Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Saturday
Jul182009

Brass Tacks

It doesn't matter how fast I drive, my daughter will be asleep when I get home. She will have been sleeping for a long time. I kick off my shoes and creep into her dimly lit bedroom. My heart races for a minute as I watch her tiny tummy rise and fall to the rhythm of her breath. I get up on tiptoe so I can bend over into the crib and nuzzle her soft cheek with my lips. She'll rustle a bit, maybe sigh and turn over. God, I love this girl so much.

It's been a tough week, trying to balance my work gig with being the kind of mother I'd like to be. I have come to one conclusion; I can't do it. It can't be done. Raising a child while working full-time will cause me pain the entire time I attempt to do it. Conclusion two; I'm not enjoying my daughter's childhood because I'm so stressed out. At least she's young enough not to remember her nutso mom rushing around, trying to get ready for work in the morning, dumping her in her bouncy so Mom can spackle enough paint on her tired, puffy eyes and blotchy face that her co-workers won't be frightened when she arrives at work. Conclusion three; this lifestyle must change before she is old enough to remember but before she is so old I have missed out on my sweetheart's babyhood.

To obtain my goal of staying at home with my child/children I have reached another conclusion. We have to learn to live on less. This excites me. I've long been overwhelmed with society's demands that one has to buy into a specific lifestyle to be happy. Fuck you, flat screen T.V. Fuck you, expensive clothes. And yes, fuck you, blonde hair. You are costly and you won't make me happy. Making more money won't make me happy. Make more money and you just spend more money. Being a great mom who is readily available to my daughter will create happiness. I will never look back and wish I'd logged more hours at work. But I can assure you I will reflect at some point and bemoan hours with Violet that I can never get back. Yes, I work to provide Violet with a certain lifestyle but is it a lifestyle I want to teach her about as she ages or is it an unnecessary lifestyle?

I'm getting ready to change my life, my priorities. Every time I have to go without I will remind myself it's for my daughter. There is some debt to clear up, some money that needs to be saved. And then? Big changes. Moms, Dads; I would love your input. I want to hear your stories. I need to hear your stories. Help me.

Reader Comments (46)

It sure aint easy working full time and trying to be a great parent. Thing is, you gotta do what works for you. I know that if I was at home with my son 24/7 - I would go nuts. I need to be mentally challenged - I need something for myself - I need adult company, in order to be the best Mother I can be. I wish it wasn't full time - it won't be forever, I have to accept that it is at the moment.

I admire Mothers who can stay home all the time - as unlike work, where once in while someone says 'good job!' - no kid ever says 'thanks for parenting me so well today.' It is a hard but wonderful job to be a full time Mum.

You're right - we all don't need half the crap we think we need - but it is lovely to afford to take my son to the zoo, swimming, for dinner at all kinds of restaurants that I am lucky to have in London etc.

I was at home for the first 2 years of my son's life - and I loved it. Then I changed careers and suddenly for the first time in 9 years I had full time work - he went to nursery - and he LOVES it. He is much more social than he was before, he loves his buddies and he learns so much from it. Although I put him there out of necessity it has really been brilliant - plus I've met lots more folks with kids through it - so he has play dates and the like.

You'll muddle through and find your way - just don't beat yourself up. A happy Mum is the most important thing Violet needs. You're doing great.

July 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercrummymummy

Monica, I don't have children but think you're doing a fantastic job juggling mommy duties with work. And due to debt, I cut away the clutter two years ago and have to say, it's been extremely liberating. The whole country is bankrupt anyway, and there was a point where I just grew tired of traveling to work every day to make some other cocksucker rich while other parts of my life were stagnating.

Unfortunately everything in life requires sacrifice - something is always gained while another is simultaneously lost. I believe you'll find your own balance, and wish you luck. Violet has so much love surrounding her and that is simply something money will never buy.

July 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

I struggle with this every. single. day. I want so badly to stay home. As I was reading your post...it is exactly what I've been struggling with since I went back to work. But I've run the numbers (the CPA in me can't ever really go away) and it is not possible with my husbands current salary if I bring in nothing (without decimating our savings, which believe me, I've really considered doing but given the economy, that seems, not so smart). We had our house on the market for 14 months so we could move and my husband could be promoted and I could stay home but we couldn't sell it. So I looked into a part time work from home thing I had heard about. Their website even said they were hiring! I got really, really excited about it and then received the response that oh wait, they are no longer hiring but they would keep my resume on file. I think that was the biggest disappointment I've had in a very long time.

Um, shit, I'm not really giving you advice here. Sorry, I am more lamenting with you. But, really, if you can make it work, go for it. My neighbor stays home with her little girl and the things they do are: no cable, internet, or land line phone. Her husband bikes to work to save money. She watches other kids part time to bring in extra cash. They generally just live very modestly. Hope that helps...best of luck! And I am going to keep an eye on the comments here to see if others have good ideas.

One more thing. Even though you feel rushed and you don't like having to work and you'd rather be home with Violet, remember you are still a good mother. It is hard for me to remember that sometimes because I get so down about the situation.

July 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjen

Hey Monica,
I'm not a mother. I'm a 25 year old who had a stay at home mom. She only found full time work when my little sister was in school full time. My dad was a millwright and my mom was a custom sewer from out of our basement. We weren't super rich, but my parents managed to send us to a private elementary school. I think that what you are doing si great, and there are definitely ways that you can make it easier on all of you. Think about something that you can do from home to give you a bit more income. Tutor someone? Drive one car (Doesn't Serge have a bike?). Eat in!
Good luck! I think that you will do great! And remember, making Violet happy is somethign that you love to do, so this will be easy! :)

