Thursday, August 12, 2010

Stay at home parenthood hindsight

Some friends/acquaintances of mine may be embarking on stay at home parenthood.  I have some thoughts about this endeavor.  Honestly, I think my thoughts are more about parenthood in general.

Live and learn, right?  These are some things I wish I had known before having kids.  These are some conversations I wish I had had before having one parent (not me) stay home with our kids.  Yet I don't know that anyone could have told me this, experience is really the best education, right?

I appreciate (greatly) the time my husband spent with our kids while I worked outside the home.  I think it was the right decision for our family.   

Many people make different decisions and that's okay. 

I really appreciated this guardian article about working moms - basically showing that factors for success in kids have much more to do with the stability of their parents and financial stability.  Whether or not both parent(s) work is not as high as a factor.

Before the twins were born, I remember my husband and I talked with a friend who said that nothing changed when they had kids, or that they wanted as little to change as possible. 

Ideally, yes, I thought that's what I wanted.  I didn't want to stop going out to eat occasionally, stop hanging out with friends.  And we haven't stopped those things.  

But we have limited how much we eat out, and how late we stay out hanging out with friends.  Both of those things are actually pretty important for kids.  Kids need to have parents who put them (the kids) first. 

Fortunately, both my husband and I are there. I think staying out until 3 in the morning gets old when you reach your 30s, and I think kids sometimes speed that process along. 

So, the first thing I wish I had known was yes, things change when you have kids.  And that's the way it should be. 

It doesn't mean that a person should no longer have a life outside of their kids (at all).  It just needs to be in moderation.

The second thing is, I wish I had done better about dividing responsibilities for child care and for house care with my husband.  I think this line is very difficult to draw for many couples, and many parents. 

Someone always ends up cleaning the toliets, or paying for someone to clean toliets.  That's just life.

My advice?  Parents or a couple need to work constantly on who is responsible for what, and making things equitable or as equitable as possible.  All the housework, maintenance should not fall on one parent or the other.  I know this sounds obvious, but day to day it can be difficult to navigate.

Third - I wish we had talked more about how to handle the situation when one parent is sick. I can't find my post, but it can be really hard to find a babysitter you trust.  It was really hard to find a babysitter - and I'm still not sure we have a person, during the school year who can watch our kids as "drop in".  That service barely exists - if at all. 

It's not right or appropriate that the stay at home parent simply "work through" the illness.  So figuring out a good mix is important.  This is where extended family and grandparents come in - but if a person doesn't have that, it can be difficult.

Fourth - Pre-school was a great option for our kids.  I am so glad we did parents' day out.  I highly recommend it for any parents who stay home. 

Some people feel that kids are pushed to do too much too early; they lament that preschool has become mandatory.  I do not believe pre-school is mandatory, but it is a great resource for kids and families.  For my kids, it has helped make the adjustment to full day day camp and kindergarten almost seamless. 

Finally, I think these need to be constant conversations between a couple.  Re-visiting, re-evaluating factors in stay at home parenthood.  There are costs involved in both parents' working, in one parent working outside the home - including costs to both parents, to the kids, etc. 

Who cleans the toliets?  Who changes diapers?  Who puts the kids to bed each night?  All of these things can be re-visited and should be re-visited if either parent wants to re-evaluate. 

I've heard feedback from other parents that one parent felt really strongly about the stay at home parent issue.  And that's great.  It still needs to be a mutual decision that can be re-evaluated by the couple.


Freckle Face Girl said...

True communication should be open and constant to keep relationships healthy.

Chandelle said...

I stayed home with our kids by default the first few years. That's what was expected and for a variety of reasons I just fell into it. But I found that being home all the time, being isolated as a young mother without transportation or good support, amplified preexisting mental health issues (OCD and social anxiety, principally) and now I don't consider it healthy for me to stay home with the kids.

So we put them in preschool as soon as they reached the appropriate age - just under 2 for both of them. Our relationship is so much better this way, stronger and more relaxed, and it also makes it easier to divide duties more equitably between my husband and me. As you said, it also eases the transition between preschool and kindergarten. My kids seem to be secure in our relationship, despite our rocky start, and haven't had any anxiety about being in school; they love their teachers and are always excited to have a school day.

Every now and then I feel like a bad parent, especially when someone says something like, "I can't imagine sending my kids away from me so young," or something equally tactful, but then I remember the days when I considered scrubbing the baseboards with a toothbrush more important than playing Go Fish, and I know that for our individual circumstances, this is the best thing for all of us.

You're totally right that it's best to consider specific families rather than blanket statements. It depends as much on the child as it does on the parent, too, because some children do better with a wide variety of personal influences and interaction - that is definitely true for my social butterfly son.

Chandelle said...

Sorry, I should have said the kids went to preschool just under age 3 for both of them, not 2.