To work or not to work

I loved staying at home. At first. I was sleeping in until 9 each morning, Holden was on a regular eat-sleep-poop schedule, and Brandon was still taking a nap each day and hadn’t started saying, “leave me alone!” yet. I loved not having anywhere to go or a reason to put on makeup. Not wearing pants with zippers was quite a perk. I didn’t have any of the work stresses that used to consume me. I was never going to go back to work until I absolutely had to.

But then, the funk came. I guess the funk has been here for the last two months or so. That is when Holden became unpredictable and turned from a somewhat vocal baby to a shrieking menace. He screams. A lot. And very loudly. It’s not just noise. He is a danger to himself and others. He pulls hair, grabs noses, scratches faces. He shoves anything and everything in his mouth. He pulls himself up on furniture, Brandon, the stairs. He had been sleeping through the night around two months, but hasn’t since the funk began. He wakes up in the middle of the night screaming and I feed him just so he will go back to bed, even though I know it’s creating a bad habit.

The boys wake up early now (between six and seven every morning. Without fail). Brandon doesn’t nap anymore. I never have a moment of silence. My home used to feel like a haven, but now it is more like a cage. I used to take these boys out nearly every day, but now the stars have to align in order to take Holden anywhere. If he hasn’t eaten full bottles, baby food, pooped and had his nap yet, it ain’t happening. It’s too risky. I don’t talk to anyone except Brandon (and sometimes he gets an earful, believe me). Home is an endless loop of preparing meals, cleaning up after them, scraping poop off of clothes, sweeping up cheerios, changing diapers, giving baths.

When Steve gets home, as much as I’d like to hand the kids to him and book it out of here for a couple minutes of silence, I don’t (usually). Because anyone who has been a stay-at-home mom knows that part of the deal is that you are thankful that your husband works so you can stay home with your kids in the first place. But it all built up a couple mornings ago when I was up before the sun yet again, and Steve was sleeping peacefully. “That’s it! I’m going back to work! I can’t do this anymore!” I believe were my exact words in a fit of rage. I remember when we both worked and Brandon was a baby that our home time we split the responsibilities pretty damn near equally. But as a stay-at-home mom, you don’t have hours. You are on-call all hours. There is no five o’clock quitting time. You work around the clock. Your husband has a “real job” so he sleeps while you unravel as you become more and more sleep deprived and starved for a break from the monotony.

Before my fit of rage, I had thought about returning to work. I told myself I would journal about it and really understand what I thought about it before bringing it up with Steve. But journaling never happened because I’m in a funk. My funks mean less reading and writing, more bitching and feeling sorry for myself. I decided I would talk to him about it more rationally. I thought about all my reasons. I am a selfish person, and that’s a pretty hard attribute to shake. So naturally, I thought of how going back to work would benefit me. I thought about joking around with co-workers again. I thought fondly of having a reason to put on makeup. I thought of all those work pants in my closet that I haven’t fit into in years that should fit me again now. I thought of having money to play with again and what I would buy with it (Fitbit, Joe’s skinny jeans, a new purse). I thought about being thanked and recognized for the work that I do. I thought about having more challenging problems to solve than just stains and lost pacifiers. But what I didn’t think about, of course, was how it would affect the rest of my family.

Then on Friday, we went back to Brandon’s old daycare to pick up a statement. I expected him to be excited to see everyone again. The ladies who used to watch him were overjoyed to see him. But Brandon stood there, unemotional and detatched. I asked him if he wanted to run around with his little buddies, but he just stood by me until a toy caught his eye which he retrieved alone. On the way home, I asked him if he wanted to go back to daycare or to stay home with mommy. “Stay home with mommy,” he answered without even a second’s pause. That’s when I realized what is best for Brandon. Despite all my shortcomings, I know the attention Brandon is getting from me is more than he will get anywhere else. I am homeschooling him without anyone knowing it. He and I can speak to each other like I would an adult.

So when Steve and I did discuss me returning to work, he told me something I needed to hear. He said that I may one day regret the time I spend away from my kids, but I will never regret the time I spend with them. He said that the boys will be in school one day not so far from this one. This is the only time I’ll have this opportunity to be their world. And money – we have our whole lives ahead of us to make and save and spend money.

So today, when I spoke to Brandon, I told him how there are two major currencies: time and money. I told him how many people focus only on earning money by working with all of their time, but a person who is happy will find a good balance and know how to spend both wisely. I already regret those weekend days when I went into that horrible place I used to work at when Brandon was just a baby. I went in there and worked my ass off all alone when I had a baby at home who was learning how to walk and talk. I’m not going to make that same mistake with Holden. It’s 12:30 now and Holden just woke up. I must go. I’m on-call tonight.

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