Should I stay home or go to work? Julie is almost two and a half, and I'm pondering whether or not to investigate getting a job and putting her in preschool/daycare on a part time basis. Financially, I couldn't make enough (after nine years out of the full time work force and five years at home full time) to pay for full time childcare, plus after school care for the two older ones. So I'm looking just at mother's hours.
We could certainly use the extra money. But my baby is only two. And I don't know how I feel about missing out on this time with her.
Some of the factors that I'm considering are:
1 - I worked part time when Jessie was two until Sam was born when she was three and a half. I loved working, but hated leaving her, and seven years later, memories of dropping her off sobbing are still fresh in my mind. Julie is probably my last baby, which doesn't mean that I love her more, but it does mean that I won't have a two year old ever again. This is probably my last chance to stay home with a toddler.
2 - Sam was an absolute disaster at kindergarten because he had never been away from me. I don't think it would have been any easier for him any earlier, and probably would have been harder. That being said, his first experience with school was traumatic for him, and I would like for Julie's to be easier. Preschool will make that transition easier - but how much preschool? She's two - she's not starting full time kindergarten for another three years. I know I want at least one year of preschool, do I want two and a half?
3 - Julie is my most social outgoing child. Sam is certainly my most socially phobic child and Jessie was somewhere in the middle. Julie likes people, she likes playing, she forms bonds easily and would probably thrive. She's an early learner, already knows the alphabet and colors and numbers, plus she genuinely seems to enjoy hanging with other people.
4 - I worry about me. Selfishly, I know. But a big part of the way I define motherhood is incredibly hands on. I have a lot of friends and family around, but almost never leave my kids with them. My kids know and love their grandparents, on both sides, but rarely spend time with them without us there. They know and love our friends, but again, rarely without us there. What would that mean, for Julie to have so much of her time being spent without a parent? What would that mean for me, to have my toddler have so much of her day with other adults, especially adults that I don't know that well?
I think item four is really what I'm stuck on. It's such a change - and I worry about the impact. I know that millions of moms work, and love it. Working part time seems to be the accepted ideal - enough time to give the mom some space and identity outside of just being mama, but still have time home with the kids. But I always defined myself, for the past nine years, and certainly for the last six, as a stay at home mom. I loved it, I thought it was the best thing for my kids, and I haven't regretting a minute of it. Changing that is scary. I don't know what it'll look like, and it's so lovely, I worry about what it would like if it was different. Would it be as lovely to go to work as it is to snuggle my girl at home?
I haven't decided on anything yet. She's not even two and a half, and I'm coming up on the busiest time of year for me. Between Jewish holidays, American holidays and everything else, the next couple of months are crazy. Julie'll be three in the spring, and I know that I don't want to send the kids off to camp all summer, so realistically, I'm looking at next September. It doesn't make sense to wait until she turns three - and then have to pay for summer care for all three kids. So I think I'll table this discussion for a while, and revisit it next summer. I still might look at getting a job at nights or on the weekends though. If I could find one that would work out, schedule-wise, I'd love it. If I could find a good work at home job, I'd be all over that. But for right now, I think I'll hold off. For a while.