanted.
If your friend has a chance to stay home, and she's interested to do so, then why not try it? She could always decide to go back to work.......or she could plan to return to work and just see how it goes. Bottom line, I guess I would recommend staying open to any possibility until the baby comes and she sees how it goes...Once the baby is here she might have a better sense about what she would want to do.

When I was pregnant, I had at first decided that I wouldn't return to work....(hardly any way to describe the situation, this post is long enough)...however, due to circumstance, the best optoin was to go back to work. I was home for about the first 4 months. My sister-in-law watches my son......and let's just say free is what you pay for. It's too much for her and my son is very strong-willed, so now I'm at the point of needing to stay home. I'm happy to do so, but it is a big leap.........

Sorry this is kind of long, and I'm not sure how helpful, but I totally can relate to the difficulty of the topic!!!
And anyway, I'm happy to discover your blog!

Amy said...

One thing I will add is that I think it gets harder to work as they get older and there is more "stuff" to do at home. Life is just getting crazier as the kids get older. They are always in to something.

Amanda Holm said...

This is an interesting topic to me, because I feel like I grew up with kind of an inherent expectation that I would work, even while my kids were younger. After I had my first son, my ex-husband said after the fact that he wasn't sure I was going to go back to work after having Alexei, and that surprised me. I think that perception came from me not talking about it much because I had just wholeheartedly assumed I would be, even if it might be at less than full-time for a while -- so what's to talk about?

Honestly, I've just never imagined not working as a professional in my field in some capacity. I want to raise good kids, but I aspire to these kinds of achievements as well, and I don't think I can get to the level I want to eventually end up at if I was to take extended breaks from working.

And I know people may knock daycare experiences for various reasons, but I've had the kind of jobs that have allowed me to send the kids to good ones -- and they have been great experiences for the boys. Including experiences that I doubt I would go to the effort to orchestrate for them at home -- from art projects that allow them to get really messy to group activities to field trips. I know myself well enough to know that that's not where my strengths and interests lie. I really think it was especially good for my older child to be in a group setting; he needed to be encouraged to trust other adults and kids, and now he's very confident and outgoing and social with them. He has a skillset that I'm not sure I alone could have facilitated for him.

But back to the topic at hand -- how did I decide? I don't think I did, really. I always wanted to keep working, so it almost wasn't in question, and everything I've done has been in pursuit of that. I love my boys dearly, but I'm happy to let the village help raise them too. That's the long and short of it.

Christy said...

I think women should stay at home and raise their children. I don't think it's a personal or difficult decision. When we decide to have a child, it's our job to raise them, no one elses. They deserve that from us. We are the ones that decided to create them, we should be the ones raising them.

I think a lot of people make excuses for sending their children off, for others to raise or at the min. help raise. I've worked in daycares (while in college) and I'm sorry but when a child is spending the majority of their waking hours in daycare, they are not being solely raised by their parents,they are indeed being raised by ultimately strangers. I don't care how "good" or "great" the daycare center is. I worked in the best daycare center in the city I lived in, waiting lists, etc. None of those women, who I enjoyed working with, who genuinely cared about the children though, are women I'd want helping raise my child. Many had different values and morals and if anyone thinks those are not being passed onto their children, they live in denial.

I believe GOD gave us our children to raise ourselves. I do NOT believe it takes a village to raise a child. I believe it takes dedicated parents. Children grow up far too quickly, and in a blink of an eye they're 18 and heading to college and starting lives in which we're limited in.

I had 2 years with our oldest daughter and there's not a single moment I regret staying at home with her. I can't imagine the guilt I'd have thinking I WASTED precious time with her, because I left her so I could pursue my career. We will have years to work, to pursue our careers. What better example are we to our children than to show them they're worth being home with? We can do volunterism with our children and teach them the gift of serving others, etc. There is no greater honor than to be a mother, and there's no greater career than to raise our family. IMO

Andrea said...

I think women need to do what is going to be best for their family and they need to include themselves in the equation. If the Feminist movement (I know to some it is a dirty, bad thing-but not to me!) gave us anything, I believe it gave us the freedom to be who we are as women. Some women need to work for a variety of reasons; mental health being one of them. Some women need to be home for a variety of reasons; again, mental health being one of them. We have all been created so differently, why try to clump us all into one category?

