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#355: The old double-bind.

Ooh, these are posting out of order because I had several drafts in the hopper and scheduled them in the wrong order. We’ll live with it.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am recently married and also a newbie mom. Before marriage and my then pregnancy, I had always considered myself a cheery person. But when I stopped working and got stuck in the house to take care of my baby, I got so bitter and envious of my husband. I feel bad about this because I know he’s doing great in his job because he wanted a better life for us, yet I feel insecure of his accomplishments. It makes me feel inferior, stupid, and useless.

I never wanted to admit this insecurity to my husband but I told him that I really wanted to work and staying in the house just makes me feel depressed. I always knew how much I hate staying in the house but it’s only when I became a mom that I realized my lack of fondness for babies. I love my child because she’s ours but I don’t love the idea of staying at home. I told my husband about this and he agreed that it would be the best decision if both of us work. We do have this option anyway since we still live with my parents and we’re not really on the rich side so we do have to work.

When my aunt came to the picture she said that I was being selfish about me wanting to work. She said that I should just stay at home and take care of my baby, that it’s the ultimate sacrifice a woman has to make, even mentioning her daughter who became a housewife since her firstborn. I was disgusted with what she said it made me reconsider if I was just being practical or just being selfish. It also made me thought if the depth of my insecurity is just part of postpartum depression.

But my point is, I know in myself that I had done well in finishing my college degree and I don’t want my dream to end with the arrival of my baby. I don’t know if I need any advice but I just wanted to talk about this to someone like you.

 Sincerely,

Awkward Mom

Your baby is going to be fine, Awkward Mom, and you know why? Because you and your husband love your baby.

A lot of well-meaning people are going to try to tell you how to parent in this life, and it’s going to be more about their own agenda than anything to do with you and your child. The more confidence you gain as a mom, and the more you get to know your child, the more able you will be to stare people down and say “Wow, thanks, but s/he’s fine and happy, so I’m happy!” The baby needs regular food. The baby needs sleep. The baby needs diapers changed. The baby needs shots and regular checkups. The baby needs lots of love and human interaction. The baby needs shelter & clothing that keeps the baby appropriately warm or cool. If your baby has all that, your baby is FINE.

If your aunt ever brings this up with you again, say “Thanks, I’ll think about what you said” and then do whatever the hell you were going to do anyway before she butted her giant nosy ass into your business.

I know it seems counter-intuitive but this response has three benefits:

1) It allows you to answer back instead of just sitting in silence. It won’t change her mind, but it’s good for you to say *something* out loud as a response, and a good habit to get into.

2) It’s the truth. You WILL think about it, and then you and I will think “Wow, what a self-righteous cow,” and go on with our lives.

3) It shuts off the conversation and leaves her without the fight or the opportunity to lecture you that she was spoiling for. The words that came out of your mouth weren’t rude, exactly, but you’ve told her to shut up and she won’t be able to figure out quite how.

I think you were awesome and brave to know what you needed and to ask your husband for it. Some people really thrive on being stay-at-home moms. Some people don’t. Figure out which one you are and then, if economics and childcare situation allow, be that thing without apology

Anyone who tells you that you should rejoice in “the ultimate self-sacrifice a woman has to make” (though I love that she admits that it WOULD be a sacrifice) is not looking out for you. Dulce et decorum est, much? A happier you = happier mom = better mom.

I also want to say that postpartum depression is a very real thing, so make sure you tell your doctor how low you’re feeling. It could be that getting out of the house and working will help shake you out of your funk, but please take your feelings seriously and get all the help on your side that you can.

Your aunt can go eat fried worms.

P.S. If she were telling you that you HAD to go back to work or else you were somehow ruining feminism, that would also be bullshit.

 

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163 comments
  1. Sheelzebub said:

    Someone close to me heard this same shit (you’re selfish, you’re a terrible person for working, etc.) from her in-laws (!) after her baby was born. That’s just a crappy thing for anyone to say.

    Your aunt was out of fucking line. You are not being selfish for wanting to go back to work (or if you wanted to be a SAHP). If it’s something that works for your family, it works for your family, and people need to STFU.

    The next time someone–even a relative–starts opining on your private life, feel free to give them an icy look, followed by, “I don’t recall asking you for your opinion on this.”

  2. Your baby will not be any happier when they are 5 and you are miserable and feel trapped at home with them and resent them for preventing you from living out your dreams. (Save that resentment for your future boss!)

    When your baby grows into a human it will want you to be happy. It will not want you to make huge sacrifices that make you depressed on its behalf. Think about your own parents? Would you have wanted your mother to make a choice that she knew would make her unhappy?

    Find work, be happy, love your child. Tell your Aunt where to stick it.

    • Stephanie said:

      Oh, exactly. My mother went through this same thing. She and my dad expected that she would stay home to raise me (at least for a little while anyway). And it turns out that staying home drove my mom into depression (playing hours on hours of solitaire – the old school kind with actual cards, since this was Back In The Day). They eventually compromised and my mom went back to school and became a nurse – something she still does and loves doing.

      My parents’ marriage ended long ago, but I feel like whatever my parents did to make THEMSELVES happy functioning individuals had ripple effects on MY happiness.

      To be raised in a miserable household is to only know misery, and expect that sort of lifestyle is normal, when it really doesn’t need to be.

      • JenniferP said:

        That is a commitment to solitaire that people just don’t have anymore.

        My mom worked as a nurse 4 days/week when I was small, and my grandparents alternated providing daycare, which means I grew up with really close relationships with all of my grandparents and have memories of playing under my Papoo’s cutting table in his tailor shop, watching how my Yia-Yia practiced her English while watching All My Children, playing tons of cards with Grandma & Grampa, spending a lot of time playing by myself and reading in a happy fantasyland. And my mom had a great career that she enjoyed and was a huge role model for me in that way. Then she was home on Fridays and we got our day together every week.

        Stay at home moms who love staying at home, rock on! Moms who want to work, rock on!

        And let’s be honest about something:

        Whenever we talk about this as a choice we are talking about a group of people who have the privilege to let this be an actual choice – whether it’s economic privilege, having a supportive partner (or any partner), having a partner who can earn a high enough income to make it an option, having affordable childcare options or willing family caretakers, etc. A lot of women who wish they could stay home with their kids more HAVE to work to support the family, and a lot of women who wish they could go back to work struggle with finding reliable, safe, affordable childcare. So when people like the LW’s aunt glorify staying at home as some kind of sacred duty, it’s even more egregious.

        Chances are also that whenever we talk about this as a choice, we’re picturing a white women. A straight, white, able-bodied, partnered woman of a certain economic class.

        • Thank you for not leaving the cross-section of class/race/partner-having out.

        • neverjaunty said:

          Yes. And always women. Nobody fusses at dads about SACRIFICING for their BABIES by STAYING HOME.

      • Loro said:

        My mum also went into depression when my parents moved and she stayed at home with 3-year-old me, in a foreign country, without a job and without friends.

        It angers me SO MUCH that no man ever needs to go through this shit.

        My mum got a job eventually, and today we are a happy family. So all I have to say is, remember when we were fighting for women’s rights? Yeah? Still fighting for them, LW, and it is your right to go and have a job and a life in equal terms with your husband. Your aunt can indeed to eat fried worms.

    • Xenophile said:

      “Your baby will not be any happier when they are 5 and you are miserable and feel trapped at home with them and resent them for preventing you from living out your dreams.”

