This is the first summer I’m staying home completely with June and Katie. Every previous summer since June’s birth, I’ve always managed to prioritize work over spending all day as a mom. A big part of this is because I had to — work is work. The bills keep coming. I get a lot of satisfaction out of writing books and developing projects.
But the other part of it was that I wasn’t sure I had it in me to be a full-time mom. Is that bad to admit that? I was always afraid of losing my patience, running out of stuff to do, hanging around the house all day with nothing much going on with the omnipresent hum of Dora The Explorer in the background. I’m a very structured person and don’t really do well with unadulterated hang time, and I assumed that’s what being a full time mom would entail, at least some of the time.
Having a second child really changed things for me. Suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks: Of course I want to stay home and be a full-time mom! DUH! Who wouldn’t want to stay home at least for a little while with their kids while they’re still very young? My kids are only going to think I’m the coolest person in the room for a very small sliver of time and I have to take advantage of this opportunity. Because in four, five, six, seven years? I’m going to be perceived as the biggest tool on the block. June is going to want very little to do with me….except maybe fold her laundry, fetch her snacks and buy her cute sneakers so I gotta cement myself as Cool Mom while I can.
I’m half kidding here but it is true: It’s such a short amount of time kids want to be with their parents. And I — being the quasi employed professional that I am — have the luxury to spend time with my children.
I’m one of those women who doesn’t believe in giving women guilt about their choices. If a woman has to work or wants to work or — and lets just say it — really doesn’t have it in her to spend all day every day as a full time mom, fine, she should never think she has to apologize for her choices (you don’t see men crying into their lunch boxes about this stuff so why should women? Equality for all, right?). My motto is, you do what you have to do to get by and it doesn’t help the conversation to have regrets about your chosen pursuit, whether you stay home or keep working. I like to think that we’ve transcended beyond the so-called “Mommy Wars,” but I suppose I’m just hopelessly naive. But something’s gotta give either way: If you work, you miss time with your kids. If you stay home, you miss out on work. Or you do like the majority of American parents and you do both — work and parent. But the thing I’ve found with being a working parent is that it’s actually kind of stressful to straddle both worlds. Because you’re constantly having to shift gears, going from “kid time,” which is slow and meandering and can sometimes feel like being trapped in a circus fun house, requiring the patience of a levitating Tibetan monk (and I mean that in the best way possible, ha! ha!) to “work time,” where you’re constantly having to rush, rush, rush, go, go, go, be efficient, say something clever, get to work on time, look professional, wipe the spit up off your tie while pretending you know what’s going on. It’s SO MUCH easier to remain in the one gear instead of having to shift gears a thousand times a day. This is why so many working parents are harried. They never know which gear they’re in.
I fully understand I’m in an enviable position — I GET to stay home with my kids this summer where for so many parents that’s not even an option…that’s a pipe dream. So I’m going to enjoy it. Every last minute of it. Even though I’ll probably lose my patience at least twenty times a day. But that’s parenthood, right?