This is absolutely a touchy subject; to be a stay at home mom or not. Go-to-work-moms, feel judged for leaving their kids with strangers — stay at home moms feel judged for not having a career. I should say, as a GTWM, I am not judging SAHM’s for not having a career. Any negativity you might feel coming off of me is pure jealousy. I do apologize, it’s irrational and involuntary.
I would have loved to be a SAHM, and I sobbed when I had to return to work and drop my baby off the first time. Whether or not to return to work was about as much of a choice for me as whether or not to pay our bills or buy groceries. My husband and I earn about the same salary, and cutting our income by 50% was never really an option. Yes, we could have economized; we could eat bulk rice and dried beans, and give up the luxury of fueling one of our paid-for 8 year old cars. But I had lived on the razor’s edge of bankruptcy before, and that was without a small, cute mouth to feed. Plus, the economy was in the toilet when our kiddo was born, and Jeff’s job was no more guaranteed than mine.
Sense the defensiveness? Totally a touchy subject. There are studies that talk about the benefits of having a parent at home and there are studies that talk about how going to daycare is not harmful in any way to a child. Here’s the thing, though: The benefits of either choice are entirely individual and can’t be made or judged by anyone. Why? Because maybe there is evidence to suggest that the best place for a kid is home with mom, but there is not yet any evidence to suggest that the best place for a kid is home with me (full time). I’m not entirely sure I’m a good influence on small children. And the intimate knowledge of my own short-comings truly helps me make peace with my “decision” to go back to work. That and my ability to purchase and serve noncatfood to my child for dinner (whether or not he eats it).
My son is happy, articulate, well mannered (for a toddler) and imaginative. I love his teachers and his daycare. I always imagine a pioneer woman with a toddler; yeah, she was home with the kid, but she was also grinding wheat and baking bread and weaving clothes and stuff. That kid was not looking at flash cards all day and taking educational trips to the local art museum. And maybe she had to foist her kiddo off to a neighbor for a while so she could go out to the field and thresh or some other old-timey farm thing. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I think that’s true. I just happen to have to pay for my village.