Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Staying at Home to Parent Full-Time

Let me cut straight to the chase.  The number one reason I wanted to stay home with Maya was because, after 10 years of marriage and our long struggle to become parents, I couldn't imagine doing all of that, going through all we went through, so that I could be a part-time mom.  I understand that this isn't a choice for some people, but when we looked at our circumstances, it did make financial sense in addition to my desire to give my all to my baby, 24/7.  The idea that I should continue to work outside the home so that I could then turn around and give my entire income to child care providers who would be raising my daughter while I was working, well, it just sounded ludicrous.  I wanted to be a mom.  I did not want a child for the sake of having an accessory.  I'm sorry, but I see too much of that everywhere I turn.  People having kids just because that's what you "do" at a certain age or stage in your life, or worse, in an attempt to make yourself feel grown-up (for teen moms) or to try to coerce a man (the baby's daddy) to stay with you.

Ok, so I actually wanted - and still do - to spend my time with Maya.  I have chosen to put my other interests aside to make room for Maya in my life.  I strongly disagree with the parenting advice that states that we ought to try to make the baby fit into our life, since the baby is the newcomer.  Um, that's like saying to newlyweds that they need to get their spouse to fit into their bachelor/ette life. No, when you get married, your life changes.  It's supposed to.  And when you become a parent, your life changes, and it's supposed to.  If your career is more important than family life, then don't have kids.  It's that simple.  Nowadays, this is a valid choice.  If you're not going to give parenting your all, then don't do it half-ass.  Your child deserves better.

Now, I'm not saying that I am the perfect mother, because that's insane. It's impossible to do everything right all the time.  However, I am saying that my priority at this point in my life is my daughter and not myself.  To that end, I am doing everything in my power, to the best of my abilities, to give her the best start in life.  That's not to say that other parents don't have the same mindset while going about it completely differently.  Again, everyone's circumstances are different.  But for me, staying home full time is how I'm trying to provide the best start in life for my daughter.

For one thing, attachment is the foundation of all of her future relationships.  During her critical infant and toddler years, she needs to develop a secure attachment to her primary caretakers (her dad and me), so that she can learn to trust, and so that she can learn what a healthy relationship is all about.  She cannot have a strong attachment to someone who doesn't spend significant time with her.
Also, we are raising Maya in a multilingual household.  Especially with Polish, it would be very difficult for her to have sufficient exposure to the language if she didn't hear it from me all day long.

Finally, there are various values that Alex and I hope to pass on to her that we know are not shared by the mainstream.  It would be very difficult to find child care providers who were equally passionate about the environment, for a start.  I know of none that would be willing to cloth diaper or practice elimination communication with her.

And so, with Maya's best interest in mind, Alex and I decided for me to stay home full time while we moved across the state line and downsized our townhome to a one bedroom with den apartment.  This way, Alex's commute time is drastically cut, and he is able to spend significant time with Maya every day after work.  He also changed positions so that he wouldn't be required to travel regularly the way he used to.  This choice came at a price.  We are not near our families.  It's a big hassle to go see them, and they rarely if ever come to see us.  Still, with all due respect, it was more important for Maya to have her parents available than to see her extended family on a regular basis.  I wish she'd have been able to get the benefit of both, but our circumstances did not allow that.

After over a year of staying home full time with Maya, the fog of postpartum anxiety finally having lifted, I'm starting to see our arrangement in a more balanced way.  In other words, there are pros and cons.  Just the same, it doesn't change my mind about us having made the best decision for our family.  It does, however, prompt me to consider ways to address the cons so that they don't interfere with the overall pros.  But that's for another time.

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