Me? Stay Home??
One of the great surprises of my life was that I loved being at home, raising our family. As I’ve mentioned before, I was very career driven and on top of that, never really a “kid person.” I loved our kids, our friends’ kids, and many of our kids’ friends, but I went into finance—not education—for a reason. In all honesty, I was involved in our kids’ schools because I believed that that was what a responsible parent did, not because I thought it would be a fun thing to do. I thrived in a trading room atmosphere–my personality was intense, I lacked patience, and I yelled and used colorful language when stressed. Plus, at home, I really liked order and tidiness–not sure that that would happen with three busy kids, ages 11, 8, and 7.
Even when I was working full time, I had spent time in the kids’ classes. I loved bringing in food for class parties and could behave long enough for lunchroom duty a few times a year—but did I have the patience for 20+ children for an hour a week? The bets were on–
To my surprise, I came to genuinely like a lot of those kids and eventually looked forward to heading up the school every week. I learned a lot from them, looking at the world through elementary-school eyes.
A former colleague and I would get together for lunch. She was in her mid-30s and the topic of staying at home to raise kids seemed to pop up, quite often. Whenever I said how much I had enjoyed it, she would respond, “I wish that you would talk with my friends, because a lot of them have decided to stay home and they hate it.”
First, some context. There was a reason that I stayed home when I did. Our oldest child was approaching middle school, and Mike and I had always believed that bigger kids meant the potential for bigger issues. Plus, our nanny was moving on. A lot of moving parts came together—and the message from above seemed to be that it was time to start a new phase in life.
Nosy Mom vs Fun Valerie
You should also know that my decision to stay home wasn’t exactly met with a round of applause by our kids. Admittedly, my feelings were a little hurt, but it underscored our belief that the kids had really enjoyed the people who had cared for them (or maybe, that they were on to my daytime personality…). Our oldest, Lael, was going into the sixth grade and was leery that I would try to be a little too involved in her life. Scott, our eight-year old middle child, thought that I may not be as much fun as the 22-year old, vibrant young woman that we had interviewed—she loved to roller blade and I had broken my wrist trying to ice skate with them, several years earlier. Cautious and klutzy Mom? No thanks—he wanted fun Valerie. I was still safe with our youngest, Brett. He was six and pleased enough with the change—but it was clear that I needed to do some image rebuilding.
So here I went into this new world as playful, domestic Maggie. Yeah—they’d all believe that one.
Surprising All of Us
I never did become playful Maggie, though I did lighten up a bit despite what all three kids would tell you when they became teenagers. There seemed to be a lot of parents who wanted to be their kids’ friends, and I never went that route. I’m sure that at times, they (our kids and probably some of the parents) would’ve been happy to send me back to that trading room.
What did surprise all of us is how much I came to love that life.
With that as background, here’s the condensed version of what I would tell my colleague’s friends:
- There’s nothing more important than making sure that you’ve made your best effort with raising your kids, and this was the way that I made my best effort. I didn’t always make the right decisions, but I always knew that I put everything I had into giving our kids the best chances in life that I could. Thankfully, you get a lot of chances to do a good job:). The bottom line—you brought them into this world, they didn’t ask to come here. When you’re exhausted–and you will be—find the perseverance within you to do your very best for them. Get creative—you’ll figure out how to do it.
- Having more time in our kids’ worlds benefited our whole family. There was more time to anticipate, plan, and do. As a result, we were better organized and had less of a need to do things on the run. For me, as a parent—whether that was at home, after school and carpooling, or in the classroom—it let me consistently see different sides of our kids’ personalities in their daily venues. Sometimes, the person that your child is at home differs from the one that shows up to school, every day. Having more time in the schools gave me a broader perspective, letting me get to know the teachers, the administration, and the other kids better. I had a firsthand understanding of who was doing what to whom, and of our kids’ daytime worlds.
- I got to spend more time with the grandparents. Whether it was driving to CT from Boston to pick them up (and drive them home) and our chats in the car, spending time at either of our homes, doing errands with or for them, or grabbing a quick lunch with them, I will always treasure those days. A lot of times, the grandparents seemed younger after their visits with our family, despite the fact that our world must have seemed like chaos when compared to theirs. Whether it was the grandparents’ time with just the kids, or all of us together, it was a blessing to have that additional time with them. The grandparents had all passed by the time I went back to work.
- I developed hobbies. I had never had time to write, cook, or spend much time creating environment, all of which I love to do now.
- I reinvented myself and built a writing business. It kept me in touch with my industry, provided a flexible schedule and attractive income, and laid the groundwork for a new profession when I went back to work, full time.
Net net, my life was richer. That is not to say that it is the route for everybody and that stay-at-home parents are better, more devoted parents—it’s ridiculous to think that. Many parents that work full time are more involved with and know their kids better than many stay-at-home parents. For me, though, it was a good avenue to get to know our kids and their worlds better, and to develop a side of myself that none of us thought existed.
Until next time,