When it came time for me to decide my post-partum working schedule the choice was easy. I wanted to work part-time (16-20 hrs) and needed to work so we can have fun things like food and gas in our car and diapers on bottoms. I love my time out of the house and my little guy loves his time with his cousin and his nana. It is an ideal situation and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I think women need to know their families and what works best and that is my advice to your friend. Do what is best for everyone in your family.

Oh, and thank you for bringing sweet babies in the world...

Amy said...

I had always thought I'd work when I had kids, and right before we went to China to adopt Martina, I had some career issues and ended up staying home for 2 years.

It was a good 2 years, but I do get very antsy at home. If there are lots of other moms around, and they let me bother them constantly, I do OK. Otherwise I start to go nuts.

I am working again. It was good for me to have time at home and then to go back to work later. I won't have that option again if I want to keep my career. I am working toward tenure, and it is going to be very hard already to justify my two years with no teaching or research. My fellow SAHMs know I was doing plenty during that time, but the rank and tenure committee will not, because if it's not teaching, research, or service to the university, it will be irrelevant.

So, I will have to go back to work after we adopt again.
I don't know if I am in the best position or not--in one way, it's good because this is a teaching profession, and I get flexible summers and school breaks. We also don't teach on Fridays, so I only have to go in for half of the Fridays, if we have meetings. I do get to be a SAHM during the school breaks.

On the other hand, if I had not chosen this type of profession, I might be in a position to take a few years off and then actually find a job when I am ready to return! If I had considered k-12 teaching instead, I might have been better off. Taking time off to raise children is more respected in that environment than it is in the university environment.

So, I love what I do, but I've got myself in this position where it's very difficult to stay home if I want to do what I've spent many years in graduate school learning.

Ideally, my husband would stay home for the first two years for our second child, but he is also in a research job and would have trouble getting re-hired.

So, that's our situation. What I would enjoy most is part-time work so I could be a SAHM and a working mom, but that's not possible right now.

The best option is what would make everyone the happiest. My husband was only somewhat happy when I stayed home because I had had it by 5:30 and basically couldn't function well if he didn't get home as soon as he was off.

Children in some situations really need SAHMs. For example, people keep asking us why we're not in the state's foster-adopt program if we're trying to adopt again. Children placed in that program are foster children for the first 6 months in this state, and if there's any chance they're not going to stay, they really need the extra stability of a SAHM (or SAHD). I won't agree to take foster children and put them in day care. So I think we have to consider everyone's needs. Some moms feel complete staying home. Some moms don't. Your kids can see through you, so it's hard to hide how you feel.

Katie said...

Well said! For me I always planned on working full-time while I had kids until we could "afford" for me to be home with them. Or maybe some day I'd get a part time job and stay home part time.

But after our 2nd was born I had NO SAY. He was born 100% healthy, but he wanted his mommy ALL THE TIME! It affected my job, I got laid off, then we lost child care 2 months later (due to #2 wanting no one buy Mommy). So when my oldest was 2.5 years old and my youngest was 9 months old I found myself as a full-time at home mom. It was hard to adjust to, but I wouldn't change it for the world. I love knowing what my kids are doing all day everyday. And as much as they drive me crazy I love being a part of their daily lives.

The Ashworth family said...

This was good and thought provoking, Amy. I did the same thing you do when Dave isn't deployed - after Trey was born, I worked one night a week (occasionally two) - it worked so good for us. It gave me a change of pace and I was able to have adult conversation and use my "nurse" brain a little. Plus, I love birth and helping families bring their babies into the world. Then this past August, we decided that I would work full time nights and David would stay home with Trey and go to school. It has been the longest 9 months of our lives, and as soon as my year requirement is up (cause they moved us out here), I will reduce my hours. I can't do it all - I feel like I am somehow less of a women because I can't juggle working full time and being a good mom and wife. We have always lived with less - just lived on one income so that we don't have the pressure of having to support a two-income lifestyle - it's just not worth it to me. I can be a nurse anyday, but I have this short time with my sweet boy at home. No one else can be his mama. I know not everyone holds this view, and it is okay. But for our family, me working full time has been really hard for us. And no amount of money or shift differential or bonus shifts, can buy peace for our family. I'm all about living simply.

Mike and Katie said...

Staying at home and having babies was my career goal. I strayed in high school and tried to pick a major in college but when I found out I was pregnant with my son, staying home was the only thing that made sense.

I have done daycare in my home to earn some income and provide playmates for my kids and then to get my baby fix while we were waiting through infertility and then adoption.

My aunt used to say, "Some mothers are mothers by vocation and some by decision." I was definitely called to be a mother.