Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Staying home and sacrifice.

I was reading another blog today, one that I like quite a bit and her post today was about stay at home parents, actually stay at home mothers (because  that's where a baby belongs).

I started to comment on her post, but decided against it. I'm tired and sick and not looking for an argument. If I commented on there it would lead to other people vehemently disagreeing with me and listing a million reasons why and I'm not looking to start anything, especially not on someone elses space.

I don't disagree with what she was saying, which was in essence that everyone makes a choice and choosing to stay home with your kids is a choice not chance. That she's sacrificed and lived on less and didn't have it easy so that she could stay home. That staying home isn't lucky (and other commenters agree) that it boils down to wanting it enough.

That last part gets me. I want it. I want to stay home so bad it hurts. There are days I can feel the desire to have more babies and stay home and be with them in every inch of my body. In every fiber of my being. I want that more than anything.

And we are where we are today because of sacrifice. Because of scrimping and saving and pinching pennies and making choices.

But lucky? Yes, in part. Any mother or father who is able to stay home with their child, even while sacrificing in other areas is lucky.

When I had my oldest, I had just turned 18. Without going into too much personal detail the father left when I was 5 months pregnant. And then he came back. And then left. And came back. And we played this toxic game for almost 3 years. In the end I left him for good and it was several more years before he paid child support and became a real father to our son. As a side note, we have a fantastic relationship now. But then, I had no choice but to work. Who would support us? I was a single teen parent. I worked at a minimum wage job for a couple of years, then went to college. I had to move back home to do that and luckily I had my parents home to move to. Not everyone has that. It wasn't easy living at home, and that came with it's own sacrifices - some that I'm still feeling almost a decade later. But I had somewhere to go.

I spent two years going to school full time and working full time so that someday, I could be there for my son. I was up at 6 each morning to bring him to his aunts so I could go to school - would pick him up on my lunch break and drive 45 minutes to bring him to a wonderful home daycare that he was at for almost 5 years. I would pick him up at 10 after work and drive back home and be up till 2 or 3 doing homework. Fridays and Saturdays I had no school or work and those were our days. It was one of the hardest, lowest points in my life. There was no other choice. There was no place to scrimp and save as a teen mom making 6 dollars an hour. Welfare wouldn't even help me. They advised to me drop out of college and work two minimum wage jobs. If I was going to be spending that time away from my son, it wasn't going to be to continue a cycle of poverty, it was going to be to make our lives better.

Several years went by and I had my second child just as I was finishing college. My (now) husband and I worked opposite shifts for two years to avoid daycare. We saw each other for a half hour a day and were barely bringing in 25k combined. Those were also some hard years, though better than when I was a single mom balancing it all on my own.

Now, another several years later he is a full time student and I am working full time. One of us is always home (though our kids are school age so it is easier now), and we get by on less than 25k a year still. And that's with me, the mom, working full time. I hate every single second of it.

Everyone, every parent, in some way makes sacrifices. And if your sacrifice is simply money then yes, I would consider you lucky. Some parents sacrifice money, time and their own emotional well being. Some parents truly have nothing left to sacrifice.

We are already cooking from scratch, growing food, preserving food, shopping thrift stores, pinching pennies.

I do 100% understand where her heart is and where her post came from. And I don't disagree (fully) with it. But it is hurtful (to parents like me) to assume that if a parent really wanted to be home, they'd dig a little deeper or try a littler harder. That somehow those parents just don't want it bad enough. As bad as she did. Some of us are already scraping bottom.

And I do count us among the lucky ones. We're in school and/or at work, we're surviving on pennies but we've made it work. But not always, and just barely. So even though we make our sacrifices (like me working so my husband can finish school and we don't have to use daycare) we are still lucky, because we can make those sacrifices. We have those options. We have extended family and their support. We're a two parent household. I know all too well that not everyone has that. That some parents really have no other choice.

Her post was meant to be encouraging. And it was, to parents struggling similarly. And it's not her words that make me defensive, really. It's me. It's my natural defenses I guess, after struggling so hard for so long - to have their be the insinuation that it just wasn't enough. It is hurtful and insulting to me and to parents like me. Like my struggles aren't quite enough or we just aren't trying hard enough because I'm not doing what I really want to do (which is of course, stay home).

I know it's an old argument. One that will never go away. Like politics and welfare and abortion. There are always going to be different sides. We'll never all agree.

But this isn't the first time and it won't be the last time that I get the sense that motherhood is a competition. Not necessarily from this woman's post alone. But from the comments on the post and also what I've seen in the last few years in mommy groups online.

Mothers are always finding ways to tear each other down, to show how their choices or their ways are superior. And some ways are superior, and some are better - they just are. I can't and won't deny that. But I see so much judgment in mommy topics. So many pointing fingers and smug smiles. Even after all these years of seeing it, it still saddens me I guess.


The Yellow Door Paperie said...

Happened upon your blog through tumblr. And this is so true.

I am a full time working mom. We were married but got pregnant in college. Got that all paid off (the baby part not the college part) and then I had my son, we are now working full time to pay back the 8 months of time I had to take off. A whole group of my girlfriends stay home. And I want to. one of them recently said, "you could stay home if you just buckled down and did it."

No, actually, I couldn't. We already make enough sacrifices-- making from scratch, growing our own food, going without, scrimping and saving. Just to make it. To pay off those 8 months. And keep our house.

I'm there with you.

