Are you a working parent or a stay-at-home parent?
Over the years Mr. Ramirez and I have revisited my being a stay-at-home mom and whether or not it was a good idea. Yesterday we rehashed those reasons again with a new perspective since both girls are grown and I wanted to share those thoughts with you.
When Chelsey was born I had been working for several years. I began breastfeeding her at birth with assurance from my employer, that will remain nameless, that I could continue when I returned. My boss said I could express milk and freeze it at work; the whole plan was foolproof – till I went back. Promises evaporated and pretty soon the milk dried up too. I worked a few more months and began having babysitter problems; she and her husband fought and it left Chelsey very jumpy so I switched to a woman who was highly recommended by several parents. She was a very caring sort and was very family oriented. Better yet, Chelsey was growing up and enjoyed being there.
In 1983 the California McMartin preschool scandal broke with accusations of sexual and Satanic ritual abuse of many children. Mr. Ramirez and I looked at each other and then to Chelsey and the decision was made immediately without any argument that I stay home. Nobody, but nobody could care for our daughter like me.
Sure it would have been nice to have a little more money in our pockets but with that decision there would have been more expenses. For the time I did work, the small amount of money I did make simply did not compare to the peace of mind we got when I left the public job.
Being a 24-hour Mom required changing gears but we managed. The immediate benefits were less stress and preparation to go to the sitter every day: No diaper bags, no baby food jars and snacks, no clothing. The bag was just as much work when we got home after working all day: Unpacking, inventorying and refilling. All this had taken time which we could now devote to other things: reading, walking, errands, playing and shopping for better meals.
Mr. Ramirez appreciated my presence in our home with meals that were not rushed or whipped together just to fill our tummies. I could sit and watch a TV show with him rather than jumping up to do other chores in preparation for the next day. He noticed and appreciated that we were all more relaxed and had more ‘quality time’ as was the trendy wording at the time.
At one point when Chelsey and Katie were four and seven I felt I needed to get out of the house so I went to work at a discount store Saturdays and Sundays. I worked through the holiday season that confirmed for me that stopping Christmas in our home was the right decision. The following year I requested off one week to visit my mother out of state and one of the personnel supervisors gave permission, but forgot to inform the other. When the other supervisor called me at my mother’s home to yell at me and threaten my employment I could not stop laughing which only made her angrier. Needless to say, I had gotten my fill of working with ‘the public,’ especially with the brutal Christmas season and the experience with the personnel supervisor – I was ready to be just a mom again.
As Chelsey and then Katie were growing up I appreciated being at home more. We never allowed our girls to ‘hang out’ in the neighborhood but other kids were always welcome here. We made trips to the library at least once every week and when they needed to shop or needed help I was right there for them. I was home to greet them when they came home from school, needed help on homework or to talk.
Mur, my grandmother, once told me that she was very proud of me because where ever you saw me, my daughters were right there. Mur telling me that made me feel pretty darn good about my efforts to be an active mother. Being there to reinforce our family values, I feel, was part of the reason our kids did not get into much trouble. I was also very careful with my daughters because I had been sexually abused by male relatives and friends of my father. I did not want my daughters to experience that or to have to deal with the emotional and social fallout that occurs afterward.
On the other hand, things might have been very different if my parents or I had shelled out a large amount of money on an education. I would have felt obligated to keep working until we had gotten our money’s worth. I might have put Chelsey and Katie into a daycare setting that I felt would take care of them. Hearing negative TV news reports I would probably wince but I would have probably continued working no matter what.
Over the years I have known hundreds of single parents – mothers and fathers – and truly feel anguish for their situations because they have no choice, there is no option, they must work to support their children. I wonder if I would have had the stamina to be both mother and father if the need arose. Somehow I think I would because children would need me to.
Thinking of single parents, I also tip my hat to parents whose partners are uninvolved and leave all parenting duties to the other parent. In a way, they are also bearing the weight of a single parent. Those I have known say that it is just as difficult as if the partner were not there at all.
We judge no one for their personal choice – we hand out no guilt; this is not a right or wrong decision and each parent makes the best decision for their own family. If anything, this is the place to dump any guilt you feel you carry for your choice to work at home or at a public job – with or without pay.
There is no wrong choice.