July 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Monica, I follow your blog every time you post. I think what you have decided is quite brave and very courageous! My mom was a stay-at-home mom, who only worked 2 evenings a week at a local casino get some "spending money" of her own. I have to say, I really enjoyed having my mom home every day. And when she did go to work on Friday/Saturday nights, it was great for both of us: she got a break from me, got to have some adult conversation and I got the chance to miss her. It was wonderful! I really believe I'm the person I am today because my mom could afford to stay home. Not so many kids are that lucky. But if this is what you want to do, than do it! Yes, learn to scale back--no big screen, no Wii, no movies at the theater, no land line, no cable....meal plan, coupon clip and no hair dying or salon manicures. You still have to eat and live, but I've found that if you cut those out, it's a lot easier! This is a CHOICE and it's not right for everyone, but if you want to this, than by all means, go right ahead! I applaud you for it! Violet will definitely reap the benefits ten times over! However, be sure to maintain adult contacts, and have adult conversation occasionally. Yes, being with your baby/child is gratifying, but you also need to be YOU! It's all a balancing act, and when you become a mom, the balancing act never ends, and might never even been fulfilled. But, I can't imagine working full time and being a full time mom (I'm not a mom yet), no wonder you're stressed. Listen to your heart and follow it. You can't get this time back, you're right, but you also need to do what is right for your family! It sounds like you've made a great decision! Talk to Serge about it and I wish you the best of luck! You are all in my prayers! Take care and keep us posted! You rock!
Many Blessings Always,
-Sarah Liz :)

July 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Liz

I'm going to come at this from a little different angle. I'm 28, I don't have kids yet but someday I hope. I did however come from a family where my Dad worked the same full time gig for over 30 years and my Mom stayed home. My Mom worked part time Tuesday nights folding newspapers at the only printing place in our small town. Those nights my Dad took me and my two brothers to the swimming pool...every Tuesday. We didn't have a lot. I wore second hand clothes. We didn't take family vacations (except for some kick ass camping trips each year). We ate bologna....a lot. And you know what? I never noticed. I didn't know that we were 'poor'. None of us kids realized that there was no money. My Mom wore the same pair or running shoes for 8 years.....8 YEARS!! Who does that??

What I did know is that someone was at every soccer game, every swim meet, every feild trip. I remember hiking on the weekends as a family. I can still see my youngest brother walking down the forest reserve road in nothing but a diaper and a pair of rubber boots. I remember someone always being there to help with homework. I remember that my parents were ever present in our lives.

My Mom went back to work when my youngest brother entered into school but only part time. My brothers and I all know how lucky we are that both my parents sacrificed so that we could have amazing childhoods. Sure, it didn't include Disney Land but it did include a home made slip and slide in the front yard that my Dad made us... and a tree fort with a firemans pole and sand box...how much better can it get right??

I'm sure that my Dad never dreamed of climbing power poles for his whole life, and I know my Mom's dreams didn't consist of her folding newspapers and driving a school bus. But I do know that they both dreamt of having a family that was filled with love. My advice, give up the shoes, give up the cable, and the blonde. I like you best as a brunette anyways. Spend your money on used baseball gloves and huge sheets of plastic and a sprinkler. Those are the things that Violet will remember.

July 18, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine

Hey Monica, It's Ryan. I have three daughters being one, two, and seven years in age. I know what you are going through about working too much and not having time spend with your daughter. I was working for wonder bread and making 45 K per year. My hours were to the point where I was starting at 4:30 AM and finishing at about 8:00 PM. My daughters were asleep when I left and getting ready for bed when I returned. This was very hard on me and made me feel that my kids were missing out on their dads company. They even looked at me like a stranger at times which broke my heart. I finally decided money wasn't shit and it was time for a change. I changed jobs and make about half of what I used to. I am here to testify to you that I am much happier and my girls lean on me alot more that they used to. I won't lie and say things are perfect because we do struggle and things are tight, but your kids need their mother AND their father. I think if you guys can find a good balance then things will work out better.

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Stauffer

Personally I think that if this is something you can afford to do then make it happen. A lot of the early years of my life were with a single mother. I was the middle one of 5 kids, and can remember my mum being there just about all the time.

She was working part time in bars at night once all us kids were in bed, so we never really knew when she was gone.

In later years I learned that there were plenty of times that my mum and her best friend would pool what little money they had together to buy the ingredients for a pot of stew that could feed both families, or they might buy a loaf of bread and split it between the two of them.

Clothes were passed down from child to child. Fortunately, I never had to wear any of my sisters dresses!

What I remember at the time though is things like camping trips, long walks out in the country being taught about nature and how to respect it. We learned how to entertain ourselves, all of the kids from the estate going around together in one big pack.

Not like kids do today, trawling the streets and intimidating people, often much worse, but going down to the woods, making a rope swing and spending the day there. Exploring was the main thing we were all interested in.

I remember one morning we heard an ice cream van coming down the street, and, being kids, nagged like hell to get some money off mum for an ice cream. By the time she gave us the money, he was pulling away down the street. We chased that guy for probably 2 miles before giving up and going home.

By then, we didn't care about the ice cream anymore!

I was ten when we got our first tv, and everyone crowded around this box in the corner of the room that had moving pictures. I didn't know what the cinema was, or a restaurant. The nearest we came to that was we might occasionally get treated to to some black peas on the local market, always doused in vinegar!

Here's the thing though. None of us had any idea we were poor. Everyone else around us was in the same boat. Those were the best days of my life.

When I got older I couldn't understand why my mother got so excited every time she made a sandwich using butter instead of margarine. Now I realise that for most of her life butter was considered a very special treat. Personally, I've never really gotten used to the taste, and probably never will....

In summary, like I said at the start, if you can afford it, spend as much time as possible with Violet. At that end of the day, she is much more important than any of the materialistic stuff.

