Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Should You Work or Stay at Home with Your Children?

A pregnant friend and her daughters came over this morning for conversation and coffee. She currently is a mother or two and teaches full time during the school year. She was looking to me for advice to see if she thought staying at home would be a good fit for her based on my experiences. (She doesn't know many Moms that stay home, or at least not yet) She is trying to gather up as much information about the decision before she needs to make the call, which I can remember doing only two years ago.

Of course, having been in sales, I'm always pointing out the benefits and neglecting the downfalls, especially when I imagine sitting around having great conversations with friends like her on a weekly/daily basis. Sure, why wouldn't I want all of my friends to stay home? Would there be anything better? So after she left I started really thinking. Is staying at home really the best for everyone? Of course not!

My friend pointed out that it would be hard not to be making money from a mental standpoint. I countered with, "well, I do my share around here and my day is not over at 6:oo pm or on the weekends". Then she said, "but I feel like all of my time would be spent cleaning and picking up after the kids". But then in reality, I said, "yes, I thought that way at first too, but then soon realized there is more to life than having a clean house". So we went back and forth about the realities and whether it would really work for her. After she left, I realized one of the most important factors in staying home is having a spouse that supports the idea 100%. This is the big difference I have found in many "stay at home" families. My husband wouldn't want it any other way, at least at this point in our lives. Sure, when they are in school, I will go back to doing something to generate income but until that time comes, I will just love being with my kids as long as possible and hopefully my husband will continue to appreciate the job I do here too.

So before quitting your job, I would work out a list of expectations from the working partner. My mom was expected to have a clean house and a home cooked meal nightly, or at least this is what my mom thought was expected, whether it was her doing or my Dad's. If this is what is expected, then by all means stay at work, it could save your marriage in the long run, especially if you are like myself and almost love the chaos from a messy house. There is no right or wrong answer about staying at home, but there are a few significant issues to work out before leaving your job/career.

Let's not forget the obvious- decide if you can afford it. I'm not talking about "affording" meaning whether you can still have your back yard pool built if you quit your job, I'm talking about paying for food, clothes, shelter. Are you fine with changing your lifestyle to a simple one? Less consuming, more experiencing. If you are going to be arguing about money nonstop once you are down to one income, then maybe no one is gaining anything from being at home.

Does your career really define who you are? I struggled with this one for about a year after I quit my job. I felt I always needed to have people understand that I was once a corporate woman with an "important" career. Now I would say it's the last thing that I offer up about myself. I now know that I need to find meaning in my life since that is what I want to teach my children. It's not how much you make in this lifetime, it's how you spend your time. I know, how cliche, Let's make this world a better place, not buy a better life. Could I teach my kids this if I was trying to make money a priority over them? I do understand the majority of people need two incomes just to survive, but we did not. So if anything, I'm teaching my kids what is important.

There is no right or wrong answer about staying home, but I do think having support from your spouse must be the number one determining factor. I get the feeling if my husband envied or was jealous about my life staying at home, then I would have a completely different experience. It wouldn't be enjoyable at the end of the day to tell him how much fun we had at the zoo or the pool, which is why we are eating spagetti for the third day in a row (sauce from a jar too). So before quitting your job, make a list of everyting that your partner expects- I know if Michael stayed home I would be much more demanding than he is of me, so most likely it wouldn't work out, that is without a load of personality counceling on my part. So good luck making the decision if you are lucky enough to be contemplating a stay at home life with kids.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Living Simply with Children

The Clifton Library in Cincinnati has an amazing children's librarian. Story time is Tuesday at 10:00. Mr. Eric brings his guitar and sings lots of tunes that we know and love, and has also created some of his own songs from the lyrics in books. One of my favorite things about the library is not just story time, but his excellent choice in books.

