It’s been a little over a year since we had Baby A, and though I’m not sure if I mentioned, we made the decision as a family that I would stay home with her during the day. However, working is a huge part of my life in that I love my job (I’m a freelance Dog Trainer in Boston). I’m also extroverted and can’t stay cooped up in the house all day without seeing people. It was important to me to get to go to work, see people, and continue teaching. It wasn’t for the money, but it was for my own personal sanity and my own personal identity.
Here are the things that I realized in the course of a year what staying at home really means:
1. Why We Did It:
My husband goes to work, and does so every day – even on the days he might not want to – so I can stay home with our daughter. That means the world to me. If he told me to go to work tomorrow, we’d put the baby in daycare and I would do it – but I would probably , as many women who put their baby in daycare, would have a really hard time with the fact someone else was raising our kid. The fact that we’re sacrificing some money now (and a house, and paying off the car fully) so one of us can be with the baby was very important to all members of the family at the time we made the decision. It’s a decision we stand by and I’m not going to speak for my partner, but I’d personally make it again in a heartbeat.
2. Daycare is too damned expensive.
Even if I kept walking 10 dogs a day, teach 5 classes a week, and brought in 2-3 private clients a week, we still would have been losing money by sending the baby to daycare. That seemed absurd. Yes, I could have charged more, but then I’d be literally working all the time to just pay her daycare bill, it wouldn’t be fair to my clients, I’d be tired, and not able to do the things I do with her. I personally feel, given our situation and our circumstances, that we did the right thing. Either way, my income would have been null and void – so I just stay home with her. Plus, I can pick the dogs I want to hang out with and my clients are super understanding if the baby is sick (or if I fall off the Baby Slide and went to the ER)
3. You are the preferred parent and this is a double-edged sword.
The parent who stays home feeds, cleans, and changes the baby. When the baby can roll over and make expressions, you’re likely the one to see it (meaning, the other parent will maybe miss out on these “firsts”). You will be excited, and your partner might also be excited, but it will be laced with a little sadness that they missed it.
4. That being said, as the preferred parent, it’s hard to watch your baby turn away from your mate.
It’s hard to hand the baby over because you need a break or your partner needs a baby hug – and the baby just WAILS. Soulful mourning and tears – real life tears streaming down their face. You have to pee, and they want your comfort. It’s exhausting to be needed all day long, and it’s crushing to see your partner want to reach out, and only have the baby cry at them. Recognize that this is only a phase (really the worst from 1-4 months old if I recall). Now that she’s a year, she gets excited to see Daddy come home, but at the end of the night, if she can see both of us, she comes to me. I can leave now for the night for work, and she’ll cry, but it’s really short-lived compared to the SADDEST SAD OF ALL TIME that we got before. So that does get better over time.
5. Work, Work, Work
I think the thing that I just realized in the last few weeks is that my husband goes to work, comes home, and he is done working. He still has things he needs to do (make lunch, iron a shirt, etc) but his brain is done with work, or he at least has a different set of responsibilities when he’s home. Essentially, he can change the channel. From her first cry in the morning, I’m working. I’m awoken by the sound of her cry like an alarm clock that won’t snooze. Half asleep, I change her diaper, start her breakfast, and get everyone else fed (all 4 animals, all the people, etc). Sometimes, in the course of this, I have food thrown at me. It’s no different from a normal commute on the Green Line, but still – I haven’t had coffee yet, and I’m “on the clock”. I’m with her all day, keeping her out of outlets, climbing on glass entertainment centers, pulling her away from the cat, cheering her on, having a dance party with bad Pop Music, rolling a ball for her, and give her a nap. We repeat this process while I’m doing laundry, washing dishes, walking dogs, and prepping for classes – but I’m constantly watching her. I have to – because if I don’t, she will find something to do, and it’s usually not good (like opening the dog food bin and feeding herself out of it, which she did yesterday). No matter what baby proofing you do, she will find something to get into that you really didn’t consider. Today, she opened the dishwasher. So I locked it. In retaliation, she started it, even though there were no dishes in it. She will find trouble, which is normal. She’s exploring the world, mapping her own experiences on to her previously blank brain, and learning. But, when your partner comes home, you are still on the clock (see #4) because as the preferred parent, they want you to hold them through their tantrums, and in part, you want to do it because your mate has been away all day working. In part, you also just really want to pass them off. Some nights, you will hand the baby over and essentially say “fuck it – you HAVE to take this baby” but other nights you will hold the screaming, wailing baby and laugh because she needs you. And that is awesome.
6. The Baby Will Get Bigger In A 7 Minute Window:
I was just commenting that our kid grew 205% in a year. She came out at 7lbs, 14oz, and is now 20lbs 8oz. If I did that, my doctor would be horrified, terrified, and all sorts of -ifieds. Two weeks ago, her legs could barely make it over the curve of her stroller. Now her legs dangle all the way down, almost to the foot rest. That’s a significant jump in a couple of weeks. I am not being hyperbolic when I say there are days I put her down for a nap, and she is bigger when I get her a few hours later, or her hair is a little darker than it was earlier in the week, or her face is a little rounder. When people tell you it goes fast, it GOES FAST, often in a day or a week. Here is an example. I don’t often put photos of my kid online, but look at her the day we brought her home – my finger is HUGE compared to any part of her tiny body:
Here she is just after Thanksgiving (she was 3 months old)
She’s as tall as my knees, and none-too-happy about it:
And here she is in July – a few days shy of 11 months old. She’s almost as tall as my legs. Almost.
It goes painfully fast. It’s thrilling, it’s exciting, and there will be no other time like it (every parent says that) but it’s hard, it’s exhausting, you will lose things – keys, glasses on your face, sometimes your mind, certainly your memory, but when she falls asleep on me, or learns something new (which she does daily), I would do it again, absolutely.
8. The Best Time Of The Day Is Drinking A Cold Beer or Scotch, Watching How I Met Your Mother Reruns, And Checking Out For The Night: I love having a beer (because every day is a victory that needs to be celebrated), catching up over really mindless television, and decompressing after a long day. Just like anyone else who goes to work. But, unlike going to work, I can stay in my jammies all day, and sometimes that’s just awesome.