      THIS. This this this this this. Also, your child will not be any happier at age 15, or 25, or 35 if you resent them. Among her other physical and mental health problems, my mother was severely depressed throughout my formative years because she was an intelligent, ambitious woman who sacrificed her career and social life to follow her husband’s career overseas, and living internationally would be ‘best for the kids.’ So for years I’d come home from school and find her crying. If I hugged her, she didn’t hug back. If I asked what was wrong, she would grab my hand and say urgently, “Never, ever sacrifice your career for family. Your generation has more contraceptive and child care options than mine did. I moved here because it was best for you and your brother, but you don’t have to give up everything when you grow up.” Maybe she thought she was giving me sage advice that would help me avoid her fate, but the message I received was that we weren’t enough to make her happy and that she hated us for ruining her life.

      I wish she had done what she needed be happy. Aside from alleviating her own suffering, it might have spared my brother and me some really painful experiences that we’re still sorting out years later. A happy parent has energy to attend to their children’s needs; an unhappy parent may not have any energy left over.

      • Ali said:

        One of the best/worst things my mom ever told me was that she wanted abortions. My dad wanted kids, and they were married, so she had us. Being told repeatedly (in off-hand, jokey sort of ways) since I was 12ish that she wanted abortions instead of kids has seriously fucked me up, but it’s also given me a better insight into her as a person. She stopped working after she had me (the older of two) and didn’t start again until they divorced when I was six. She was not made to be a stay at home anything and I’m not sure she should have been a parent.

        LW, do what’s right for YOU. Having a happy parent who loves them is a million times better for any child than having a parent who is doing what they think they have to and don’t really want.

      • sylvia said:

        Ahh, the joys of stay at home life. So much fun, I thought about throwing the baby out the window just so I could get out. And then I had the 2-for-1 special deal: misery at being home + massive guilt at being an awful, horrible mom, because who thinks about doing such a terrible thing?

        More people than you’d think, apparently, but fortunately most don’t follow through.

        • alphakitty said:

          My friend told me not long ago that it was when she pictured her darling babies flying through the window that she hied herself off for antidepressants. And she *is* a baby-person.

          I’m not, particularly; I’ve loved my kids from the start, and I will treasure forever my memories of those snug little bundles against my chest, little fuzzy heads under my chin. But damn, infants are a lot of work! I had no defenestration fantasies, but I clearly recall the time I almost bit my infant son. I was sooo sleep deprived, and he just kept crying and crying, and wouldn’t let me put him down, and some primitive survival instinct told me to attack the creature torturing me… to the point that I had my teeth on his shoulder. *I didn’t bite.* But yeah. For that millisecond the urge was there. I hated myself for it at the time. And the reason I never had a third child is that while I would have liked another kid, I knew I didn’t have it in me to do another *baby* — pregnancy not being the issue.

          I think one of the things moms need to do is let go of the fairy tale that if you’re a good mom, it will all be sweet and easy and graceful, and you will *never* hate it or feel trapped… along with a lot of our other absurd expectations of ourselves. Because expecting that just sets you up to feel like a Bad Mom a lot, and who does that help?

          Fortunately, it does get better, and relatively quickly. Pretty much every time I thought I couldn’t take “it” anymore, the kid would move on to the next phase.

          You’re going to want to teach your kids that it’s totally ok to have whatever feelings they have, that what matters is what they do about them. Practice by telling yourself.

    • Jenni said:

      “When your baby grows into a human it will want you to be happy. It will not want you to make huge sacrifices that make you depressed on its behalf.”

      Exactly. My grandmother made that huge sacrifice – apparently because back in the day, my grandfather pressured her into it, because they were middle-class and in his opinion then, middle-class wives shouldn’t work – and now she’s constantly reminding all of the family what a big sacrifice she made back in the day. We get the feeling she’s now, at an old age, looking back into her life and doubting if that actually amounted to anything and trying desperately to make herself believe that that was something awesome… which is such a pity, if you don’t really believe it in your heart. So don’t let other people influence your decision but do what you really feel will make you look back into your life when you’re old and feel accomplished.

      The society in my home country has now evolved into such that the norm is for both parents to stay at home for a while (one at a time, of course), and then the child is whisked off to day-care. While I think this is an excellent way to do it and does wonders to women’s position in the work force, the downside is that if nowadays somebody wants to be a stay-at-home mom, they get VERY long looks… and not the good kind. I guess people are just unable to stop judging other people’s decisions on this.

      • Scandinavia?

        In my perfect society people would be able to work or not as they wished, whether it be to stay at home to raise children or to spend your life focusing on something of cultural importance that doesn’t have the financial benefits that allow you to make a living from it (as an example, there’s been an effort in my country to keep alive the art of flax weaving, raranga, but you’d basically have to do nothing but teach and weave, all day every day, to make enough money to survive), or whatever. Sadly the only way to make that happen would be to pay everybody a basic living allowance and raise all taxes on what you earned yourself beyond that, and right wing rhetoric is so powerful at the moment that putting that into practice as a long term thing seems essentially impossible.

    • This! ^^ –

      When my kids were babies I did not do anything the way my in-laws expected, nor did I do anything the way my mother expected (two wildly divergent sets of assumptions, kind of hysterically funny in retrospect). What I did do was based entirely on what would make everyone safe, fed, contented and interested. As Mr. Crow said repeatedly, the goal is to increase the number of sane people in the world. If you lose your sanity raising the baby, that is not a net win.

      Also, a related story, regarding babies. I lived in the neighborhood of older women who LOVED babies. They would stop me and coo at the baby, and smile mistily at me and say “isn’t this just the BEST PART???” and when I’d get home I’d burst into tears. I told a friend “if this is the best part I am so screwed…” She would talk me down, and eventually the baby got bigger and right when all the older women were warning me about the Terrible Twos and all the miseries of older kids, I started having fun. So. Your mileage with your kid will vary tremendously, and you are not required to like anyone’s child but your own. (although, may I say from here, peering into the computer monitor, that she looks like a truly fabulous child?)

      • Tosca said:

        Yes! Just chiming in as another woman who MUCH prefers the older set. I have less-than-zero desire for another baby, even though I enjoy other’s babies. I also had PPD and it was so hard dealing with everyone telling me how this was the best part and wasn’t I so happy?????
        Kind of like those people who say the teen years are the “best years of your life”, when you are a miserable teen and just want to grow out of it already.
        Also, I have one child and plan to keep it that way, and you are NOT and EVIL WOMAN if you decide that you don’t really like this whole making babies business. I have my one son and I love him, but when people ask whether I’m having any more I say “nope, sorry, I’ve got shit I wanna do”.

        • Epiphyta said:

          *offers the fistbump of “oh sweet Flying Spaghetti Monster NEVER AGAIN”* I love my son, but there were days when I wasn’t sure which of us was going to live through this (not helped by my ex’s thought that I MUST have had an affair, because why else would a woman be miserable about being pregnant? You will note the word “ex” in there) and I wanted to be sane enough to raise him, so NO, you are not a terrible person to recognize that you can not deal with the baby stage.

          • ….that is a special level of lack of empathy.

          • Epiphyta said:

            He was brought up in a patriarchal religious home (women’s highest calling is having the babies!) and literally could not understand why any woman would not want children. He and his current wife have five children, some of whom have married and are producing grandbabies, so our son and his partner are off the hook.