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDamien

Monica...You are right that you will regret missing out on those times. I have 2 kids, 7 and 9 and work part time evenings ( 2 nights a week from 5 til 10 ish) waitressing. Although it is not a very prestigious position especially since I am almost 40 it works for us. I make enough money to pay for groceries and extras and my husband takes care of the rest. My point being that I have been with my kids non stop and have incredible memories! I love that all the teachers at the school know me and that I am there to volunteer whenever they need me. Like you said Violet won't remember this time but she will remember her school years and that is such an important time, Trust me they act much better in school when you are always around and the teachers know you on a first name basis!
So if you need the money that bad you may need to find yourself a shitty little job that will bring some income into your house for the least amount of time, like serving. Does that make sense??
Take care Monica and know that we are all out here rooting for you!!!
kat

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkat

I see this both ways. Where I was raised it was somewhat unusual for women to work outside the home and I wished that my mom had been home. That being said, when I look back on it my mom was an incredible role model and I have achieved what I have in life because of her. I truly admire her. Yes she wasn't there when I got home from school, but wow did she show me what a woman can do. I don't have children myself and probably won't, but I do see my friends all struggle with this issue. The living with less thing is a different issue: we could all learn this. At any rate, there are all kinds of ways to be a mom, and I wouldn't trade my high achieving ass busting career woman mom for any other mom on the block.

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Hi Monica,
I'm a divorced single mom of one, so I don't have the opportunity to stay home with my daughter. My one consolation is that I am a teacher and I at least have the summers and school vacations with her. I don't know what I would do without that time with her.

I have always felt that if I manage to do a good job, either at home or at work, the other area is failing spectacularly. I look at it like juggling and some of the balls just have to fall. I can't do it all. Oh how I wish I could! I have to admit even in the summer months when I am with her 24/7, I feel like I can't do it all. There is always something I wish I could do better.

If you can make the numbers work, I think it would be crazy not to go for it. It's wonderful that you have that opportunity. Violet is one lucky (and absolutely gorgeous) girl!

Sarah

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarahO

It’s great to strip away the unnecessary material things in life & focus on having more time with your family. But it’s also nice to have a little financial security & be able to afford extras like family trips and vacations. You have to find the right balance for you. Maybe there’s some way to make you happier, like working part-time for a bit? Is it the work that you find unsatisfying, or is it just hard being away from Violet so much? I’m just asking the questions to get you to start thinking about what you want for yourself & your family.

It seems to me Violet is very lucky to have you both sharing the parenting responsibilities like you do. It should give you some relief to know that Serge is home w/ Violet while you are working. He sounds like a fantastic dad.

I started working part-time when my first was born, working evenings & weekends, while my husband is with the kids. We’re still at it eight years later. I used to think I wanted to stay home full-time with the kids & maybe I initially resented Leo a little for not earning more to give me that option. I’m embarrassed to admit it. But honestly, I like the work that I do & I think I’m a better mom for having something of my own going on. It’s easier to see this now that my children are older.

Good luck with finding a happy balance.

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChrissy

Hey Monica,
I think it's great that you want to stay at home with Violet! I get to stay at home with Malia, but I also teach dance out of my home which is nice to have the best of both worlds. I loved staying home with Malia while she was super tiny, however, you start to envy working woman and the excitement to be able to go to work everyday and get appreciated for it. MY personal recommendation would be to just cut back, maybe work part-time for a while and if you enjoy it then hallelujah. It's always nice to have an out of mothering sometimes, just the adult conversations are always a plus. After Malia was about a year old I wanted to put a bullet to my head because I became a robbot working for a baby. Do what makes you happy! Love your blog, you crack me up. It was so good to see you at the funeral (is that weird, it was so good to see you at the funeral??)haha. I love little Violet, Serge is a hotty, and you are always adorable!

Love Your Fabulous Cousin
Kami
www.steveandkami.blogspot.com

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKami

Monica,

I think the general concesus here is if you have the opportunity to stay home MOST of the time, than do it. But be sure to have something for YOU...a part-time job, adult interaction(s), etc. You're a smart woman, so it's not like you couldn't figure this out for yourself--what we've all said! But anyway, I also wanted to add something else: like other posters here who's mothers stayed home the majority of the time, I didn't have A LOT growing up. I wasn't poor, my step-dad who raised me was a firefighter, so he was around too, and we had more money than most families with a single income. I don't think I ever did without food or shelter or the important things. And if I did, I do not remember it. I did get told "no" in stores a lot, but you know what? I learned very early on that you can't always have everything you want and it's all about choices--a simply invaluable and necessary lesson!

I've married a man who grew up with A LOT of money--his family was quite wealthy. They traveled the world, took expensive vacations, hung out with celebrtiies. My husband' upbringing was SO radically different from mine. But you know what? I honestly think I had the better childhood. I feel we let our LOVE and RESPECT and APPRECIATION speak louder than money. No disrespect to my husband or his family, I love & adore them all...and he's a fantastic man! (I wouldn't have married him otherwise!) But, I always say I had the BEST childhood,

We ate dinner together, we grocery shopped together, we went camping. Yes, I had some little luxaries like a boat to go on the lake with, but that was about it.

My grandma made most of my clothes and my mom was the expert meal planner who shopped a lot at Costco! It is about sacrifice. And choices. My mom wore T-shirts and jeans all the time and almost no makeup. I never remember her buying jewelry or fashionable clothes. (I used to tease her about that, when I was very young, and now I get it, she didn't buy them because she couldn't afford them.) The point is, my mom gave up things so I could have more. But I think in a way, most mothers do that.

I need to be honest and tell you that my mom is 56 now and STILL struggles with the money she did not make back then,while I was growing up. She is still in debt and sometimes wishes she had "planned better" when it came to money. However, she swears up and down that she would not trade a single moment or memory with me for all the money in the world! (She did go back to work full time when I was 11 because she and my step-dad divorced and she had to!).

About the poster who had the career mom, she does have a point. You've worked hard for your career, Monica. And I wouldn't give it up entirely. You need to revel in what you've done and accomplished as a woman, not just a mother. No, you won't get your time back with Violet, but you know what? You don't get time back with ANYONE. With Serge, with your family, with yourself. Time keeps going regardless of how we choose to spend it. And it goes fast no matter what. I think keeping a foot in your career, on some level, would be wise. Give Violet the value of hard work and the impression (and TRUTH) that women can do whatever they choose! Women can be strong and mommies and wives and kick ass in their passions--even if it's not a full-time career, keep up with your writing or journalism or something. You will be a better mom if you're a happy woman! I promise!