Sparkless said...

I agree, we need to help each other out and not tear down. You should be patting yourself on the back for working so hard and not worrying about what other people say. You do what you feel is best for your family and for that you should feel good.
I'm going to give you a "great job, well done." You deserve it!

gardenofsimple said...

Hi there yellow door! Thanks for stopping by! It's nice to hear from someone in the same boat. Sometimes I feel alone since I fall neither on the SAHM side or the Working Mom side. I am a working mom, but at heart I'm at home. It's hard to be everything to everyone, and it's discouraging to hear that well, you're just not doing enough when your fingers are raw from digging down so much, you know?

gardenofsimple said...

Sparkless - thanks :D

kiki said...

God I love you for writing this. So much.

The other implication is that wanting it badly enough is BETTER. Wanting to stay at home, realizing how important it is, sacrificing for your children's best interest (it's obviously always in a child's best interest for the mother to stay at home)is a superior decision. And if you didn't choose to make those sacrifices for your family, if you made different choices, different sacrifices, then you don't care as much about your children.

I didn't read her blog, but I'm willing to be it's all there - right between the lines ;)

I think I have the heart and values of a stay-at-home-mom, so like you I will probably always feel a little hurt and defensive by people who say that anyone can do it if they want it badly enough (again, code for: if they have good enough values and high enough standards.)

My values are what they are and I have my reasons for going to work - which I could explain in detail, but I won't. I guess I do think it would be "better" if I could stay at home - but only if I could stay at home on the terms that I think would be best for my family - which would mean having a spouse who makes more than twice what he does. I don't think it would be "better" for me to stay at home under our circumstances - I think it would be worse and the sacrifices we would have to make for that to be possible would more detrimental to how I want my child raised than they currently are.

So yes, we all make choices. Our choices are based on our values. If someone else makes different choices, than they must have different values and that's okay.

You obviously value education and independence. And you are raising your children with living examples of those values.

Fucking right on. Go Crystal!

gardenofsimple said...

oh my goodness kiki, I've missed your words so much! I can't even begin to explain what your posts mean to me. Thank you.

Barefoot Goddess said...

I know that you'd do whatever your kids need you to do. Right now, they need you to work so they can have the wonderful life you provide for them. THAT's what makes a good mom, not whether or not she stays home with them. Staying home is not for everyone-I think the post you write about is making an error in assuming that every mom wants to stay home. In fact, the opposite is true for some moms. Every mom knows what's best for her family and also what her limits are.

What's important is that your kids know that you care about them enough to do what it takes; and that you maximize the time you do have with them.

You're doing what your family needs you to do right now, and that, to me, is the best thing a mother can do.

Earth Mama said...

I was a single mom with my oldest too. I was a bus driver and could take her with me on the school bus. I went to college too, and left my daughter with a friend. Motherhood is a hard "balance". I feel like when you become a mother you see the world differently. You are no longer #1. However, a lot of people struggle with that, coming to grips with the new reality in their own time, and in some cases, never. It is difficult to hear others take for granted things that are dear to our hearts. I try to remind myself, that everyone is on their own path, and whenever I feel a pang, I look to my own life and tell what I am grateful for in my life.


Sara said...

What can I say? You are so eloquent. The post is right on. Mommyhood is a competition. At least in every female relationship I can think of currently, there is that judgement. I've done things that my sisters disagree with, I've done things my SILs disagree with, I've done things that have lost me girlfriends...All mommy things. Ya can't win for losing.

At the end of the day though, I know I'm doing the best I can. You are too. Keep trucking, keep living. You are an inspiration.

gardenofsimple said...

aw :sniffles: I love you guys :D

Valkyrie said...

You are all so right! I love you all. *group hug*

I got so sick of the "mommy debates" because I could see that it was definitely one big competition about who is the best mother. I finally just gave up and concede right from the start--I'm a bad mom.

This blog makes me cringe a little because when I was in my 20s I had that same attitude--that if you were *willing* to just make some sacrifices, a parent could stay home. It didn't have to be me. I was okay with it being my husband. We struggled and pinched penneis and never went out, didn't have cable, car payments, etc etc and we still couldn't make it. After over a year, we had accumulated a lot of debt. Yay.

Then we did the opposite shift thing. I worked days and he worked evenings. And we never saw each other, and we lost touch with each other, and I fell out of love with him. So our son never went to daycare, but at what cost?

You are really lucky to have your family. My honest thought on this matter is that that is the way it is *meant* to be. We are not supposed to live in these little nuclear families. People don't seem to realize that until relatively recently, we always had the support of extended family to help raise our children. Do you really think that those fulltime moms of the past spent every minute of their day with their children, teaching them Baby Einstein and catering to their every need? NO.

The state of the SAHM, historically, has changed dramatically. There were two types of SAHMs--the upper class who did not spend time with their children, but put them in the care of a nanny (and often a wet nurse) instead of caring for their children themselves. And the poor women who also did not spend their time with their babies because they were too busy trying to survive and working their asses off.

WTF is with this SAH mentality anyway? It is a luxury. It is not only a luxury, it is a completely new way of doing things. It's this new child centered philosophy. That did not used to exist. I think the whole thing is unrealistic.

Whoa, I'm blogging on your blog. I have more to say but now I'm embarrassed. :-)

Valkyrie said...

Also full of typos...

gardenofsimple said...

haha - blog away! I love your posts and thoughts!