            (Having watched friends and stepsiblings deal with college and unplanned pregnancies — contraception means you planned to have sex! That makes the Baby Jesus drink gin out of the cat dish! — they have decided grad school and going back to Paris is more their speed, and are big fans of the local Planned Parenthood.)

          • SadieBlake said:

            “That makes the Baby Jesus drink gin out of the cat dish!”

            I just nearly snorted adult beverage out of my nose. That was hilarious.

      • sylvia said:

        Tiny babies and crawling babies are cute like puppies or kittens. Post-toddlers are cute like mini-humans without too much life experience. I, like many, impatiently wait for the first to turn into the second.

      • I love babies! I had no idea how much I loved them until I started babysitting one. Oh, babies!!! Although handing them back when they lose their cute is an awesome thing, I still cope pretty well with “okay, well, there’s only like four things that can be wrong here.” And they’re warm and comforting and are like cats who can’t run away. Also, the smell of certain babies just makes me happy.

        My best friend, who has the babies? She is not a baby person. So I come over and say “GIVE ME THAT” and she is just thrilled to be able to do something else. I’m thrilled to have a BABY in my arms. It’s excellent. And it takes all kinds. It is amazing how Baby becomes Actually Human and how Human becomes Kid, and I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t like any of those stages.

  3. Jake said:

    I just want to speak up as a person who was raised by two parents who worked outside the home: Your kid will be fine. My sister and I are fine. We had baby daycare and then daycare and then afterschool care and once we were old enough we just walked ourselves home and took care of ourselves until our parents were home from work. That’s all fine and we were fine.

    • Emma said:

      I want to second this. Both my parents worked my whole childhood and when I was an older child/adolescent my dad was gone a good chunk of the time for work. I was fine and am fine and didn’t feel unloved or abandoned or fall down a well or anything. I have a good relationship with them as an adult and am glad that they did what worked for all of us as a family.

      • Multiplied. . . plus, my working mother worked in a grade school. That I then attended as a child. Can I tell you how awesome that was? After school, while mom graded papers, there was room after room full of books and educational toys and very patient teachers. Nerd heaven.

    • In the days of dinosaurs, when I was growing up, parents and teachers pitied me because my mother worked outside the home (none of the other kids in my class had that situation). But I knew better, because when I was 5-6, Mom was a stay-at-home mom because we had moved for Dad’s job and she was having and caring for my baby sister. And making a big garden and working for the Democratic party and starting a million sewing projects and driving randomly around… she hated it, is what I’m saying. The only person in the household who didn’t know might have been my sister because babies don’t care. Much. We were back in the city and Mom was working again by the time she was old enough to notice, and I was trying to tell my teachers that they were wrong because going home to the babysitter and my sister was SO. Much. Better. than having Mom pack us in the car so we could “go for a drive” to noplace.

  4. Wannabe Noether said:

    My mom was forced by my paternal grandparents not to go to college when she got married, and then multiple times she’s tried to join my dad in his shop and faced enough flak from them that she quit (i’m not from the West). I can tell you this: don’t listen to relatives who tell you that you must stay at home.

  5. Joan of Anon said:

    Your aunt is just plain wrong. Do what you need to to make yourself happy, ignore her, and have an awesome life with your husband, your daughter and your work.

  6. Julie said:

    I’ll speak up as someone whose mother stayed home but really, REALLY should have gone to work. She was miserable and bored and desperate and was a complete pain to be around until … she went back to work when I was 13 and then got another degree and got into the career she really loved. My sister and I were amazed at the transformation.

    Your baby will be fine. You being happy is just as important.

    (And also, although we all agree on this, I’m saying it out loud: it’s BULLSHIT to say that to you and not to your husband! There are two parents here, and the two parents get to decide how to ensure a happy child and enough income and a great life. Together. In whatever configuration works for this family.)

    Your happiness counts. Your happiness matters.

    • TO said:

      “And also, although we all agree on this, I’m saying it out loud: it’s BULLSHIT to say that to you and not to your husband! There are two parents here, and the two parents get to decide how to ensure a happy child and enough income and a great life. Together. In whatever configuration works for this family”

      THIS!

    • Karnn said:

      I was in a similar situation; my mom gave up her schooling and “any hope for a career” once she started having kids. She was bored, angry, and bitter for much of my childhood.

      She took a few part-time and seasonal jobs as I got old enough to babysit the younger siblings, and that trends continues to this day–she’s never happy, and nothing is ever enough for her. In the long run, I think that her being stay-at-home had a large negative impact on my childhood and my life.

  7. H.Regalis said:

    “It’s the ultimate sacrifice a woman has to make” ??

    Good lord, a baby is not a grenade you’re throwing yourself on to save the rest of your buddies in the platoon.

    LW, your baby will be fine if you’re working. Part of what makes humans do so well as a sub-species is that we’re really adaptable. We can thrive in a variety of circumstances.Your baby is not a panda, and staying at home is not bamboo (said by someone raised by a mother who worked outside the home).

    Ok, enough metaphors. But seriously, your aunt is wrong. The baby will be fine, and it will be better off if its mom is happy and healthy.

    • Derail, but I got the most spectacular mental picture in my head from the idea of a baby grenade. Kind of like the moment in Shrek 3 when he’s having a nightmare about being a dad.

  8. M Dubz said:

    Both of my parents work, and have worked pretty much my entire life. I grew up pretty damn well adjusted. My mother has told me several times, pretty much point blank, “If I had stayed home with you and your sister full time, I would have gone insane.” Your baby will be so much happier and better adjusted if you do what is best for you and go back to work. And your aunt can stuff her useless opinions, for real.

  9. Anathema Device said:

    Stay-at-home mother here. The Captain gave great advice as usual but I just wanted to chime in with a big fat raspberry to your aunt. That is some sexist bullshit for sure. Motherhood should not involve self-sacrifice or martyrdom AT ALL. Compromises, yes. Sometimes difficult compromises. Putting the kid’s needs ahead of your own when appropriate, yes (eg a newborn’s need to feed at 3am overrides your need for sleep). Total annhilation of self, HELL NO. If you need to work and get out of the house for your own mental health you should do so. Also, can I recommend http://thefeministbreeder.com/ – the author is an awesome, feminist, working, grad student mother of three.

    • Lauren said:

      Not a fan of Feminist Breeder, especially if you lack the privilege that she has. She has (some) great goals but really likes to burn bridges if you disagree with her. Not good if you’re in a sensitive frame of mind.

      • Starling said:

        Seconding the “not a fan.” She seems to have a lot of rules about what makes a Good Mother, as well–they’re just in a different direction from Aunt’s rules.

  10. alphakitty said:

    There are soooo many ways to be a great mom! And you totally have to do the one that works for you, not the one that Nasty Overbearing Auntie thinks should work for you. (I’ve never understood why so many stay-at-home-moms seem to feel a need to disparage working moms in order to validate their own decisions, and vice versa!! It’s like religion…. maybe, just maybe, there isn’t one correct answer!?!)

    That thing CA said, about “A happier you = happier mom = better mom” is really true.

    If nothing else, consider that our children learn by example. Do you want your daughter to learn the lesson that a mother’s happiness does not count, that she should sublimate her needs to everyone else’s, because that’s what good women do? That she has to choose between having a husband and child and fulfilling her other dreams? Or would you rather model that every woman has to find her own balance between work and family, in a way that brings her satisfaction and happiness? And that even thought that is hard to do, it is totally worth it?

