I come from a long line of hard-working women. My grandmother was a maid for most of her life and often raised other people’s children while hers took care of each other. My own mother, a single mother of three, would often work one to two jobs at a time to help provide for my brothers and I. We were often at home day-cares or had babysitters who were not fit to watch fish let alone children. There were many questionable things that took place under the care of others. I am not sure she was ever aware of it as our caretakers were experts at putting on a great face when mom returned. I understand they were the best she could afford and I don’t harbor any resentments towards her. Having 2-3 children in child-care even during this time can cost the equivalent of a mortgage.
When I had my first child (Rigitty) I was nineteen years old. I had been living on my own for a few years and had a stable job at a credit union that I’d been at since the age of sixteen. I worked until my due date and patiently awaited for the arrival of my little girl. She came a week later and I instantly began to dread returning to work. I had a six-week maternity leave and had already used one week waiting for labor. I interviewed several childcare providers and settled on one that was close to home and financially suitable. I liked the home setting and per her policy knew she would only take a minimum amount of children at a time. In spite of my arrangements the closer it came for my return to work the more I grew anxious. This feeling is common in many mothers who have to contemplate leaving their little ones for the first time, trusting someone else to take care of their babies and children as best as they would. Although I was in good company it did not help ease my concerns and the first day I dropped her off I sat in the parking lot at work and cried. Every day it grew easier to drop her off (on the surface) and we began to settle into a routine.
As the years came and went there were several changes; career, caretaker and relocations. One thing, however, never changed; the way my heart ached as I dropped Rigitty off into the care of another.
With Rigitty it wasn’t just about having her caretakers witness a lot of her “firsts”, (although those stung). It wasn’t just the cost of quality daycare, having to shuffle her around or miss work if she was sick, trying to negotiate time off to help out in class, seeing her reflect the behavior of others that influenced her (negatively and positively) because she was around them more than me (although those hurt). There was no external pressure. No one told me I was a bad mother for having my child in daycare, in fact many people understood. It was me, my heart wanted to be home.
When Rigitty was eight years old I met a man who I knew I was going to marry (I hadn’t dated after her father and I separated and had excepted the idea of it just being Rigitty and I). As we started to become serious the usual discussion of how many more children, if any, did I want to have. I gave him a range but let him know up front where I stood with having any more children. I told him that I didn’t want to have anymore children just to leave them in the care of another. It was too hard and that I fought guilt even still. I also wanted to maintain a home. I wanted it to be a haven for my husband, a place of refuge and I wanted to be his helpmate.
This desire was contrary to the life I had been living. I was very ambitious; attended and finished college, advanced in my field, and was very involved in my church. I didn’t grow up with a stay at home mother nor did I have any peers or friends who were at home with their children. I was going against the grain and according to Erica Jung I was setting feminism back a few years to even desire this. I had no idea what it meant to be home full-time, in fact, you will learn that I often questioned if I was suited to take care of my children all day, every day. Maybe someone else was better equipped than I, I sometimes wondered.
My decision to stay home is not superior to any woman who chooses to work outside of the home. It is what is best for my family and it is where I find the most peace. I do not know your situation, why you choose to do what you do. I honestly believe that the majority of women who are raising families believe they are doing what is right in their hearts for their family.
Through these memoirs I will share with you the good, the bad, and the ugly; as I struggled with “losing my identity” after leaving the workforce, the fear of depending on my husband to provide (previously having to provide for myself and my oldest daughter for years), facing the loneliness of my friends being at work and trying to manage running a household and maintain a marriage when you are feeling all “touched out” by the end of the day. I believe God put the desire in my heart and if He did He will supply all of my needs to help to me embrace this season in my life.