My core belief that the "SAH" part of parenting is important and my professional aspirations butt up against each other, too. For example, I really do think that my babies should be with me--like physically close to my body--for the first 12 months of their lives. This has caused no small bit of havoc in my professional life and teaching schedule, but it has also led to a lot of growth opportunities. I am doing some really cool shit with online course development, for example. I don't regret a single meeting I attended with a baby in a sling, despite the impressions I may have made with people at every level in the university. I actually am proud of the impression I made even if it doesn't make me the first in line for a promotion. My children are the opposite of invisible, that's for sure.
So, OK, there's my belief that I need to keep my babies close to me and my amazing sense of accomplishment that Cooper and Dorothy never drank a single bottle because that's how with me they were-- and we breast fed in some pretty cool places, and you know what? IT WAS FINE. Especially because babies under 6 months are NO TROUBLE and so portable and generally cute and quiet additions to meetings and office hours. I had a lot of help to make this happen with my full time job, obvs. Like, for example, a course release Dorothy's first fall to develop an online class (because a baby in a lecture hall strapped to the lecturer is much, much less professional than a baby in a wrap behind a desk). Also a husband who enjoys an academic schedule. And parents who were happy to come to town and watch a 5-month-old in a college classroom down the hall while I led a week of staff meetings last August. (Cooper was born in September, so his juggle was easier-- I just took a semester's leave from teaching and used FMLA time during my August training which turned out to be unnecessary, but WHO KNEW-- he was SUPPOSED to be early, not a week late. I was a grad student when I had Harry and Jack and making carny wages, so I cared a bit less about work and more about them and my writing, and we had an amazing nanny to watch them while I taught 2 mornings a week and then when she moved and they were 2 and 4, they went to a kick-ass preschool 3 days a week.)
I digress. On the one hand, I really do think a daycare model is not best for us, and Ben and I are really committed to taking care of the kids in our home and sending them to part-day preschool and then elementary school. We have both made professional sacrifices for this to happen, but the benefits outweigh the consequences by a million. On the other hand, OH MY GOD IT IS SO HARD BEING HOME WITH EVERYONE AT ONCE ALL BY MYSELF.
I wanted Harry and Jack to have the kind of halcyon summers I had as a kid-- bike rides and unstructured play with each other and neighborhood kids all day except for when we went to the pool. Being BORED and having to figure out how to fill the quiet nap time afternoon hours. Going to library and falling in love with new books to fill the gaps between playtime. Staying outside all day and getting filthy. Being able to explore their neighborhood by themselves as long as they came home and checked in every now and then. So they were the only kids we know not in camps, and they have had the exact kind of fun I really wanted for them. But OH MY GOD IT IS SO HARD BEING HOME WITH EVERYONE AT ONCE ALL BY MYSELF I wish they had a camp or two, KWIM?
The only reason, though, that I am happy spending so much time supervising small kids is that my husband is doing it, too, usually at the same time I am. And the way we divide stuff, I usually do more housework and he usually does more childcare because he is really good at working with the kids in the room, and I SUCK at it. In the school year, we divide our work time evenly (2.5 hours a piece) but for the most part, we are both home when the big kids get home or shortly thereafter. And during the day, the big kids ARE NOT HOME, which makes everything so much easier to juggle. The needs of 2 babies are easy to meet. The needs of 2 big kids are easy to meet. The needs of all 4 at once? GAH. If we have a few hours of all 4 kids between 3 and 6:00? That's so much easier than a whole damn day.
Full disclosure: I have only had 2 of those days all summer. BUT 2 IS ENOUGH.
I told the kids yesterday that even prisoners are allowed to eat and use the bathroom. They did not care.
While I do believe (and I say this as a PhD and a professional myself) that it is valuable for children to be cared for in their homes by their parents, I also AM NOT GOOD AT DOING IT FULL TIME. If Ben had a corporate job and an 8-7 kind of schedule, I would be a SAHM because that's more in line with my core beliefs than another model of care, but I would probably have a nanny and a part-day camp for the children all summer and a Lexapro prescription because? DAMN IT.
The thing is I know lots of women and men who stay home with their small children and like it and are good at it, and I am jealous of them because they are better people than I am, more patient for sure.
I feel bad that I do not love the shit out of caring for my children in my home when I also believe that it's what I should be doing. And I feel these things at the same time in equal measure.
So, there you have it. Cognitive dissonance.
Ben went grocery shopping and got crazy shit we never eat like name-brand cereal with GMOs, salami (GOD I LOVE SALAMI and I wish it wasn't going to kill me-- I would eat it all the time), Doritos, and bologna (EW SO GROSS-- Jack loves it). Harry and Jack used all of this forbidden bounty when they packed themselves picnic lunches yesterday.
I have really relaxed with these 3rd and 4th babies. NOT EVEN IN THE CROSSWALK
Lazy Beatrix had to be cajoled the whole way, and she was still the last one to arrive.