Earlier this week during the 100+ heatwave we had here, I went to a matinee of a so-bad-it-is-almost-good summer movie. Standing in front of me was a woman who lives in my building, who I know from the playground. Her three-year-old son was doing the mommy-arm-pull sway on one side of her. Her four-year-old was jumping up and down, taking her other arm with him. We were both there to get out of the heat. She is a stay (and work) at home mom; a very down-to-earth, friendly, calm person. She looked around for my sons. They were not there. I told her I was going to see Grown Ups. She was going to see Sesame Street. She said she’d live vicariously through me. I felt just a slight twang of guilt. But mostly, I felt like I’ve made some good choices.
When I was little, we stayed home during the summer. But we had a house with a big yard and friends in all of the adjoining yards. My brother and I spent much of each day, every day outside with our friends. Inside, I’m sure my mom was cleaning the house, doing the laundry, and sometimes kicking back with a cool drink and a good book. She was always there if one of us scraped a knee, or needed a cool drink. My mom stayed home with us until I was six. After that, my teen-aged cousin came to stay with us to watch us during the day while my mom was working. Neither of them were standing there watching us play all day. Which is basically what New York moms have to do if they live in an apartment with no outdoor space.
There’s a whole lot of talk about stay at home moms vs. work outside the home moms. As you well know, for some it is a choice to do either. Some do not have a choice. If we wanted to keep our large Brooklyn apartment, we didn’t have much of a choice. I wanted to stay home with Trucker, but I chose to keep our lifestyle. One in which both moms work full-time outside the home in service jobs. I’m a teacher. Their other mom is a social worker. Neither job is one we could do from a home office. I suppose we could have afforded for one of us to stay home, if we slashed our budget. But we hope to buy a house in Brooklyn. And the truth is, when I got back to work after maternity leave, after much anger and trepidation about returning to the work force, I found myself to be happy. Those women who choose to make the sacrifice (I say that because it often is a financial sacrifice) to stay home, have made that choice for strong reasons, I’m sure.
Here’s where I’m sure people are going to get all judgy on me. I’m going to share it with you because it is my choice. It reveals me as totally not an attachment-parenting person, even though I get a lot of the ideas behind attachment parenting. See, I have the summer off. But I choose to send at least one child to daycare every day. Yeah. That is my choice. I keep one child at a time once or twice a week. The other days are mine. Mine all mine. Why? Because I can. Because I am also a person who needs time to play. It means I can go shopping for a birthday present for my babies without hearing any of my own children beg me to buy them a toy. I can work out. I can get my shanti shanti on. I can have uninterrupted lunches with friends I haven’t seen in ages because I’m always at home with my kids at night. I’m going to paint our apartment and sell a bunch of baby stuff and clean out all the closets! It means I can do laundry and shopping during the week, so on the weekends, when my whole family is home, we can focus on playing and having fun together. It means I can use the summer for its true teacherly purpose… that is to recover from all of the energy I have spent on other people’s children for the past ten months. Me in June is not pretty or nice. It is wiped out tired cranky old beeotch. I will not subject my kids to that. They like their daycare. They both have many friends, wonderful caregivers, and lots of rollicking outdoor play. I also get to spoil each of my boys. They get a full day of all mommy all the time. I chose something that that particular boy will love to do. (And we can afford to do things like go to Coney Island, visit zoos and museums, and take classes, because both moms work.) I also do something errandy, so they aren’t left out of all boring day-to-day stuff. One needs to build up stamina for the mundane. I know some people think it is odd for me to not want to have both children with me all the time. And when they get older, I probably will send them to a summer camp, but also have long stretches of summer with both boys home. And I do have the two weeks with them both at the end of each summer when daycare is closed. But this is my choice. And this is why I love being a parent. (Unlike, apparently, masses of other folk mentioned in a recent NY Magazine article.) I love being a parent, because in its current form, I get enough time with each of my kids and enough time with myself.