No, you can't take jewelry, clothes or fancy stuff to your grave--but you can take love, memories and a million wonderful (all be it stressful also--in a different way) moments with your little girl! Best of luck, Monica, we're all behind you!

Many Blessings,
-Sarah Liz :)

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Liz

Hello there...
Hmm....the job world is shit. You are very, very lucky to have a job, and if you quit and decide you need to go back to work, you will be very, very lucky that you got a job again.
I'm confused about how you and serge work it...does he work nights and you work days or vise-versa, so one always has your daughter?

Anyway...That's how i grew up. My mom worked nights and my dad worked days and they'd pass me off as it was time for the other to go to work. On the weekends, we'd all chill out as a family. It was like that from a couple months of life to when i was 10. I loved it. I'd get to see each of my parents every day and i got to see them as individuals and not as a unit (i really dont like my mom when my dads around. its weird) and i even got the whole "family experience"...
When i was around 10, my mom decided that she needed to stay home and mother me. She lasted a month before she cracked and went back to work.
I'm now 17 and i don't feel any gap in my life where XPARENT should have been. I know i'm loved and know my parents love each other, and Its nice to know that we're not dead broke or anywhere near it.

Anyway, what im saying is that you're gonna miss the good years if you stay all worried and shit that you're going to miss the good years. Stressing out doesn't help anyone. A good job is a blessing, but if you really honestly feel that you are having too hard of a time not seeing your daughter rather than just getting too stressed and having a minor-freak out about it, do whatcha gotta do. Ask for your days to be cut down or something, or just quit.

Good luck.

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Before I had a baby myself, I always thought that it wasn't a big deal to be a working mother. But the tables have turned now and just as my maternity leave is running out, I am starting to panic and rethink things in a major way. We already have cut way back to basics as far as we can and even though we live really simply, there are still some bills that just need to be paid. After all, we need a house to live in! But tv, cell phones, clothes, etc, etc, etc...just don't impress me anymore. It feels so good to minimize, to simplify. I am just tired of paying for things and stuff and clutter.
We used to live the big life in the city but 5 years ago gave it all up - including the stressful but good paying jobs - and moved to a way cheaper house in the country. My husband finally has a great stress-free job that he loves but the pay's just not all that great. Ideally I would love to not work at all until my baby's in school but since that's not really an option, I am now trying to get some training so that I can maybe work from home or make a bit more money but work less. It's all about finding a balance and deciding what's more important and that's an individual decision.
All I can say is that I actually feel my head getting clearer and clearer with each thing we purge from our home and our lives. We've stripped back to basics - a small family that lives a simple life with lots of love.

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterchristine

Hey Monica!! Don't you hate having to make decisions like these? It makes me miss when I was young and had no bills, no responsibility. I am a mother of two, a boy and a girl. For the first three years of our marriage, my husband would drive to Las Vegas from St. George, UT every Sunday and stay until Wednesday every week. This was so extremely hard on the kids and our marriage. He missed out on almost everything in our daughters first three years. We has major reservations about moving our family to Las Vegas, but one day we decided we had to do it for our family.
We've been here for almost a year now and I cannot tell you the difference it makes to have him home every night and half of the week, he doesn't work at all.
I think it's great you are making this decision so early on. Good for you. Don't miss out on any precious moment if you can help it. :)

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKylie

Hi Monica,
Well I came from a very large Irish family - 7 kids, 1 who was severly disabled. My dad was a work horse and we seen him rarely. I can never remember him at any of our birthdays or taking part in any of our childhoods. He worked his arse off - still does and was always too wrecked then when he came home to spend time with us.
My mother on the other hand adored spending time with us. I remember all of us lying on the floor drawing for hours with her in our coloring books, having big sing songs in the car to stop us fighting and helping her with the baking - while she made the apple pies we made our jam pies with the scraps!
With all the working my dad did we still never had much money, always second hand clothes, no eating out and holidays-when my dad had time- was camping trips down the road.
It is sad to look back and remember how delighted we were when dad did have time with us, and even now we are all each others best friends and worship our mom. We spend time also with my dad but it just doesn't feel the same. My dad never got it that we didn't want for anything just having a good time with him out the backyard with the bbq would light us up.
Violet will not remember the fancy flat screen, she will remember if you are constantly stressed and miserable going to work.
You will give her the most if she remembers a happy mom who found her way. Whether its working full-time, part-time and with her or just spending your days with her, once you are content then she will be too!
For such a beautiful family and gorgeous couple!, I wish you guys all the very best!

July 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSharon

Monica,

I know it's hard to balance it all out. With my first child I wanted to stay home so bad and gave up so much to do so. We gave up cable, internet and many other things. I lasted a couple months and found my self slipping into depression because I we were "poor" and we couldn't go or do anything! I loved being home with my son and kept telling myself this but in reality I was turning into a bad person. I also needed some adult conversation. My husband was working so hard that he never saw us and he started to hate me for it. So I went back to my old job and have never looked back. I have three kids and I devote every weekend to them doing family things. I don't miss the big thigs at their school and I am lucky enough to have a job that I can be home with them if they are sick. I don't think for one minute that I miss so much of their lives and I don't think they care if I work. They know that we work hard to be able to spend time with them and take them places.

It is not an easy job balancing it all out but some how it just starts to work and you go with it. I think Violet is so lucjy to have you and Serge and you guys are doing an awesome job!

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

It is all well and good to say you are going to go cheap and cut back, but damn is it hard. It is especially hard if you're friends don't have kids, have lots of play money and generally don't understand what being a parent is about yet. Honestly, it is really tough to cut back and still feel happy. Don't get me wrong, I love my boys, but sometimes reminding myself that I'm poor because I choose to spend time with them doesn't exactly salve the wound. Good luck.

