This school year, teacher Sean is educating his own while mom roams the streets in her leotard, bringing home the big bucks. Stay-at-home fatherhood is on the rise, but somehow I imagine that most families of four that keep dad at home with the endless laundry, dishes, and Mother Goose rhymes don’t rely on dance teacher moms to sustain them financially (I am happy to be proven wrong).
I love it. I run around in the world, rockin’ to great music and being with fun people, while also playing with my family and eating my man’s delicious dinners. Sometimes I think that I can be a stay-at-home working mom and find myself desperately going to Friday morning playgroup with women who explode my heart with their wisdom, baking sourdough bread and weekly batches of cookies, and bringing my kids on many of my adventures. I’m committed to being with my kids as they grow up because I can’t get enough of them. I’m fascinated by them and love them so much it makes me weepy.
I attended the funeral of the woman who lived in our home right before we moved into the house. Edith, my grandmother-by-marriage, was in her nineties and passionate about children. She wrote a book titled Conversations with Children and I have found notebooks in this house dedicated to stories of her time with grandchildren. One woman spoke at Edith’s service about how Edith felt that that women were making a mistake by waiting too long to have children or not being present with their children during their younger years because they were so focused on work. She wanted women to realize that these days they had long lives ahead of them, plenty of time to dedicate to a career as she had done in the second half of her life. Be with your babies, she wanted this woman to hear.
My babes are little and they are here now, while I am young, and I am desperate to be with them as I also enjoy this glorious time to be dancing. Somehow, Sean and I are trying to make it work. Here are some thoughts on how to you can try to make it work:
How little can you live on?
I consider you to ask this question earnestly. Although our little family has never been living a financial life that could be considered middle-class bourgeois bliss, we took a pay cut with dad doing duty on the home front. Our society right now runs on the premise of making more money the longer we are in the workforce, but perhaps we can live happy, quality lives on less? Although the state would (and does I know thanks to my extra questionnaires at the doctor’s office) consider us to be living in poverty, our ability to provide some of our needs on site, paired with some creativity and lots of love create a life we consider to be very rich. So think about it. How much do you really need to live on?
Do you have any work flexibility?
I have written about bringing babes on my teaching adventures and to rehearsals and feel fortunate that my work allows me to take a kid sometimes to be part of the action. Although my job is unique, many employers seem to be working towards flexible working parent schedules. I know state employees who have had their infants in the office for a few hours or been able to scoot out to nurse at a nearby daycare. The local high school has an onsite daycare that allows teachers to take their lunch break and play with the kid. I also know moms who bulk up on hours and work four days a week, giving them a more flexible three-day weekend. The rules of working and parenthood are changing, so if you are able and have the guts, don’t be too afraid to play around. Do you have to work a “shift” or can you do mini-shifts or more days/less time? Figure out which things you love to do with your kid fit into your off-hours. Ror and I love to go to storyhour at the library, which is during a non-teaching time for me.
What do you and your partner want?
We make babies with people for many reasons, but hopefully you are doing parenthood with someone who wants you both to be rockstars in many aspects of your life. My body is begging to move right now along with mom-ing and my man is wanting to corral sheep and babies. It isn’t always obvious how we make this happen, but we have to think about it and talk to each other to make it happen.
Share work and parenthood.
I know one couple who trade work years. She works a year, he works a year. Many couples both work part time. Some working parents coach teams to have time with their kids. Some stay-at-home parents do online work for their mental health and to supplement the family income. Those of us who are making the money should be reminded regularly of the real work of being with and growing kids. This is serious business and as someone who spends much time with other people’s kids, I am grateful for those who are committed to doing it with love and kindness. Those who are at home can help make sure that the other parent gets quality time with the kiddos while not holding expectations too high for perfection on every kid-date. Parents who both work and do home-duty can hopefully give each other much love and patience.
We all need some. From everyone. Let us build fantastic communities in work, home, and our surroundings, but try to make space too. Space for whatever it is that you, the partner, and the kid(s) may need.
There are many thing to let go of when we are playing multiple roles. I keep setting goals for myself, my work, and my family and I am committed to doing the best work I am capable of, but sometimes the kitchen is a disaster (okay, I admit this is usually the case in our house), the lesson flops, the babies are crying, and I can’t help but bitch out my man. This, I am continually repeating to myself in mantra-form, is part of living a full life, so try to let some it go. Make sure to forgive yourself when you can’t let go.
I will be honest. There are days when my attempts to have it all (work, motherhood, love, play, home) leave me feeling mediocre about it all. How does one really choreograph a musical with a toddler running around the room? How do you come home to your own kids after spending so much time with other people’s kids? But usually a good shower or cry leave me feeling refreshed enough to look around at the puzzles all over the floor (again) and feel pretty darn great.
Do you have it all? What is your family life like and how did you get there?