I look at my husband, who is the most loving, stable, fiscally responsible, intelligent person I know. Rather than continuing to sound like I'm an Amish wife, let me mention, he's also one of the most annoying. He can't be THE most annoying because that title belongs to yours truly. My husband was raised by awesome working parents. His mom stayed home with him for the first six months, and then went back to work as a teacher. Both parents were always either working full-time, attending graduate school, or both. Warren traveled different places all over the country with his parents, when school was out and his parents took PTO. He got fantastic grades all through school, never gave his parents any problems, and was involved in positive extracurricular activities. He was offered scholarships and went to college immediately after high school, graduated in exactly four years with a degree in software engineering, and had a successful career the day after he graduated. And by "successful career" I mean he's still working for the same company, seven years later. He also still has the long hair that was his only rebellion!
Then I look at myself. My mom, who I love dearly, stayed at home with me for the first three years of my life. Lots of tumultuous things happened in the years after that, but those first years are absolutely the most important in lifetime brain development, rivaled only by adolescence. And I had the benefit of a stay-at-home parent during those crucial years. So how did I fare? I slept my way through school, starting in middle school. I drove my teachers crazy with my angst and my constant "failure to live up to [my] potential" (something they told us lazy kids to try to motivate us to get going). I have work ethic, but I've never stayed with the same job for much beyond one year. I went to college and have three different degrees - a BA, an MA, and an MSW - and, since my contract at the university was not renewed, I use none of them.
Please do not misunderstand me - I am not blaming my mother staying home with me for my own poor choices. I'm just stating the facts. Kid W had working parents, while Kid J had a stay-at-home parent. And this is how Kid W and Kid J turned out.
I've started an editing business in the past six months, and seem to be making some headway with that; it's a natural talent that I've used for extra money throughout the years. However, right now that amounts to relatively little. I'm able to contribute some to groceries, but without the generosity of my in-laws, we would never be able to keep James in three-day-weekly Montessori school. The reason we were able to take the kids on a four-day vacation to a cabin on a pond last month is because I paid for it back when I was still teaching for the university.
I look at what's happening now with our financial lives and wonder if I'm doing the right thing for my kids. Violet's not yet two years old and not quite potty-trained, so childcare would certainly be expensive. But if I used my MSW, I could pay for childcare and have extra money to contribute to the household. I wouldn't get to spend as much time with either kid, but I have to question my motivations behind that. Is me staying home really best for them, in our particular family, or would they benefit more from seeing the work ethic, ambition, responsibility and intelligence that might be available with two working parents? Am I being selfish, possibly with negative long-term repercussions (as well as the obviously short-term financial negatives)? Would their time with me actually be of higher quality if I worked a full-time job? Would the ability to take more interesting vacations be superior to spending so much time with grumpy, frazzled, annoying me?
I've thought about this in so much depth lately that, when the friendly bank employee saw me emptying coins into the machine and mentioned that they were looking for part-time tellers, I seriously considered it.
And then I thought, if the kids were in school and daycare on a regular basis, who could I blame for my messy house?!