Wow reading that back makes me sound like an asshole. It's the truth though.

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDC

Hi Monica,

I think your priorities are totally right...the best things in life are free and money can't buy them.

You have made a brave decision and I think it is the right decision. My advice however is don't quit work alltogether...grass is always greener on the other side and I do suspect if you stayed at home full time you would eventually end up bored and frustrated.

Do you have the option to stay where you work but cut down your hours? Is there any other job that would make you happy that isn't so time demanding? For example you could be a freelance journalist or a teacher. My mother worked full time and I had a very happy childhood...she was a teacher so she had similar hours to mine.

Best wishes, x P

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterP

I would urge you to not abandon your career all together. Take the long view. Violete will be in school 7 hours a day in five years. What will you do with your time then? She will be out of the house in 18. What will you do with your time then? Not to mention the fact that not only are you forfeiting your current income, but you are forfeiting retirement savings as well. If you can afford to scale back on hours (and your employer is willing to let you do this) then buy all means cut back. Don't just walk away though. Don't expect to be able to obtain the same level of position after being unemployed for several years. You'll likely have to start from a lower position and work your way up again.

Both my parents worked full time while I was growing up, and I can say with complete confidence that their decision to do so made me a better person. My mom tried to stay home with my sister and I, but found it too boring and stagnate. The whole family was happier when Mom had multiple avenues to focus her energy on. She is very smart (like you) and being a mom and housewife just wasn't enough of an intellectual challenge for her. Plus both her daughters had the benefit of witnessing first hand a woman who could "do anything" professionally. She is my go-to person when it comes time to prep for salary negotiations or for tips on public speaking. I'm so glad that I have her as a role model.

(And I was every bit as well behaved in school as those kids who had stay at home moms. :-))

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSuzie

I think that Violet is blessed to have really cool parents, who love her more than anything. I also believe that because of this, she will be balanced and powerful. She will reap the sacrifices you will make for her, and it will make her as strong as her mother. Your longtime readers have seen the ups and downs, and how your strength and grace carried you through. Make this decision as you have made the others. Wishing you the very best.

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

oh i am happy that you opened up comments on this one! i have two boys, 10 and 7. i went back to work FT when the oldest was 6 wks, had a maternity leave with #2, but also went back when he was 10 weeks old. i worked in IT for a bank, and worked many hours, overnights, on call, etc., 1 hr from home (each way. on a good day) and was miserable. my kids were young, they were FINE, it was all FINE, until the second one (they are 3 yrs exactly apart) hit his "i hate daycare" stage and i took a 13 week unpaid leave of absence (they were 7 and 4 at the time). i realized during that time period that i was happier than i'd ever been, i wasn't spending as much because i knew that i couldn't, etc., and it was just bliss. i should have just quit for good, but instead went back to work (it was a six figure salary, so really, quite nice), and lasted 18 more months until i begged my way into a voluntary severance package.
it's been 13 months since i left and not a day goes by that i regret my decision. you totally hit the nail on the head: i will never regret not working more, but i will regret not seeing my kids grow up. i LOVE being home. i LOVE volunteering in the library at the grade school, walking them to school, picking them up, etc. do i miss the money? OF COURSE I DO & occasionally i totally stress out about it. but we make do ... and there is NOTHING saying i can't go back and do something, for some money, just not with a "real" career.
sorry to hog your comments, but i feel so passionately about this topic. i wonder: are women REALLY better off? at what cost? it's a very interesting discussion.
best to you.

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterann

There are some really good suggestions provided in the previous comments. I would start by tracking expenses for a few months so that you can see exactly where you spend your money (you may already do this). Then I would make your "ideal budget" and try to live by it for a few months just to see if it is realistic.

It might be a little unrealistic to be able to live off of your husband's salary alone. A nice alternative might be to pursue the part-time job. If you have to do this, I would try to get a job as a server at a nice restaurant (that actually serves good food so that your customers are happy and generous). It helps to actually know a server that already works there, so they can tell you what sort of tips to expect. You will probably crave some non-baby interaction. It seems you have a strong identity outside of being a mother, and you want to take care not to lose that. You may also be able to get something as a freelance writer, though I hear those are difficult to get in these days, esp. if you don't have experience or good contacts.

I've lived on just my husband's income and it definitely adds an additional stress factor. It is difficult to rely on just one source for all of the family's money. However, you can definitely cut down on the amount of money that you spend on food/clothing/extras because these purchases will no longer be rushed. There is a challenge to it that I enjoyed-- having x amount of money for food all week makes one very creative. You find ways to fix things that you previously would have thrown in the trash. You will have a new understanding of the value of money.

My mother always worked and a lot of my early memories are with babysitters (and they are actually wonderful memories). She set a good example for me. I've always worked two jobs. I'm sure there is a lot that I missed but there is also some stuff that really inspired me. I was always so proud to go into my mother's workplace-- she was the boss and everyone respected her. I think the most important thing isn't that you are a stay at home mom or a career mom, it is making sure that Violet has a happy and fulfilling childhood that helps her become a well-adjusted adult.

Oh, and one more thing, if you and the husband are considering purchasing a home, do so before you quit your job. It will be much more difficult to get financing if you only have one income. Of course, make sure it is something that you can afford on just one salary.

-E.

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterE.

Oh yes, this subject is a Pandora's Box, Monica, but I am glad to see you being honest and opening it up inside your heart, your head and your blog. This subject is precisely where feminism has let down a few generations of women, and I don't care about which phase of it we're talking about.

Society's switch to a two-earner household (to pay for our mortgages, cars, credit cards, hair appointments, Coach bags, magazines, etc.) can leave children in the care of someone other than mom and dad (creating yet another expense). This merry-go-round enriches not the lives of our children, and not our spiritual selves, but the people who pimp consumer goods of all types. Switching to a lifestyle where the family is the priority involves a sometimes radical and painful shift away from the life that has become familiar to us and the satisfactions we derive for our egos by working/spending.