    Show your daughter that happiness matters.

    And like CA says, do talk to your doctor about the post-partum depression thing. It does not have to be “I’m afraid I’m going to hurt my child” to be worth mentioning and getting treated. I know several woman (myself included) who have said “the year after X child was born was the hardest in my life. I don’t know why I did not realize at the time that it was postpartum depression, or talk to *anyone* about it, because that’s clearly what it was.” If you think of yourself as naturally a cheery person, and now you’re feeling stupid, inferior, and worthless, that sounds like good reason to talk to your doctor!

    • VA said:

      “There are soooo many ways to be a great mom!” Yes yes yes!

      There is no way to be a perfect mom. But there are many, many ways to be an awesome mom to your kid.

      • L said:

        “There is no way to be a perfect mom. But there are many, many ways to be an awesome mom to your kid.”

        Totally. Also, just thought it would be appropriate here to introduce the concept of “good enough” parenting, which has really helped me out–not as a parent myself, but as a(n adult) kid. My parents were GOOD ENOUGH. Everything else is up to me.

  11. Purple Cat said:

    When this came up in our family my husband immediately said “I can’t see how it does baby any good if you are thoroughly miserable”. It helped that he was prepared to back me up on this and he just kept repeating it whenever I had a friend or relative induced wobble.

  12. MusesMuse said:

    It sounds like your aunt is screaming, “validate my choices, validate my daughter’s choices” because if you don’t do what they do, they seem to think it’s an unspoken criticism of them.

    Take it from someone who was not meant to be a stay-at-home mom, there is nothing wrong with recognizing your limitations, boundaries and desires. I am very different from the women in my husband’s family and sometimes it’s hard for them to understand me. When they make observations like, “I stayed home with my babies until they reached kindergarten.” I’ve learned to say, “I’m glad that worked out for you.” and then change the subject.

    • Also, if you don’t go through it, it means they didn’t have to go through it either. They suffered so much, and it wasn’t even necessary. I imagine that sucks to have shoved in your face. But she needs to deal with that, or whatever it is she’s going through, not shove it back at the LW.

  13. Lauren said:

    I was a single parent and worked and went to school while my son was a baby. I was back in school by the time he was three weeks old. I don’t regret it.

    I remember I took one summer off when my son was still an infant. My babydaddy was working at the time. When he would come home in the evening, I’d pounce on him wanting to hear about his adult interactions, feel jealous that he had lunch out of the house and talked to other adult people about stuff that wasn’t Barney or poopy diapers, and feel resentful about how he chose to spend his money. That wasn’t healthy for me. The solution was to continue working and going to school without breaks.

    I had to do it — there weren’t any other options. But even if I’d had other options, this is what I would have wanted anyway. I am the daughter of a working mother. My sisters quit their corporate jobs and stayed at home with their kids but found themselves unhappy with their decisions in the long term. Lots of people have different needs, experiences, demands, and desires when it comes to work, family, and children. Honor yours.

  14. Bunmom said:

    Oooh, now I have a headache because I just rolled my eyes so hard at your aunt, LW.

    I worked full time and took only minimal (3 months) maternity leaves when both of my children were little and I was a better mother for it. I learned over time that I needed the socialization and stimilution from my chosen profession to keep me balanced. My children are well adjusted, independent and just awesome citizens now (one in college, one in highschool). I also know a number of SAHMs that are awesome at parenting their little ones. Different strokes.

    You may also find that what works for you and your husband may change over time and that’s okay too. I too was not much a “baby” person, though I cherished my own children when they were little. I enjoy toddlers/pre-schoolers at parties for limited time spans only, but don’t offer to babysit for friends/relatives because I get frustrated and drained from the constant attention needed. I really enjoy interacting with pre-teen and teenagers (go figure) and volunteer/take time off to participate in my kid’s activities frequently now that they are older.

    So I completely agree with the Captain’s script of “I’ll think about it” then ignore. You and your husband need to figure out what works best for your family. Even if you did Stay at Home, some people would critize some other aspect of your parenting… breast or bottle, organic or pre-prepared, cloth or disposable. Occasionally, you will get some helpful advice, but a lot of it is people projecting their own insecurities and disappointments in their own life.

    One other piece of advice: my husband and I both work in the same profession which can be quite demanding. We found it best for our family balance to have only one person focus on their career at a time. So for a number of years, I worked the crazy schedule and made the crazy money while he worked a more predictable job and then things would flip for a few years. Often this happened organically and sometimes by our own choosing (not pursuing new opportunities but staying in a “dead end” position because it’s close to home and has a flex schedule).

  15. I think the good thing here is that it’s your aunt who’s being like this. Your husband is supporting you in your decision to go back to work, and that’s one of the most important things! I agree with the “Thanks, I’ll think about it” – I use it so often in so many different situations that just aren’t worth arguing about because neither of us will change our mind!
    I think it would be best for you to go back to work so that your child will have a happy mum, and not a depressed and insecure one.

    • DEFINITELY. As long as the people actually raising a child agree on how best to get it done, you’re golden. Other people’s opinions are annoying and frustrating most of the time but not important.

  16. LW, it seems like you know yourself very well, and your aunt just threw you into a tizzy of self-doubt. (Which happens to me all the time, btw.) But trust what you have figured out about yourself already. And besides, wanting to work now doesn’t preclude you from staying home at some later date. A wise person once told me, “A decision is only final until you make a new one.”

    You could decide to work from now until you retire. You could decide to work now and if child #2 ever comes along, you could decide to stay home then. You could decide to work now and maybe stay home when your baby is more interactive or a toddler or whatever. Or you could back to work now and decide to stay home a week later. There are many possibilities, and you seem self-aware enough to figure out if you need to change your plans.

  17. I am a child life specialist, which means I am trained and experienced in helping kids and families cope with difficult times, and I know a lot about child development. You know what’s best for babies? Having loving, HAPPY parents. Kids pick up on their parents’ emotions, so if you stay home to care for your baby and you are miserable, that is going to have an effect on her, too. She’s way better off having two parents who work and come home happy and eager to interact with her, than a primary caregiver who loves her but is depressed and unfulfilled. Think forward to when your daughter is in the same situation? What would you want her to do? Are you modeling good behaviors to her by giving up parts of your life that are important to you for a cultural idea of what is best for your baby? As long as she has caregivers who love and nurture her, she’ll do great. I firmly believer that many women (and men) are better parents when they work outside the home.

  18. Maddie said:

    FUCK YOUR AUNT. Um. That looks really, really wrong now I’ve typed it, but seriously, fuck her and the horse she rode in on. She sucks. And more importantly, she’s wrong. You are not being selfish. You know what you owe your baby more than anything? A happy mum. A mum who loves the time she spends with her. A mum who isn’t miserable because she’s feeling trapped and lonely and envious of her husband because he gets to leave the house. It is way too easy to start resenting your child because she’s the cause, however unintentionally, of your isolation, and that is bad for both of you.

