Thursday, July 15, 2010

Working Motherhood

I've talked about this subject numerous times before, but it keeps coming up in my mind more and more recently now that we're counting down to the time when we figured we'd be trying for #2. I thought this would be such an easy decision, and I still think ultimately that we'll have another baby, but I'm just not sure about the timing at this point, I guess. There's so much more to consider than I thought there would be.

Money is probably first and foremost, shallow as that may seem. But the reality of spending $20,000 in child care is staggering. That's more than a quarter of our total income, more than we spend on our house, and maybe even our cars on top of that. I just don't trust (cheaper) home daycares enough to downgrade. All along I've been hoping that our situation would be different by the time we approached #2, and I still hold out hope for that. I think Craig has a lot of upside and could snag a fantastic job somewhere along the line. It's just a matter of finding the right one. I've gone over a million scenarios in my mind about what would happen if I stopped working, or worked part time. Stopping working really isn't an option. My job is a heck of a lot more stable than Craig's at the moment (not his fault--just based on how management has been faring lately) and provides nearly half of our income. We lose a lot of money no matter what if that goes away, no matter how much we'd save on daycare. I've pondered the part time thing a lot. I've long felt that I wouldn't be a good stay-at-home mom just because I know how I am--low on patience, stir crazy at times--so I think I'd be better off having some sort of adult world to escape to a few times a week. And I like being an Excel whiz and doing lots of crazy computer stuff. I also like wearing something nicer than jeans and a t-shirt every day. But I also like spending time with Jacob (moreso when he's well-behaved) and blogging and having opportunities to do fun things. I experience serious envy when I see other moms on Facebook or blogs talking about their playdates at playgrounds or their other miscellanous get-togethers. I don't have many close mom friends at all, and would relish the opportunity to participate in some of that stuff, reestablish old college friendships, and have some mommy talk time. I think that stuff would go a long way toward keeping me sane.

I've decided that one of my biggest issues with working motherhood is that it compresses the weekends and evenings terribly. We want to relax AND fit in various chores and activities, and considering most of our family lives out of town and we spend half of our summer weekends traveling, that doesn't leave much time for other fun activities. I read about fun things to do with your kids in emails and magazines, and I'm like, sure, in what spare time am I going to make homemade playdough or gather up objects for Jacob to sort by type and color or to set up a cooking activity? If we don't have anything planned for the weekend I might fit in one of those things here or there, but we usually have so many things going on (not to mention working around meals and naps) that homespun activities like that never seem to pan out. We have errands to run, a zoo to visit, baseball to play...and yes, family gatherings to travel to. As I mentioned the other day, we have family activities out of town for at least parts of four of the next five weekends, and we were originally planning on doing something out of town ourselves on that weekend in between. I think Craig's calf injury will postpone that, but there's an off-chance I could be off on my own that weekend. So, yeah, busy. So as if weekends weren't busy enough, in the evenings at home there's dinner to cook and other things to do around the house (last night it was brushing algae off the bottom of the pool--lovely) and sad as this sounds, it doesn't leave a lot of time for Jacob. Or, at most, it doesn't leave a lot of time to do creative, fun things with Jacob. He's perfectly content playing baseball, basketball, lacrosse, riding his big wheel or pushing his bubble mower, but sometimes I think that he'd have more well-rounded interests if we had more time to cultivate them or if his home time wasn't so limited that he's determined to spend all of it playing the sports he can't play (for real, anyway--though he does insist that maracas are a baseball bat and toy fruit is a ball) all day at daycare. And as it is I know I don't give him the full opportunity to enjoy certain things, like how I usually rush him out of the kitchen after dinner even though I know he'd happily play with water in the sink for at least a little while. But I have to do dishes and clean up, and he gets in the way. How horrible does that sound? I WANT to have the time to do things like that and not worry about my schedule all the time. His is really what's most important, but I guess mine is more rooted in reality, a busy reality that just can't take the time to smell the roses. Ugh.

And that's what bugs me. I get that if I were to be home more often I'd have to spend more time disciplining than I do now, and a lot of the time that I'd be home I'd still be working on non-Jacob things--cleaning the house, preparing food, working outside--but I'd still physically be with him and would have more opportunities to interact with him in different ways, take a little extra time to involve him, and make it a point to get out of the house and do fun things to keep things interesting. But I'd have more opportunities in general for quality time, whenever they happened to occur, rather than hoping we have a good moment in the evening or can carve out some fun time on the weekends.

All in all, it's just not enough. And the thing I haven't even talked about yet? Where would baby #2 fit in this scenario? If I have this much guilt and angst about one child, what about two? Particularly when that second one is a tiny, helpless baby? If I find it hard to make time for Jacob now, what on earth will happen with a baby, who, from experience, I know will take over every facet of our lives? How can we give enough love and attention to two kids, when we barely have the time or energy to give one what he deserves? Part of me can't imagine it right now.

But part of me just keeps wanting to ignore these difficult realities and just forge ahead. I keep thinking, "Well, it would probably be a couple tough years, lots of stress, being very tired...but in the end we'll be so happy we did it." And to some degree, I think that's true. I do want Jacob to have a sibling, and I would like another child. I'd like to experience another child's life--go through the milestones, watch them grow, experience things a little differently--and have two kids to enjoy for the rest of our lives. I'm fascinated by the passage of time and how families grow and change. To look back at photos in my parents' albums and see them as a young married couple, then young parents, then to see us kids grow up, and now have families of our own...it's simply amazing. And part of me thinks a couple rough years (financially, emotionally, physically, you name it) might be worth it. But what if it doesn't go as planned? What if Jacob resents his new sibling because he/she gets all the attention and Mommy and Daddy didn't have enough to go around before? What if we can't take the stress? There's so many things to consider. Maybe we wait another year when Jacob's that much closer to school age. Maybe we hold off so he'll be that much easier to deal with. Or maybe in that year he'll get so used to being an only child that he'll resent the situation even more.

So....yeah. Lots to consider. I just wish I could snap my fingers, have a ton of money in the bank, have a part time job I love (and a great job for Craig, too), and jump right into baby #2 knowing that it's no problem. Instead, I guess it will have to be a lot of prayer, a lot of talking, and a lot of hoping. ::Deep breath::

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