I nearly lost my mind with the isolation and the boredom after my son was born, staying home in the suburbs of Florida. For the first time I really understood where Sylvia Plath was coming from. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do, to learn to live with less while I learned how to amuse myself and my baby on a shoestring. After building up a network of similar-minded moms and finding a part-time job as an adjunct faculty member at a local college I know in my heart that I have found the balance that is right for me. Having children later (40 and 8 months pregnant with number 2) I am well aware of the emptiness the workplace holds for me at this juncture of my life. I have achieved career successes and I know that when my boys go to school I will have a plan set in place to secure a segue back into working part-time, on my terms, to satisfy the adult creative part of me that still harbors ambitions.

Before I was a mom, I saw the guilt of working literally eat the insides of my mommy co-workers. You cannot pretend to be happy while saying good-bye every morning too early and hello too late every night - there is not enough wine on the grocery store shelf. I think as we raise this newest generation of children, women need to demand decent maternity leaves, flexible in/out doors for the career marketplace and then strategic 5 year plans for our selves (physically, spiritually) that mesh with our family values and our career paths. (And oh yeah, while we're doing that, we need to work for a decent child-care system for this "first-world" country to suit the needs of women who must work.)

I was so glad to read the recollections of people who did with less, but had a present mom (and/or dad). Thank you Monica for your self-portrait of a blog, for your courage and your stamina. I know that you and Serge, such creative and vital people, will forge a solution for Violet that will work. When you're on the path things just sing. Your writing did that for me today.

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterkatherine

My mom stayed at home with us and, while I appreciate her sacrifices and think she's a great mom, we probably would have been just as happy in day care (I would NEVER tell her this). Obviously you have to do what works for your family--just tossing out some ideas. You don't need to be wealthy to be a good parent, but health insurance, summer camp, and the odd dinner out are really nice if you can provide them. My childhood was in no way "carefree" because my mom stayed home with us--it would have been more carefree if my parents were better able to pay the bills. Maybe you don't see it this way but earning a decent, stable income is one way of being a good parent. There is nothing idyllic about family togetherness when everyone is depressed and worried about money all the time. Second, staying at home is horrible when you are broke--my mom clipped coupons, dealt with bill collectors, and tried to make meals out of canned goods. It's also risky to rely on one income. What if you give up your job and then something happens to your husband and he's unable to work? Or you (heaven forbid) split up? Where does that leave you? Finally, it's worth considering what someone else said earlier--if you give up your job, what happens when your kid goes to school? What's left for you? Sorry if that sounds selfish but it's worth considering. My mom is a social, 'people person' and staying at home with us was really, really hard on her. It was a real sacrifice for her, which is why I appreciate her so much. If she had it to do all over again, I don't know whether she would make the same choice.

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMT

There is no one answer, which you know, but the truth is, there may not be one answer for you. As Violet and any future kids grow, you may work, stay home, work from home, etc. There are many, many ways to do this work/parent thing, and at different times different ones will be best for your family.

I have worked, although not fulltime, and stayed home, and worked from home. Some of the time I loved my choice, some of the time I hated it. Right now, I'd be happy to stay home, but we need money. That's a major stress on me. But in Sept, Em will be in school five days a week! I don't feel bad about working now, but I simply can't find anything and I wish so much I had a job I enjoyed.

I'll be honest, if I had a job I loved, I would stay at it. In fact, that's what I did when Em was born. Because money in the bank does make things easier. It's a sad truth. You are a fulltime mom whether or not you are home all the time. Being at home does not make a better mom, or parent, or happier child. Kids do best with happy parents, no matter what the work situation. Home does not equal happy. Happy is subjective and changes and that's what it should be!

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEDW

Just need to ride this "cute" phase and the novelty of having a baby/child/dependent. Having kids seem to be the "trendy" thing to do these days. Parents seem to be a little too focused on their kids today as well--as if they're life was meaningless before them. Kinda bizarre when millions of pictures of snapped and tomes are written about a day in the life of their kid. My mum stayed home and it was great--but we were not her focus and she didn't goosh over every move we made or jibberish we spoke. The rentals had their parties and friends and interests besides their kids. Perhaps that's why we're all so independent. You'll freak yourself out when your trying to form your happiness. Just sayin'..

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterV

apologies for the errors in my previous post. Should read "millions of pictures were snapped" and gush instead of goosh. he he
you're talented for sure. stay at it -- it keeps you being a cool mom. and you're supposed to miss the little buggers

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterV

I have only a suggestion: before you make any changes, bring it up with your the-rapist. It may help to hear her take on all of this.

July 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

I'm without children so I can't speak from personal experience, but I have observed a few girlfriends juggling the responsibilities of motherhood and being a family breadwinner. What I've noticed is that there will always be challenges of prioritizing things within your life and that you never feel you have enough time for yourself, for your responsibilities, or for your family. Knowing this, I think the bigger question is what would quitting your job do for YOU? I recall a time a few years back when you were laid off in NY and it really threw you. Your personal value was tied so closely with your job that it really derailed your progress. Though, out of that came your decision to move back to Utah so I think it did propel you to make major life changes. You were in a different place then - but I think the value of you job and the thing you do with bringing these stories to the community adds too much to be set aside in favor of personally raising Violet. It would seem she has a mama who loves her more than anything - even her own professional satisfaction. This child is surrounded by love, and has an amazing mama showing her (through example) the value of hard work and of responsibility to society. You are raising her to be a forward thinking, fair-minded, compassionate little girl. You're doing this already with a 50+hr per week job AND giving your job everything you can. That's amazing and you should recognize the values you're instilling in your daughter while reinforcing your own belief system of working hard and providing for your family.
There is always the opportunity for freelance work and possibly moving into that as a primary responsibility. One girlfriend did that and now after child #3 is heading back into the work force because juggling kids and interviews didn't prove as convenient as one might think. Her writing was pushed to the midnight hour and her lethargy the following day impacted her with the girls. Like with anything, it's a trade-off. Are you willing to face new challenges for a new life?
I believe your interest in streamlining your life is a tremendous opportunity. We're all experincing what they're calling the "Great Reset" and will likely come out of it better for having the time to refocus our attention and values. Get rid of cable, purge your wardrobe of excess, and live simply. Live for today and for your daughter. Appreciate all you can because each day really is a gift. You have a good life - find contentment. It is within you!
Best Regards,
Angela