    You’re still a person, LW, and you still have your own wants and needs, and you’re entitled to those. You don’t stop EXISTING just because you’ve had a child. Being Mummy doesn’t become your entire identity, but when you’re doing the stay-at-home mum thing, it often feels like it does, and that is just soul-destroying. In all honesty, I think you’re doing your daughter a favour in making sure you’re happy and letting her know that women aren’t just mothers. And looking after a baby can be – often is – really, really fucking boring, which is depressing in itself. I love the hell out of my son, but looking after him is not exactly an intellectual challenge. It’s exhausting, but it’s not stimulating. It has some great moments, when he’s learning to walk or talk for the first time, and some hilarious moments, like when he smacked the wall because it bumped his head. But it has an awful lot of pooing, screaming, biting moments, and those are frustrating and stressful and infuriating and STILL REALLY FUCKING BORING.

    LW, you are not alone in feeling the way you do. I’ve struggled with this a lot. I am a stay-at home mum myself at the moment. Luckily, or unluckily, for me, the job I had before I had a baby was boring as shit too, so I have had no regrets about not going back to it, but I’m increasingly finding that I need to find a way to work some kind of brainwork into my day, because there is only so much intellectual stimulation that a child who can only say “mumma” and “dada” and “yeah” can provide. Being a full-time parent is often hard, isolating, brain-numbing work. You’re providing 24 hour service for a mercurial little tyrant who can’t even tell you properly what they want. It’s okay not to want to do that all the time, especially if you have a career and goals that you still want to carry out. It’s okay to still be you and want what you want.

    It’s okay – it’s MORE than okay, it’s fucking GREAT – to go back to work so that the time you spend with your daughter is happy “oh I’m so pleased to see you, I’ve missed you” time, not “oh my god I am dying of misery, when is this little fucker going to sleep” time. It’s not selfish to want to be not-miserable. Or, if it is, it’s not a bad selfishness. It’s the selfishness of self-preservation and realism, that acknowledges that you are not happy being a SAHM. You do not owe your daughter your misery. You do not owe her the “ultimate sacrifice” – which, I’m sorry, isn’t that usually death? You don’t owe her a living death either. You owe her the best parenting you can provide for her, but you can’t provide your best if you are dying of post-natal depression or boredom or isolation or resentment or all of the above. You will not be the best mother you can be if you are miserable. It just won’t happen. For you to be the best mother YOU can be, you clearly need to be at work.

    Oh, and re the post-partum depression, insecurity may “just” be part of that, but that doesn’t mean it’s an inevitable consequence of motherhood. PPD isn’t an inevitable consequence of motherhood either. It’s a fucking NIGHTMARE, as I know from personal experience. If you’re worried about it, go and talk to your doctor ASAP. “Baby blues”, a few days of moodiness, are normal. Longer than that is not, and it needs treating. You don’t owe your daughter depression or insecurity either. She will be happier with a mother who is not depressed and not insecure.

    Your baby will be fine. She’ll be better than fine, because you love her enough to make the right decisions that will enable you to be a happy mother.

    • Erika said:

      Wow. I’ve done both–my son went to daycare for five years, and my daughter for a year before I stayed home with them because of the way our school system works (only half-day Kindergarten an hour away from my job and in the country, so no easy after school care). I loved my job, I was a busy professional doing Important Work.

      But I’m also doing Important Work staying home with my kids, and I’m never, ever bored. Boredom would be welcome and wonderful for a change. Some of your vehemence– ““oh my god I am dying of misery, when is this little fucker going to sleep” and “But it has an awful lot of pooing, screaming, biting moments, and those are frustrating and stressful and infuriating and STILL REALLY FUCKING BORING.” seem a *lot* much to tell a young mother, especially because, while true for you, they are hardly universal feelings.

      • JenniferP said:

        Erika, don’t correct her feelings or fault her for expressing them. Maddie’s feeling bored sometimes doesn’t make her a bad mom. It sounds like the LW can identify with some of those feelings and may need to hear that she’s not alone just as much (if not more) as she needs to hear that you are “never, ever bored” taking care of your kids.

        • Maddie said:

          Thanks, Captain Awkward, I appreciate it. To be honest, the mums who were never bored just stressed me out when I was wrestling with feeling bad about being bored. I’m happy for anyone who doesn’t have this experience – I’ve had postpartum depression most of the time since my son was born, and I’m sure that’s a contributor – but it was always really helpful to me to know I wasn’t alone.

      • Maddie said:

        I never said a thing about this work being unimportant, Erika. Of course it is. I have no problem with that, nor with people who don’t find it boring at all. My sister has been a stay-at-home mum for over thirteen years, and she doesn’t seem to be bored or frustrated at all, which is awesome for her. It’s not a criticism of you – I’m delighted that you’re never, ever bored. But your feelings aren’t universal either, or I wouldn’t be here talking about mine.

        But while, as I said, there are wonderful times, I do get bored and frustrated. And that’s okay. That’s me – and I’m not alone, not by a long way. And, not to put too fine a point on it, this isn’t about you. If it doesn’t apply to you, it doesn’t apply to you. I was responding to a “young mother” (though we don’t know how old she is or how old the baby is) who is already struggling with resentment and boredom and finding being a full-time mother depressing, and I responded the way I did because one of the most comforting things, for me (and for other women I know who have had similar struggles), is knowing I’m not the only one who has felt this way. It’s incredibly isolating and depressing to feel like you’re surrounded by people who think there’s nothing better than being a full-time mother and you’re the only person in the world who doesn’t feel that way. I had lunch with a woman I know when my son was four months old and hers was three months old, and she nearly broke down when I told her how stressful and difficult and boring I could find being at home with the baby because no one had told her that was even a possibility. I wouldn’t have said anything of the sort to someone who hadn’t already expressed those feelings. I don’t run up to pregnant women in the street and tell them that they might not find it all wonderful. But I know how much it meant to me in earlier days to know that I wasn’t the only person in the world who found being a mother really hard and not intellectually engaging.

      • Honestly I think society gives women enough messages that MOTHERHOOD IS SO PERFECT and you simply MUST enjoy every minute of it or you’re a TERRIBLE PERSON that we need more spaces where women can speak frankly about how it’s actually normal to get frustrated with it and you’re not a horrible freak of nature if you find parts of it boring.

        • Maddie said:

          Yes, exactly. I really suffered from that in the early days, because the women I met were all “oh yes, everything is all sunshine and roses”, and I was like “but I cry all day! And so does he! I want to have a minute to have grown up thoughts! WHERE IS MY SUNSHINE DADNABBIT?!” It took me awhile to accept that I wasn’t a bad person or a bad mother because I didn’t find my little man’s every little puke fascinating, and sometimes just wanted to read a damn book. You know, as long as I didn’t just leave him lying in the puke so I could read the book.

    • Laura said:

      Yes! I am totally there with you on this one Maddie. I cracked up reading “You’re providing 24 hour service for a mercurial little tyrant who can’t even tell you properly what they want.” So true!!

      Also, if you’re still looking for some extra mental stimulation, maybe write a blog? Because I think you’re a hilarious writer, and I would totally read it.

      • Maddie said:

        Thank you! I’ve been thinking about writing a blog, though last time I did it wasn’t so hilarious as it was All About My Eating Disorder. Did the job, though, the situation improved a lot. I’m trying to find time to write generally, but it might be useful to have something with a definite update schedule, as I tend to procrastinate. I’m a wee bit put off (well, more than a wee bit) by the harassment I’ve seen of many feminist women on the internet. Even my teeny tiny eating disorder blog got some nasty comments of the “OMG you fat cow just stop eating you fatty fat mcfatty” variety, which is just what you want when you’re trying to work through your ED issues. The Internet: demonstrating why the world is the way it is since whatever year it was.

