Coming to terms

January 27, 2011 by Kara Moore
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When I found out I was pregnant in early 2010, a close friend gave me a book called “The Second Nine Months.” She said it really helped her feel better about what she went through after her daughter was born in 2009.

That introduction made me nervous. What did she mean, “what I went though?”

If you haven’t read the book, I recommend it. It’s a memoir about what happens when you’ve spent an entire pregnancy planning for a perfect bundle of joy and instead you’re faced with the reality of a newborn. (Spoiler: they cry and eat all the time.)

I’m five months into the second nine months, and I’m glad I was able to embark on motherhood with realistic expectations. We’re having a ball — and trying not to be too hard on ourselves.

Carrier Crier

She did not love the carrier at one month. Later she loved it, but she's already gotten too heavy for me to carry her in it unless I seriously beef up my shoulders.

Becoming Mommy has been at once exhilarating and alienating. I’m 27, and most of my friends don’t have kids yet. If nothing else that makes it logistically difficult to see friends socially. Also, I left my full-time job at the end of 2010. I’m grateful that I get to be home with my daughter, but sometimes it feels like my brain is turning into mush.

The truth is I have been ambivalent about going from journalist to stay-at-home mom.

My generation of women was raised to believe the world is our oyster and we can pursue whatever career we want. Maybe not all corners of our culture subscribe to this view, but mine does. And I’ve got a lot of years of education on my resume, so part of me is paranoid that there’s something wrong with choosing to stay home.

Take, for instance, the grad school professor who expressed disappointment when another woman in my class became engaged because to him it meant her education would go to waste. Or the former editor who told me I was too smart to end up staying home to raise kids.

There are some seriously mixed messages about women’s roles out there, and I really grappled with my choice to stay home. But it is a choice, and I’m confident it’s the right thing, right now.

When I was working I always had this nagging feeling that I needed to be at home, and at home I felt like I needed to be at work. I’m sure every mom knows this feeling.

Though staying home is right for me, I don’t think it would be right for every mom. For us, it came down to the fact that the cost of a second income didn’t outweigh the benefits. And I’m learning that the benefits of being at home are pretty great. Have you heard a baby laugh recently? It’s unreal.

I did not anticipate a year ago that this is where I would be today, but I don’t have any regrets. So far for me, the second nine months have been revolutionary.

Now it’s your turn, moms. Do you work outside the home? Did you struggle with a decision?


23 Responses to “Coming to terms”

  1. KristenNo Gravatar says:

    Surely the role of feminism should be to make women feel like it’s their choice to work or to stay home with their children — Staying home *is* a career choice, and as there are many ways to live at home, there are many ways to make this choice!

    To see someone as wasting their education, like that professor or your editor, is so short-sighted. It’s pretty obvious that by being educated, and through using your education, you will influence your family and your children and the people that you all interact with — This is significant! Being an educated member of the community you build is just as important in the long run than writing a dissertation that ends up being read by a few people, that gets buried in the bookstacks at the university library, et cetera.

    More than anything though, the term “staying at home” is an unfortunate colloquialism — not every “stay-at-home” mom is staying at home. There are so many ways to participate in community as a full-time parent, that I wish the common term were something that reflected a broader base of experience, like “in-the-community mom,” or something similar. That would serve two purposes: to change the perception of the stay-at-home parent, and then to also change the self-identity of the stay-at-home parent.

    • Kara MooreNo Gravatar says:

      Sing it sister!

      I do need to make an effort to get out into the community. In reality, I’ve been out of the house once in the last four days.

    • CaraNo Gravatar says:

      Absolutely agreed! Perhaps, instead of SAHM, we should be called Deeply Involved Parent (there are plenty of dads staying home too.)

      People wonder why countries like Japan are running past ours in education and standardized testing. One reason, I believe, is because most Japanese homes have one parent at home all the time. Who better to use your education on then the next generation? Teaching at home is the most important job we have, in my opinion, in preparing our children for successful lives. Parents who work can do that also, babysitters can do it, grandparents can do it, it’s not narrowed to the role of a mother who stays at home. We’re just blessed with more time to teach and get involved in our children’s lives and in our community.

      Kara, love this, and relate so closely. I did feel like I was taking a step back in society when I quit my secular job, but the longer I’m away from it the more freedom I have. I get to take pottery classes, play soccer and softball, get involved in community organizations. It’s so refreshing!

      • Kara MooreNo Gravatar says:

        Them: “And what do you do?”
        Me: “I’m a Deeply Involved Parent.”
        Them: (Takes a step back.)

        (subject-verb agreement is wonky, but whatever)

        • Carrie NillesNo Gravatar says:

          I love this! I was a professional with everything but my Ph.D. including all of the coursework and credits for that. I worked at Marshall, teaching, for 8 years. I think I only went back, after my girl was born a premie, because of the fear of “wasting my education.”
          It is a radical choice either way. I think that so many moms on both side are defensive and judgmental because they are not sure that they have made the “right” choice. In our black and white world it is very hard for most people to see that both are right.

        • CaraNo Gravatar says:

          LOL! Love it. Watch out, DIP will be the hot, new buzz word of 2011.

      • BobNo Gravatar says:

        Don’t you think that’s a little insulting to parents who’re in a situation where they both have to work to provide for their child? There’s nothing to say they’re not as deeply involved even though they can’t be there with their child all day. As a man who’ll certainly have to work once I become a father, I don’t like to imagine I’ll be thought of as a less-involved parent.