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

Oh my, today I was so sad after I left my 2 yo daughter at daycare (she didn't stop crying and calling her mama), and I was thinking about finding a way to be able to work less and be more time with her, and then I come here and I see you feel the same... I guess all moms feel the same, but this doesn't make it easier.
At least you are lucky your little one is always with her parents: leaving her with unknown carers is much worst, I can tell you. She started to go to daycare when she was 1 yo and she still cries when I leave.
My goal for the future (if we can afford it) is to work from home and to be able to be there for her when she needs me more (when she's sick, school vacation, etc.).
I think it's better not to leave work completely, but to try to find a job you can do from home. I'm a book editor (so my job can be made at home and I hope I will make this change soon); maybe you can do the same, at least for a while.
Good luck and don't feel alone... I'm sure our children feel our love, even if we're not there all the time.

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSerena from Italy

Suzie's post was great. Thing is, kids go to school, grow up and if you do it right - will go and lead their own lives - and where will you be? Being home with a kid all day can sound swell but in theory it is very hard - and if you are broke, is even harder. Having a Mother who works and is career driven is no bad thing - it sets an example of what women can achieve. We fought to go go to uni, to have careers, to make lives for ourselves - I guess the key is to try and balance both.

Without something that is just yours, without a goal, without challenges and adult stimulation - days get very samey. I'm not saying work is the be all and end all - but it is hard when kids go off to school to pick up where you left off. So think carefully.

As Katherine says we don't need all those consumer status symbols - but we do need a sense of self. If you can get this from Motherhood alone - good luck to you.

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterZara

I don't have kids so I'm going to speak about what I've observed and heard from my friends with kids. My friends who are working moms talk about the guilt they feel for not being home. But their husbands/boyfriends/baby daddies don't feel this guilt at all. My working mom friends feel guilty for having an identity separate from being a mother. Personally, that sickens me a little bit that they have to feel guilty for keeping their pre-baby identities (obviously altered).

My SAHM friends feel guilty for wanting to work, for wanting an identity separate from being a mom, for not always loving every minute of being home. In my friends who are older (30's) this guilt is even more pronounced because they went longer establishing themselves outside of the homes. And they miss their jobs most acutely.

It just seems that women can't win. If you're home, you feel guilty because guess what? No one likes doing the same thing over and over day in and day out. My working friends feel guilty because there's the idea that a mother needs to be home, even in the year 2009.

The SAHM friends also talk about how their husbands feel resentment at having to be the sole bread winner, at having to work their asses off only to get bitched at when they come home because their wife is cooped up all day. Oh, and then there's the money issues. The guy works so he wants to spend on stuff he enjoys but the wife is looking at the bottom line and diapers, formula, doctor's visits, etc don't come free.

I guess my advice is don't make a decision rashly and don't make it in a vacuum of romantic ideals. And make sure you and your husband both understand completely what's going to change.

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterthe jen

Hi -- this is a really interesting post. i don't have children, either, and i can only imagine how hard it is to try to juggle all of it. i used to work in day care years ago, and that was hard too, to see how people were forced to always compromise. i just wanted to let you know that until a few months ago, my husband and i were pulling in a combined 150K a year. then i lost my job and now we're living on maybe 45K in an area with one of the highest costs of living in america.

I never thought we could live on less, much less such a dramatic amount less, but we are. sometimes it drives me crazy -- sometimes i really, really want to just buy what catches my eye like i used to. but in many ways this has been amazing. i've planted almost an entire garden, for instance, with free plants from friends and neighbors and freecycle.

it can be done. and even if you continue to work, don't worry -- there's nothing wrong with needing or wanting to work, and that little girl is going to know how much she's loved.

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranonforthisone

If I hadn't quit my job when my first kid was a year old my family wouldn't still be living paycheck to paycheck over 20 years later. My husband wouldn't have a job he hates so much he can hardly stand to get out of bed in the morning. I believe it has shortened his life and sometimes I worry that he will commit suicide. I've been back working full time for 6 years now and I wish I'd never quit.

From reading both your and Serge's posts regarding this subject, it appears as though you are going to quit your job, move to the out-country and live as much off the land as you can. Ridiculous. You have a great job that you like, provides a steady income and health benefits. Serge is talking about supporting the family by clerking and waiting tables! It's not about you anymore. Provide for your child a thriving environment where she will get a good education, be safe and have access to the best health care. Don't quit a job that provides all that in this economy, that's putting your entire family at risk. Buck up, drink stronger coffee and invest in some high-quality concealer.

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranonymous

I'm glad the person above posted what they did because I think too many people romanticize the choice you're debating right now without thinking too much about the long-term affects it might have on your psyche, your hubby's psyche, and your child's psyche. I dated a guy for a while who had to hear from his SAHM all the time, "I could have been a journalist if I hadn't chosen to stay home with you." Wow. That tore him up and made him a bad boyfriend because he thought all women made sacrifices just to throw in other people's faces.

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranon

Here Here to the "buck up " poster! He/she took the words right out of my mouth. I agree that it is down right irresponsible to quit a job in this economy. If anybody should be a stay at home parent it is him - not you. I suppose that it the blessing and the curse of being the parent with more marketable skills. Think long and hard before doing anything drastic. Start small. Grow a vegetable garden. Cut the cable and internet (though we'll miss your blogs). The days of making spontaneous and drastic decisions are behind you. You need to think about Violet now. Have you researched how much health insurance costs when you are paying out of pocket?