        • JenniferP said:

          The good news is that you can delete & ban those fuckers! It’s not perfect (you still have to read the vitriol), but sometimes it’s fun to clean a whole nest of MRAs complaining about “spermjacking” out of the comments.

          • Maddie said:

            I know – and I did! It’s just whether I’m up to reading the vitriol at all. On the other hand, I’m probably more prepared for potential fuckers than I was last time!

            What, exactly, is spermjacking? Wait, I can guess – it’s those nasty feminist bitches stealing their precious, precious sperm and making babies with it to raise alone without a man! Girl babies only, obviously! We leave the boy babies outside for the wolves… (she types, around the crawling body of her 15 month old son…).

          • Brightwanderer said:

            I wonder if there would be any mileage in trying to set up a sort of blog moderation swap for feminist bloggers? Like… X does the first-pass mod of Y’s blog, Y does the first-pass mod of X’s, getting rid of the trolls and the vitriol and so on that is always nasty to deal with, but maybe is just that bit nastier if it’s directed at you rather than someone else. Then they do second-pass modding themselves for general house rules on the blog. I don’t know, though, maybe the horrible comments are so universal that it wouldn’t make it any less depressing to be doing someone else’s…

          • SadieBlake said:

            I don’t even have a blog and I’d be happy to moderate on behalf of someone else – I think if there’s that degree of separation, it doesn’t feel so personal. It’s more of a “Wow, look at this jackass,” and less of a “Hey, that really hurt.”

            I like the idea :)

          • Solestria said:

            Same. I’d be happy to be a first-pass mod for someone else’s blog, and I think the whole idea of modding for someone else, so it won’t all feel so personal, is brilliant.

          • Maddie said:

            That’s a really good idea, actually. I mean, vitriol is vitriol, but it’s probably less difficult if you’re not reading about yourself.

        • Tosca said:

          This has been what’s kept me from seriously blogging as well. You aren’t alone.

        • Laura said:

          Ahh that was so hilarious again! Yeah, there’s a lot of pressure on the internet for nobody to have a voice ever who isn’t 100% OK with the status quo. I’ve got a blog and write about geeky things (whoa, misogyny minefield) so I know how it goes.

          But if you do take the plunge, you’ve already got one supportive lady reader.

          p.s. way to go on taking proactive steps to get your disorder in check! That shows a lot of courage already.

          • Maddie said:

            Thanks Laura. You’re making my day! (And my sister’s day too…she has been emailing me now about how I have to start a blog.) Where’s your blog? I’ve seen an awful lot of internet hate explosions, and they make me wary.

            Thanks for the ED support too – it was a hard slog, but totally worth it. I’m a million times better now than I was.

          • Laura said:

            So maybe this will be moderated, because I’m not sure if we’re supposed to share links? But here goes: http://sushicart.org/blog (and I now that I’m sharing, I realize that it’s been ages since I updated… whoops)

            Also, you may quickly unravel my ‘Laura’ secret identity. I wanted to share something personal in a comment for one of the LW’s and then got in the habit of using that for my commenter name on CA.

        • zuzu said:

          You don’t actually have to enable comments on a blog if you don’t want to.

          • Maddie said:

            True, but then you don’t get the nice ones, like Laura’s!

          • Laura said:

            Thanks! Also, I think part of the fun bit about blogging is getting constructive feedback, so it really feels unfair to have to miss out on that part because of the potential for bullying.

            On the other hand, internet bullying can be terrifying so opting out altogether is probably a good call. My comments would be disabled in a hot second if I got anything more threatening than ominous spam about link optimization.

      • I’m studying extramurally at the moment and loving it. Unfortunately that does require either that you can afford to pay for the courses or that you can access student loans, which a lot of people can’t, and I don’t know how it is in other countries/at other universities but mine generally requires you to go to a contact course once a semester for each paper to check in and discuss things in person, which is super helpful but means money for transport, arranging travel plans and someone to take care of the baby, whether that’s parents or your partner takes time off work, and if you don’t have supportive family you have to hire someone which is even more expensive especially if it includes overnight.

        • Maddie said:

          I’m hoping to do that eventually, but we’re planning to emigrate fairly soon, so I can’t at the moment. I’m looking forward to it, though, it will be nice to get my brain back into gear. And once we’ve emigrated, there will be supportive family close by.

    • Hanna said:

      Not saying anything new, I just wanted to reiterate the point of “The best for your child is for you to be happy” (assuming all other basic needs of the child are being met, of course). Whether that means you’re able to be a stay-at-home mom and love spending all day with your child, or if that means you love going to work and getting some adult interaction, so then when you come home, you can really appreciate the smaller amounts of time you spend with your child.

      My mom has worked full-time (and often over-time) for all of my life- except maybe 3 months right after I was born- and so I spent a good deal of time at daycare and whatnot. It didn’t “ruin” me; it meant that the time I got to spend with my mother involved her being happy to be with me, which is much preferable to her being around all the time and being unhappy. She had an important job that she loved doing, and it let her love/treasure the time she spent home with me.

      The only time “working mom” is negative is when circumstances force the moms to work. If the mom hates her job and comes home always in a bad mood, or is unable to take off from work and always has to miss the child’s thing, that’s when it problematic because again, mom isn’t happy.

    • Brightwanderer said:

      In some random and upside-down way, this is the first thing I’ve read that has made me think having kids isn’t quite off the agenda for me. I’ve been really, really sure I didn’t want them all my life and part of that is that I have always been very certain that I would feel _exactly_ like that about babies. BORING. OH GOD. THEY POO. All my cousins are having babies at the moment, and… they’re still SO BORING after the first five minutes of “oh look, tiny hands”. And I don’t really feel like I want the later stages of children enough to put up with all that. But if it’s a case of gritting teeth until they turn into interesting little people (and I will confess to adoring _other people’s_ five-year-olds and up), and this is not in fact a totally abnormal thing to feel… well, that’s food for thought, anyway!

      • I was never comfortable with other people’s kids, especially babies. I found it different parenting my own infants (now 4 years old and 10 months old) because I _knew_ them in a way I didn’t know other people’s and had done the gradual trial-and-error to find ways of interacting with them that worked for both of us and could chart developmental stages over time and so forth.

        This is not guaranteed to happen for you, so I would not make it the thing that tips the scales in your decision! But I thought it was worth mentioning.

      • Maddie said:

        Babyhood is very short. Your child, should you have one, will only be a baby for a tiny proportion of their life. It may not SEEM very short at times, but it really is. Mine is 15 months old already, which I just can’t believe, and he gets more interesting all the time. But if you do have kids and find the baby stage boring, you really, really won’t be alone. I actually like babies, but they’re a lot of work for very little response at first, and even when you like them, there will be times that you just find boring. But I guess that’s when you have to figure out whether you’ll work or not, and what else you’ll do around being a parent. Glad to have been food for thought! I think there is a definite problem in society of women being expected to find babies fascinating, so it’s not necessarily easy to find the mothers who will admit that they aren’t fascinated, but there are probably a lot more of us than are willing to admit it!

