I'm creeping towards the halfway point of my break from the rat race! I'm on a leave of absence from teaching for two years, and the first school year is nearly 75% complete. This seems like enough time to share some reflections. I've actually been off work since about a week before I delivered. My last day of work was May 15, 2018, so it's been nearly a year of being a lady who lunches!
The number one comment/question I get asked is "How do you go so many places?". I'll approach it from two directions. The first being; how do we do it in terms of energy?
Look, I get it. There are kids out there who will sit quietly and color, play with their toys, even watch tv. But these kids are not my kids. My kids are active. Of course, all small children are active and high energy. But my kids don't sit and watch tv. You know how people talk about giving their kids screen time limits? I wish they would watch enough that I would actually have to cut them off at some point.
|They are feral.|
I tried to get them to watch a ten minute show while I dealt with the mile high pile of dishes in the sink the other day. Ten. Minutes. I got about one dish washed before all the cushions were on the floor and they boys were deep into building a fort. Meanwhile, Remi was unloading the dishwasher faster than I could load it. And hey, I'm all for fort building! But the problem is, it inevitably turns into an argument over a pillow, or a blanket, or a speck of dust. Then they want to leap from the highest point in the room onto the fort. And my patience for arguing over literal trash and injuries sustained because they insist on parkour-ing across the freaking room instead of just walking is shot by 8am.
I would really prefer to take them some place like a playground designed for jumping, running, and flinging themselves from great heights where they can get all their psycho energy out and as a bonus, I can chit chat with an adult as long as we don't mind constant "mommy look at me!" interruptions.
|Or a 20 foot rock wall to climb. Whatever.|
The second: cost! How do we afford all these activities, especially on one income?
Basically - we don't! We spend very little on activities. Here's how:
- Memberships. We have very generous grandparents and aunts/uncles who always want to get birthday gifts for the kids. We always ask for memberships. A science center or zoo membership for the full year gets used so much more than any toy!
|Rocking the cutest outfit ever at the Science Center|
- Friends. At the beginning of the school year, I met some of my people that I now hang out with near daily and have saved me from a complete mental breakdown more than once and made this SAHM life a billion times more fun. We all have kids around the same age and made a little facebook group (little...like I think ten of us). We figured out who had memberships to what and plan activities where whoever has the memberships gets everyone else in free.
- Free. There are so many free activities. Libraries, nature centers, free forest school hikes, the list goes on. I'm lucky we live in a big urban area where there are just tons of free kid activities available.
- Cheap. There are also tons of deals and ways to save. We keep an eye out for groupons. Museums and nature centers often have activities for very little. For example, today we went to the Baltimore Museum of Industry for "Wee Workers" where the kids learned about safety with books, crafts, and a tour of the museum. $5/family.
- Packing lunches. It's a pain, but on the bright side I do the inevitable work in the morning before my coffee wears off (ok let's get real....before my first coffee wears off since I double down after lunch). It's so tempting to just grab something while we are out but it also adds up like crazy so we pack lunches the majority of the time. Exceptions are Chick Fil A, because playplace, and because it's Chick Fil A.
In all honestly if I actually had to stay home with the kids I would lose my mind. Even two days in a row of that sounds awful. We meet up with friends almost every day for playdates and it's a glorious existence.
Of course, like anything, there are pros and cons.
- It eliminates the constant feeling of "jack of all trades, master of none". Get the kids up, rush to work, try to be hyper efficient at work so I can leave as soon as possible, rush to get the kids, playdinnerbathbedtime, try to prep everything for the next day, attempt to hang out with my husband or have a little me time, rush to bed, rinse, repeat. It's exhausting.
- Mornings are one billion times better. It's so freaking stressful trying to get two small children out the door for daycare and not be late to work, I can't even imagine 3. If I wanted to do anything besides attempt to look not homeless and get the kids in the car (for example, work out, put dinner in the crock pot, clean last nights dishes, etc) I had to be up by 5am.
- There's no need for a panic attack when a kid gets sick. You just...take care of that kid. There's no frantic comparing calendars, trying to figure out who's taking off, attempting to comfort the kid while emailing coworkers where your emergency sub plans are, intense guilt...none of that.
- When the kids or baby or all 3 have a rough night, it's not as bad. Sure, having sleep interrupted still sucks, but it doesn't cause that soul wrenching fear of "how am I going to do my job well when I'm so exhausted?".
One time I thought babies slept like this. All night. During naps.
Then I became a parent and learned how babies really sleep.
- It's just more fun. Sorry not sorry, it's called "work" and you get a paycheck for a reason. The phrase TGIF exists for a reason. Being home, getting to do what you want to do when you want to do it is amazing.
- What I originally thought was the biggest pro - NO PUMPING. Seriously my pump has dust on it. Breastfeeding is indescribably easier when you just...breastfeed as needed. Who knew? Oh right, every other industrialized country that offers actual maternity leave knew.
- The actual number one pro - I can do SO much more for Royce without having to schedule around a full time job. It sucks but having a child with special needs and two working parents is a disadvantage. Right now he is in an hour a week of private speech at one of the top children's hospitals, and he simply would not have this opportunity if I were working. It's at 9am on Thursdays. When he turns 3, he will begin a public preschool program 2 afternoons a week. The parent has to remain in the building for students to attend (and provide transportation). Another opportunity he wouldn't have with two working parents. Eric and I have tossed around the idea of me going back next year (instead of in 2020) and while we are both open to it, we just feel we can't seriously consider it because it would eliminate so many opportunities for Royce at a young age when it's so crucial to intervene.
- Yeah that whole "jack of all trades master of none" thing...well I certainly haven't become a "master" on the other hand. While I wish I could say otherwise, the fact is I have less patience for the kids being with them all day every day. I can't truly compare I guess since I've never been working with all three kids, but I'm pretty sure it's true. It's weird, since at my job I also need a ton of patience dealing with sixth graders, but it's different struggles, different children, and I think doing anything all the time will burn a person out more than mixing it up.
- I'm getting dumber. Yeah. While I sure as hell don't miss observations, standardized tests, and the like, and maybe "miss" is a strong word but - I like having professional challenges in my life.
- When we were both working full time, I could say without hesitation there was no "primary parent". Now, we would both agree I'm the primary parent. I have all the mental load of juggling doctors appointments, keeping the kids in clothes that fit, potty training, nap schedules, and all Royce's therapies and IEP stuff. And I'm not complaining! That's the beauty of a stay at home parent. No one has to miss work for all that. But it has changed the dynamic, and we both agree we liked things the way they were before.
- I thought the house would be cleaner. The daily struggle of when the kids nap, do I rest/chill/waste my life on instagram, or clean? I'm writing this blog post now so, I bet you can see where I end up 90% of the time.
- Money. The most obvious. Not working = less money. While I'm clearly not chomping at the bit for the 2020-2021 school year when I'll be back, I do look forward to having two incomes again. And also, can we all agree to just stop saying "well with 3 kids in daycare it's not even worth it for the mother to work". Daycare benefits both parents, so it should be seen as a percentage of the total income, not just the mother's. A woman with children can work even if she doesn't make more than the cost of daycare. Daycare is a few years. A career is forever (and I'm very thankful mine offers the leave of absence option because I have no intention of giving it up). It's not the 50s. *steps off soapbox*
The end! Thoughts? Agree? Disagree?