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranon

Look, I'm not an idiot, I wouldn't quit my job without working out a way to provide for my daughter. But all you "buck up" people are the people that will wake up in 20 years, still plodding away at the bullshit, still fucking miserable and what kind of parent is that? Now is the time to jump off the wagon and follow a dream of a particular lifestyle. A much simpler lifestyle. Am I idealizing it? I don't think so. I'm reading and reading and reading about it now. Do stay at home mom's get bored? Absolutely. But you turn staying at home into your full-time job, running a household like you'd run a business.

The point is, I'm on the brink of becoming super dependent on my job, a job I can't imagine doing in ten years. If we stay on this course, by the time I have another child I'll be the full-timer and Serge will be the stay at home person. I am not cool with that. I have worked at pretty much the highest levels you can as a writer/producer in television news. I didn't like it. New York news stations are nuts and all those people will have heart attacks by 50. I need to learn to live on less NOW, while I can. Serge is a highly skilled, capable man who can work full-time and we can certainly figure out a way to live off his wages and maybe some part-time wages from me. No I'm not cutting electricity and living off a vegetable garden. But there are certainly ways I can learn to save and be at home with my daughter more. It can be done.

That said, I appreciate all the comments, it helps me think about this thing from every, single angle. Is it a scary prospect? Yes. But so is the prospect of being that crazy, harried Mom who never has time for anything.

July 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterMonicaBielanko

Good for you! I love the saying that goes something like - in 40 years you'll never wake up wishing you'd spent more time at your job instead of doing what you really wanted. Last year I quit my job(s) to travel around the world for a year. Was it hard? Hell yeah it was - I worked 80+ hour work weeks for years to make it happen and now I'm returning to the workforce in the shittiest time in history. But it was definitely worth it and something I will never look back on with regret. Anyway - this isn't about me. Bottom line - you can make it happen. One of my best friends works at a coffee shop in SLC from 5a-10a and makes something crazy like $18/hr with her tips and she's home in time to still have a full day. I wish you all the best and hell, if nothing else - between you and Serge - you can both write like no one else. Sell your shit! All the best to you!

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCindi

I'm sorry but once you become a parent it ain't about you anymore. It's about the baby. Babies need their parents. And, I might sound old fashioned, but I believe they need their mommas.

Serge is doing an amazing job. Not many men would want to. You are fortunate that your situation has worked for you up to this point. Bread winner or no, I'd find another avenue. Even if you both worked alternate schedules so that one of you is always home with the baby, at least you'd be home with her. Daycare sucks. I don't care what people say, it isn't the same. I don't care what kind of quality daycare people have, it isn't the same.

Now, some people just aren't cut out to stay home all day with their kids. I've done it for NINE YEARS and sometimes I'm all, "WHAT THE HECK WAS I THINKING???" But I babysit other kids, tutor part time and dogsit. I shop in second-hand stores, consignments stores and discount department stores. I buy stuff on sale, never pay full price for anything. We have found tons of ways to save moolah around the house so that I can stay home. It's that important to us. It's also that stressful. But, like someone above said, in five years she'll be in school all day long. You might have another by them. It aint' about you, it's about what is best for your family.

Hope you don't think I'm being critical. It is possible to live on one crappy salary. And give up fancy vacations and things like new furniture and cars. Because they are worth it.

July 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDomestic Goddess

You're brilliant in every sense of this online and natural world. I've been following you (ok, periodically) since 2005 because I know that you have something to say and some very great honest poop to write about. Start Marketing your genius via online ads and in a few months, hey, who knows? I know it'll look sucky and money grubbing but heck, you're on here almost everyday and, you have followers. Maybe freelance will be in your sights. Online clicks are only getting stronger, just like your little babe ---and, by the way, She's absolutely beautiful. Build it and they will come?

I've been following Your blog some time ago, but then forgot about it, and when I was back again I saw this beautiful girl You have. It made me so happy to see Your happiness as I felt exactly the same You did. 11 months ago I gave birth to my son Dominic and it turned out he was the one I was waiting for all my life.

After 6 months of maternity leave I had to go back to work. It was totally heartbreaking. The thought of departing from my child, whom by the way I was still breastfeeding, was really horryfying. But well, life is life, and You have to make money. It took some time before I got used to this situation and although I love my job, I see now that so many things from my son's life happen away from me. I have to mention that apart from my regular job I sing in a band, which many times means I have to trade my quality time with my son for rehersals and concerting. My husband is sometimes mother and father in one- he does the hell of a job.

I cherish every moment I spend with my son and I try to believe that those moments we are together are so intensive that they will make up for the time we're not together. Befor I had Dominic, I didn't really see myself as a mother, not to mention stay-at-home-mum. It was something really unthinkable, but now I know that if I had an opportunity I would give up my cereer for two- three years to bring up my child. It's not that long- it wouldn't affect my career that much and it would give me the chance to really be there for my son. But I can't do it, and I have to live with it, grasping as much as I can from those moments we're together.

If You'd like to see my little bug please enter www.nika-dominikana.blogspot.com .

And take care.
Nika

July 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNika

Okay, just read your cable post. I love the resolve. You can so do it. This is the next thing you do. Go through your house and get rid of everything that you don't use, never liked or don't need anymore. Have a garage sale. Cry as you watch an unopened DVD sell for a dollar. Get pissed at yourself for ever spending that money. Then take the money and put it in your baby's savings account or something like that. Or just relish it but don't go buying more shit. Even though you guys don't seem materialistic at all, there is a little bit of materialism in all of us and it is best to just realize that all of this commercial bullshit is worth only as much as some random old lady will pay for it, which isn't very much.

July 26, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterE.

First off, I just wanted to say that I LOVE you blog. LOVE it. Love reading it.

Second, I'm having the reversed feeling. I spend every day and evening with my 3 month old son - and don't get me wrong, I LOVE it! But sometimes I wish I had a part time job, just to bring in some extra cash and give me a wee break from this cabin fever.

But I would miss him every second, because I know myself.

Please, keep writing :)

July 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSarcastica

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