        • My sister commented recently that her best friend’s baby is getting old enough to act more on a level with her cat. It made me laugh a lot, but… the baby’s only just over a year old, and now he’s like a furless cat! and soon he’ll be like a very short proto-person!

          I also understand that most people think babies are cuter than hairless cats, though I personally think hairless cats (and also Chinese crested dogs, which look like ponies when they’re show jumping) are ridiculously adorable with their weird wrinkly skin and bat faces.

  19. Rosa said:

    I stayed home, I worked, now I’m staying home again. Seconding everyone who’s telling you if you want to go back to work, do. My kid LOVED daycare.

    But also: having a new baby is really hard. While you’re looking for a new job, also take the Captain’s standard advice and call on Team You – maybe your doctor, maybe some friends who support you as a human being and not just a mom, maybe a cousin who’s raring to tell your “helpful” aunt to STFU. Taking time for self care is really, really hard when you have a tiny human to be responsible for, but it’s important.

  20. Erika said:

    LW, others have said it but I’ll reiterate–what makes you the most happy, fulfilled parent will make a happier child. There are good and bad things to both parents working, and good and bad to having a stay at home parent. Staying home shouldn’t be a sacrifice you make as a woman (gag) (ugh). You and your husband have it worked out. The Aunt should STFU.

  21. Elle said:

    This letter seems fake. It’s just soooo obvious what the answer is, I don’t know. The writing just seems off somehow. I don’t know. I just can’t buy this as a real problem.

    • caryatid said:

      i don’t think it seems fake at all. usually fake letters are super detailed and over-sensational.

      “dear prudie, i came home to find my father and my brother having a threesome with a chicken. what should i do??”

      • Karyn said:

        There’s a joke in there about a clustercluck, but I can’t quite see how to get there.

        • Sheelzebub said:

          I think you just did, LMAO.

        • Key said:

          LOL!

        • Veronica said:

          “Looks like you got a real clusterfuck on your hands, LW.”

          • SadieBlake said:

            Or perhaps a cluckerfuck?

            I am not doing anything even remotely helpful here, am I?

    • Karyn said:

      I think that maybe expressing herself in writing isn’t her long suit–and that’s okay, we’re not all stellar writers. It’s absolutely a real problem that mothers get crap from all sides on all kinds of choices they make. I believe this is a real letter, but even if it isn’t, it still presents an issue that lots of people face.

    • mintylime said:

      If I recall correctly, CA occasionally edits down a really long letter, which could account for some of that oddness. Additionally/alternately, the author’s primary language might not be English – it wouldn’t be the first time on this blog at all.

      I can’t say which of these might obtain here (or something completely else!), but these are some possible reasons.

      • JenniferP said:

        I don’t edit letters anymore. With really long letters, I write back to the person and say “Make this shorter please.”

        • mintylime said:

          Good to know – thanks!

    • JenniferP said:

      Elle, put a sock in it. It’s a real letter. Lots of reasons people don’t have your amazing command of the English language. Even if it’s not by some stretch of the imagination, it’s a real letter/situation for someone.

      If I’d seen this before I would have sent it to spam, but since people have responded I will leave it up.

      Elle, don’t troll my comments section again.

  22. Guava said:

    LW, don’t listen to your aunt. She is just a particularly intrusive act in the parade of Helpie Helperssons and Nosey Nosemores that will periodically advice-bomb you in the grocery store, from the TV screen, on the playground, etc. You can usually tell when it’s coming because they almost always start with a syrupy-sounding “Oh, HONEY…” or “I’m CONCERNED…” (I can feel my spine stiffening as I type those words, ugh)

    I work from home, so I can generally deflect both the guilt trips of the “you must stay home!” and the “but why aren’t you WORKING?” crowd but I remember being reduced to tears on a regular basis when my first was born by the wife of a friend who was a pretty evangelical lactivist, and refused to acknowledge that I was having legitimate problems breast feeding my baby. People will try to park all kinds of baggage on a new mom, and it’s not your baggage, it’s theirs, but it’s hard not to take it personally or let it get to you when you are already tired, overwhelmed and unsure of yourself.

    Your original plan to go back to work sounds awesome to me. It sounds like you know in your heart that that’s what you want to do. You should do that. Give it a little bit of time and then take some measure to see how you’re feeling. If you’re still feeling depressed, talk to your doctor about that. Either way, your baby will be fine.

    • H.Regalis said:

      A total stranger coming up to me and addressing me as “honey” would instantly put my back up (to say nothing of the “baby-raisin': ur doin’ it wrong” stuff). You don’t know me, I’m not your honey. It’s like guys on the street calling you baby or sweet thing >_<

      • Guava said:

        It’s a giant pet peeve of mine too. I am normally a very polite person, but once I actually ended up totally yelling my head off at this random woman in a parking lot who did that to me. She was concern-trolling me because I had latched my toddler into a carseat in a warm car (with the doors wide open) for one minute, while I loaded groceries into the trunk.

        It was along the lines of, “oh HONEY, don’t you know a child can DIE in a hot car…” I was standing right there! The doors were open! The keys were in my hand! I had about one hour of sleep under my belt, and all of my patience was gone. I ended up screaming at her, “OK well how would you handle it? Should I have left him in the shopping cart? Or maybe asked a total stranger to hold him? Should I grow some more arms? Huh? What would you suggest?!”

        I mean…seriously.

        • Rosa said:

          You rock.

          The only time there was actual shouting at strangers criticizing my parenting, it was because they accidentally criticized my friend who was holding the baby so I could put other stuff in the car. I just don’t have the mojo.

          See, he was all overheated in his snowsuit after being indoors shopping, and I took his hood off his sweaty little flushed head. And handed him to my friend, who was wearing a hat. And some random woman in the parking lot said to her teenagers, very loudly “I GUESS IT’S COLD ENOUGH FOR MOMMY TO WEAR A HAT!”

          And my friend had the presence of mind to yell back “GOOD JOB TEACHING YOUR KIDS TO BE RUDE!”

          • human said:

            Your friend is awesome! (I’m sure you probably are too)

        • But… you have to have the child in the car to drive home anyway. You can’t hang him/her out the window! And this is from someone who would totally call emergency services if I saw a small child alone in a parked car and who has sat and waited for someone to come back when I’ve seen dogs in cars on a hot day, but your kid is better off sitting in the car seat with the door open when you’re right there than they are when you’re actually driving (unless you have air con in your car? idk).

          • TR said:

            I’m from a hot part of the US and A/C comes standard in cars. So standard that it doesn’t occur to me that someone wouldn’t have it – the only people who I’ve met who don’t are teenagers with their first clunker. :P
            Not anything to do with the thread, but I laughed at how shocked I was when I read your comment. It’s the little things, eh?

          • I think probably most cars have it here by now? I know not all our cars have done. But we have a fairly mild climate and I don’t drive, only passenge, so I’m not sure these days.

            I definitely know that A/C in *houses* is not standard here. We have a problem with cold, damp houses, so it’s more a big deal to get heat pumps rather than A/C.

          • Guava said:

            My car does have it, but I also live in an area prone to carjackings, so I’m paranoid about leaving the kid strapped in the car while the keys are in the ignition and the engine is running. Really, the solution is to go shopping with another adult – but then the random strangers will just yell at us because the friend is wearing the hat and the baby isn’t ;)

            Hey, I think we just reached the crossover point between this question and the strangers initiating conversations on the train!

