Wednesday, March 9, 2011

100% Mom

Starting in the middle of my pregnancy with my now almost 2 year old, I became a stay at home mom. Prior to this, I had been working as well as sharing the tasks of raising our then-4 year old daughter, Gracie, with my husband Jason.

At the point in time that I quit working to try to maintain a healthy, non-stressed pregnancy, hanging out with Gracie all day wasn't really much of a chore. We mostly just played and had movie night in bed every night together.

Once Kairi was born is when things got different.

I started to say hard, but I had this idea in my head prior to having two kids that raising two kids was going to be incredibly difficult and it really wasn't. Trying at times, yes, but not difficult.

Anyway, things became different once Kairi was born. I was learning to breastfeed in the early months and that took up a great deal of my time even once I had it mastered. Kairi liked having incredibly frequent and incredibly short little bursts of meals rather than what all the books tell you to expect. She was eating for 5 minutes at a time every 30 minutes or so for quite some time, and although that died down quite a bit, even to this day she still nurses frequently.

As we all know, what goes up must come down, and even more fun, what goes in must come out. My days went from being long and leisurely to being just long and full of feedings and diaper changes and not a lot else. Don't get me wrong - I loved the time I had with both of my girls, it was just very different than what I had become accustomed to.

I'd love to say that things had gotten less busy over the course of time, but like before, they only just changed. Gracie began school, but Kairi had become mobile. There were slightly less nursings and diaper changes, but more movement, more child-proofing to do, and along with mobility, Kairi was also acquiring the ability to play more actively, so there was a lot of that too. Things were still incredibly busy around here.

During this whole time, my husband Jason was (and is) working full-time nights at Chili's, leaving much of the parenting duties to me. Not to say that he didn't do anything - he is a wonderful father, I've just been the main parent* by default.

Despite what a great dad Jason is, I can't say that taking the role of the main parent in the household doesn't become taxing, and I can't say that resentments haven't reared their ugly heads from time to time. There have been days where everything seemed to go wrong and when I'd ask for a break, I couldn't get one. Being told that you "don't work" because you don't actually leave the house and get paid money for what you do, and therefore don't deserve a break can be incredibly invalidating.

Admittedly, shoving the kids off on my husband the moment he walks in the door from getting off work probably isn't the very best option when asking for a break, but when you're at your wits end, you'll take a quick 5 minutes of quiet, hiding in the bathroom and gathering your thoughts anywhere you can get it.

As Kairi started getting older, finances started becoming a problem. We were able to survive on Jason's pay alone fairly well while Kairi was a younger baby, but as she began eating solids and growing out of the clothes we had scraped together and stock-piled, my staying at home just wasn't an option anymore. The fact that I had just started back at school, a 20 minute highway commute that equates burning through an extra tank of gas every week, didn't help the money situation either.

So I started back at work last year in August at Chili's, working part-time on weekends as a food-server. (Yes, yes, I'm a waitress, but doesn't "food-server" just have a nicer ring to it?) I know it doesn't sound like much when put like that, as I only work two shifts a week, but I make enough in a month to cover our rent, which is a tremendous help.

I had expected that going back to school and work would somehow tip the scales where it came to the parenting roles, and it did to a degree. I am gone during the day every day but Friday and Jason is in charge of Kairi during that time, while Gracie is in school. But Kairi and Jason both sleep late and really are only alone, awake together for an hour or two a day. Not to say that time hasn't helped the two of them bond though - it's been really good for their relationship, as Kairi has always been incredibly attached to me and not as much to Jason.

The dynamic hasn't really shifted that much though. Jason still works full-time at night, taking him out of the home during the girls' peak awake time and leaving me to remain the main parent. So not only am I going to school and working, but I am still performing the same tasks and activities, and I am still putting in the same amount of time with the kids as I was when I was a stay at home mom.

So when I hear the term, "full time mom," like The Feminist Breeder discusses in her most recent post, I tend to feel the same way that she does:
"Just because I might leave the house for a period of time during the day while my children are carefully tended to by another, that does not somehow turn me into a Part-Time Mother.  No matter where I am, I’m still their mom.  Twenty-four hours a day."
In becoming a student and a working member of my family, I have become no less a mother to my children, and for no less amount of time. Sure, I am gone during the day for six days a week, but if the kids are sick or have doctor's appointments, I am the one to deal with it. I have to sacrifice my activities for the greater need of my children from time to time, just like a mom who stays home full time.

I am still the one who takes the primary parenting role in their lives, and I probably always will be. I take pride in being the mother to my children, a role which I happily fill for every second of every day, whether I am with my children or away.

*I hesitate the use the term, "main parent," here, because I feel like it indicates that my husband is less of a parent than I am, which is not the case at all. To clarify, when I say, "main parent," I am merely referring to myself as the primary care-giver to my children.