        • CaraNo Gravatar says:

          Bob, there certainly are some vocations where that is entirely possible. Parents can work full-time and still be able to do projects in their community, attend school plays, read to their child’s classroom, etc. My job did not allow for that. Having dinner with my family was rare, but my career was the path I chose. I thought that’s what I was supposed to be doing. For me, once my son was born, I was not as nearly involved as I wanted to be. I missed so many first big events, including major holidays, because I had to work. Those are the memories children cherish, to have a parent absent seemed so sad to me! Nothing would’ve changed as he grows, so I feel confident saying that I, personally, would not have been as involved. That’s just my experience though.

  2. ColleenNo Gravatar says:

    Although I don’t have children yet, this is something my husband and I have discussed many times. It is something that I always struggle with and the idea of giving up my career almost makes my stomach turn — but at the same time the more I think about the beauty of a child and my friends that currently stay at home with their children, the more I think that this might be for me.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. It has really helped me to get a better grip on where my feelings are coming from.

    • Kara MooreNo Gravatar says:

      Re: “giving up my career” — One thing that a lot of women worry about is getting back into the workforce after their kids are a little older. Say you want to stay home for five years — how hard will it be to go back? I can’t answer that obviously, but I can say it’s one thing that weirdly doesn’t worry me. Maybe because I am making a conscious effort to stay sharp (freelancing, blogging, volunteering, etc.) so that there’s not a total void on my resume. But even if there were, I don’t think that’s a career death sentence.

      Also, babies are the best.

  3. Katy BrownNo Gravatar says:

    That’s one of the reasons why I launched The Write Word, LLC as soon as I had Ava. I was afraid that during my time at home, something might happen to my husband’s job, so I had to keep my name and skills in circulation. AND, I felt guilty having an income-worthy set of college degrees and years of workplace experience, yet I wasn’t contributing to the household expenses. SO, consulting work and freelance writing “paid off”.

    It’s not always easy working from home, and some people don’t consider it a real job (I BEG TO DIFFER!), but it’s a tremendous blessing to be able to do it this way.

  4. DebbieNo Gravatar says:

    I went back to work when my daughter was 15 months old. I quit again when my son was born just one year later. The plan was to have two more children and go back to work in four years. I did some contract work for different law firms during that time. my daughter is now a sophomore in college and the boys are 18,17, and 16 years old. I never did go back to work full time. It was actually easier to work when they were babies because they did not have places they had to be. As they got older, music and sports and group studies. My husband travels so his job does not allow for dr appts and sick days for the kids. Going back to work just never made sense for us. I don’t regret it. I do a lot of volunteer work, but when people ask “what do you do” I tell them, just about everything. If id worked, I probably wouldn’t be driving a 2002 Durango with 185,000 miles on it…so the only advice I give young women is, be flexible. You never know how it’s all gonna go once you throw a baby or two or four into the mix.

    • Kara MooreNo Gravatar says:

      I’ve heard echoes of this from other moms — that teenagers are at least as demanding as babies, just in different ways. One mom told me she felt like it was more important to be available to her kids as they entered high school and college.

  5. Leigh AnneNo Gravatar says:

    Hi Kara,

    I love this article! I’m a DIP (see, it’s already catching on LOL!) and I’m passionate about it. I think not being in the workforce has so many negative connotations that a lot of people don’t stop to realize that not only are we making a difference in our child’s life when we choose to stay home with them but we are also making a difference on the future that our child will be an adult in. I think being a parent, “staying home” or otherwise, is a big deal. We all choose what is best for our family at different given moments. And I think as Mothers we should all build each other up no matter what choice we make.

    And yes, babies are the best!

    • CaraNo Gravatar says:

      “And I think as Mothers we should all build each other up no matter what choice we make.” AMEN MAMA!

      And keep using DIP, we’ll take this global.

  6. Leigh AnneNo Gravatar says:

    Oh! About the carrier, have you tried a sling? I think they are fabulous and distribute weight in a way that doesn’t hurt the shoulders!

    • Kara MooreNo Gravatar says:

      I do have a sling, but not the kind you can use on bigger kids. Is there a particular one you recommend?

      • Leigh AnneNo Gravatar says:

        Sorry I’m just now getting back here to respond. I actually made my own sling for Sophia. I haven’t tried her out in it lately though. I bought the rings online and had fabric on hand. I’ve heard awesome things about the maya wrap which is basically what mine is. Also, the Moby wrap has excellent reviews.

  7. Katy BrownNo Gravatar says:

    That is so true.

    I found that working part-time was actually harder than full-time. It was a real struggle to find childcare for three or four hours a day, two or so days a week. Preschool started at 9:00 and ended at 11:45, so I couldn’t log a full 20-hour workweek. Then, the added expense of afternoon childcare ate my part-time salary. I was in a bad mood for about a year!

  8. Elisabeth PalmerNo Gravatar says:

    I went through the same exact thing when I was deciding whether to quit my job to stay home. I had always dreamed of staying home to raise my kids. It was very important to me. Then when the time came and we were finally able to afford it, I didn’t know if I should or if I really wanted to anymore! I hadn’t spent years in college but I loved my job as a veterinary assistant just as much, probaby more, than most people love their jobs.
    Of course, I did quit to stay home and that was 3 years ago this Feb! Then I had a 3yr old and 1 yr old. And I’m currently pregnant with our third child, due in April. I have never looked back or thought I made the wrong choice. I do want to go back to work once all my kids are in school and don’t need me as much but for now, I just try to enjoy every minute! No, it isn’t always easy or fun but it is always worth it!

    • Kara MooreNo Gravatar says:

      That’s the thing — I’ve never talked to a mom who chose to stay home and felt like she made a wrong choice. Congratulations on your pregnancy!

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