Usually when we go to the library to pick out books, the girls select them from the shelves below, and I usually take what he has on display since I'm seldom disappointed. One books he had on display a few weeks ago is, "Living Simply with Children" by Marie Sherlock. It's a book, about living simply with children, obviously, but it's so much more than that. I keep marking the pages with ideas that might be obvious to a simply living family, but it's not so obvious to me. One thought that is sticking in my mind is giving your children an earth friendly explanation for things we do. I have my kids now saying, "we don't need a bag for the fruit or Band aids, we can carry them". Yet I haven't given them the reason why. They know not to use a gob of toilet paper, but do they know why? I need to explain in more detail as they are getting older that all of these things are done to save the earth, not to be miserly.

Medium Image

Check out this book, not only is it a good read, but the list of resources is reason to have the book on hand.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Being Bill McCarthy

About eight years ago I met tall, bald, funny, thick Boston accented Bill McCarthy and his wife Deb. I'm not quite sure how I met him, I think it was through a friend that invited me out on a bike ride. Before I knew it, I was riding my newly purchased bike across Iowa a couple of times and then riding my bike through the rocky mountains doing an organized ride called Ride the Rockies. For some reason when Bill was around I found that I was never at home. He was this amazing organizer. The moment I was sitting around trying to figure out what to do with my weekends, Bill would call up and say, "come on over for some Margarita's or a barbecue". As all good things must come to an end, Bill and his wife along with their two kids moved back to Boston. It took me about a year to realize they were gone. When they moved away I was busy being a new mother, possibly suffering from Postpartum Depression, never wanting to do anything.

Without trying to sound mellow dramatic, Bill has been back in Boston now for a few years and it just now seems like I'm finally trying to pick up where Bill left off. Many weekends would come and go and my husband and I would find that we didn't do much of anything. Sure, we would clean the house a little, maybe go out to eat, but very seldom would we do anything fun. The weekends dragged along. What I mean by fun was friend filled Bill McCarthy fun. Bill McCarthy fun also usually included his kids and lots of interesting friends. When he lived here his two boys were young and most of the time they too were in tow. (For our backpacking trip, they did stay home with Deb)

Memorial Day weekend started my quest to have Bill McCarthy fun. We had a last minute BBQ where Michael called all of his friends that knew his old business partner Ed- since Ed was intown for the long weekend, and all through the evening and night friends called up saying "I'm on my way over". We also invited friends that didn't know anyone, and soon they were enjoying the new conversations and unique people. We kept bringing out tables and chairs, the more people arrived. What made this party so fun was that we didn't expect anything. No planning went into it. I did very little cooking and no cleaning. We just ate what people brought, drank what was available and the last people stayed until 2:30am. Even the kids had a great time staying up long past their bedtime and playing with the one guy there that loved to play games with kids. I have to add, my oldest daughter wet her pants twice laughing so hard. She just didn't understand how that could happen since she has been potty trained for 3 years now.

Memorial day we went to two other parties where there were lots of couples with kids and the girls played until we brought them home completely exhausted and dirty from a day outside.

This past weekend we took all three girls camping and invited three other families with kids. It rained for the majority of the trip, but it was still great fun being outside with good friends, old and new. In two weeks, we are all getting together again to try it at another venue.

This weekend we are celebrating my daughter's third birthday with friends and family. We are attending the Gay pride parade with friends- my kids love parades, then heading off to a free concert supporting a local building they are turning into an art center called the Clifton Cultural Arts Center.

When I look back on my life I have always befriended people that make plans for me. I'm not sure I ever let them know how grateful I was for this. But if anything, it's time I started making plans for myself and my friends. I'm not sure what I was afraid of, but I'm finding it's pretty easy, it just takes a little self motivation. I think I lived in fear of people not having fun then blaming me. But really, people are just happy to have someone making plans and being included or at least this is my theory. If we can have 15 people camping in the rain and I'm the only one unhappy (temporarily) about it, then it's a plan that worked. Bill, although not a reader of Stuntmom, thanks for giving me the inspiration to plan friend filled events.