          • TR said:

            Yeah, A/C in houses is very standard, though there’s always a big fan donation drive every summer for the those (few, thankfully) who can’t afford it or those (less few) who can only afford window units in some rooms of the house – it’s dangerous not to have it. I’m pretty sure landlords are required to provide it, so that helps. (Every A/C unit I’ve seen has a heating unit attached but not having heat would rarely, if ever, be dangerous.)

  23. Karen said:

    Sorry your aunt is such a dip. Great advice here; in my experience it is not a bad thing to have a small arsenal of things to say to shut down criticism, change the subject, or smooth things over when the stay-at-home vs work-outside-the-home topic comes up, which I’ll bet it will again (and not just with your aunt).

    This issue can be a bit of a minefield and I’m sorry to say that more than once I’ve had my feelings hurt (and hurt the feelings of other moms, too, unintentionally!) over this topic. It’s great to have some diplomatic tools tucked away for those occasions.

  24. I’d be OK if this got filtered, but I was a little teensy bit sad that you used “cow” as an insult. Then again I did just get away from an uncomfortable lunch with the Diet-Talkers-Of-DOOM so maybe I’m being a bit oversensitive.

    • JenniferP said:

      I am a fat lady, I didn’t think of it as a fat thing, but I see how it could resonate that way. What insult would you prefer?

      • Key said:

        FWIW, it stings me too, because (in particular) Darth Vader Ex would use it as a synonym for the other c-word with a dollop of fate-hate on top. I don’t know if my connotations are widespread, and I’m super-uncomfortable with criticizing other feminists’ language (and I love this place so hard and I think you’re so awesome!!), but since it’s brought up here, just wanted to add a data point that librarychair isn’t alone in reacting to that word.

        Insults are tough because so many are based around gender conformity and sexism! I’m remembering a really good discussion on the topic – I’m sure it was Shakesville – kinda came down to asshole being the best general purpose insult ’cause we’ve all got ‘em.

        • JenniferP said:

          Makes sense to me! I’m not going to change it so that your apt critique will make sense in the comments, but I’ll definitely not use it going forward.

          • Thneedle-dee-dee said:

            An acquaintance of mine gave this whole subject some hard thought (since insult words are often sexual ones, and I run in a sex-positive crowd), and she came up with “food-eater” as an insult. It’s genius. It proves that it’s all in “how you say it”, and who on earth can deny that they do, in fact, eat food?

          • Hanna said:

            That reminds me of something great I learned when I was younger: if someone starts insulting you or gets into a heated argument, quickly say “Yeah well you shower naked!” (as if it were an insult), and 98% of the time, before they realize what they’re saying, they will respond with “NO I DON’T!”. And then their brain catches up and they realize how silly they just sounded. Though this may only work on teenagers…

          • When I was in intermediate school we took great delight in asking people in a disgusted tone if they were virgins. Oh, twelve year olds. *headshake* Sadly once you get older some people start asking that question for real, if usually more subtly.

          • I also have been thinking about insults that are not lady-parts, not sexual and still say something. One of my favorites is spherical asshole (any way you look at this person, they are an asshole). Spherical thus makes a great modifier for other insults. Another blogger referred to a despicable person as an anal fissure. I would welcome other ideas as well?

          • irishup said:

            big fan of asshat & assclown myself.

          • I use douche-something (douchecanoe, etc) a lot, because while douching has a gendered implication, it’s something that is legitimately bad for women, so it works well when used against misogynist dickstains.

            Also, dickstains. Or shitstains.

          • human said:

            How about fuckwad? I suppose technically it’s sexual, but not in a gendered way.

          • Variations on asshat, like “rectal haberdasher”, are fun too. My very best insults have actually been PG-rated, but were tailored and highly specific — not the kind of thing I can usually come up with on the fly. (Molly Ivins, may she rest in peace, was a huge influence on my thinking. Her multi-page takedown of Camille Paglia is a classic.)

          • SadieBlake said:

            “Rectal haberdasher” is my new favorite insult.

            I’m also a big fan of “jackhammer” – it’s a combination of jackass + cockhammer, and has the distinction of also being a real word!

          • irishup said:

            I run with people in the ED crowd (caregivers, clinicians and ppl working on recovery), and I could see even “food eater” being v. triggery. It would probably send my eldest to some disordered behaviors, if she’s having a bad day. Some people have a very uncomfortable relationship with the fact that they DO in fact eat food. And USian culture is all effed up about food, and ladiez in particular are being told to find ways to either not eat, or eat food that contains as close to zero calories as possible.

            /end derail

          • Agnes said:

            “Air-breather” might fulfill that purpose without the problems mentioned down-thread.

          • TR said:

            “Your nose smells” is also always appropriate.

          • Key said:

            That’s really cool, thanks.
            Oh, hey, I think it was Shapely Prose where the discussion I’m thinking of was had! (Sweet Machine?) Ha, I was going to try to find it, so I googled “Shapely Prose asshole” but it was a pretty popular word.

          • Jill said:

            I’ve tried to replace “cow” with “mule.” It still has the barnyard aspect, plus stubbornness, and doesn’t have a fat connotation. Added bonus: it’s satisying to say because you can really stretch out that U.

    • Julia said:

      Thank you! I was coming to the comments to also express my very first discomfort reading a Cpt Awkward reply due to the use of “cow” as an insult. And thank you, Captain, for responding respectfully.

  25. madness76 said:

    LW, work & enjoy life, you only get one shot at it! If working is important to you, work sista.

    Hubby may well be letting his pride get in the way (not all, but some men are this way) but if you want to work, go for it. Plenty of my friends are happy to admit they have to work, they like to work & they are just not built for staying at home they need something else besides 24/7 care for their child. My friends aren’t being selfish & neither are you, make it work be happy! :)

  26. quinalla said:

    Remphasizing this so much:
    “I think you were awesome and brave to know what you needed and to ask your husband for it. Some people really thrive on being stay-at-home moms. Some people don’t. Figure out which one you are and then, if economics and childcare situation allow, be that thing without apology.”

    When I had my first child, I planned to go back to work after 16 weeks, but I also had in the back of my mind that if I loved staying home that I would talk to DH and go for it. I had this dream that I would stay home with my kids as that is what my Mom did, but then reality hit. I love, love my daughter so much, but I am not cut out to be a SAHM, especially not to an infant and especially not to a high needs infant. Since I am privileged with a financial and childcare situation to have the choice, I made the best choice for me and my family which was to go back to work and I don’t regret it at all. I didn’t do it to be a good feminist, or not waste my college education and so on (real reasons people gave me that I HAD to go back to work), I did it because it was right for me.

    And welcome to the wonderful world of being a Mom, unfortunately there are so many decisions where no matter what you do you are doing it wrong according to someone. So do what you need to do for your family!

  27. hypatia said:

    Further proof that your aunt is wrong: she reminds me of Ann Romney’s speech. Amanda Marcotte wrote a great piece about it here: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2012/08/29/ann_romney_s_convention_message_to_women_sexism_is_real_but_you_can_t_do_anything_to_change_it_.html

    Relevant quote:

    “So how does Ann Romney get away with this? Because she framed it not as a problem to be fixed but a trial that women have to endure. She put a positive spin on it, claiming that these extra struggles make us women extra good. Instead of demanding equality, she encouraged her female audience instead to take their payment in martyrdom.”

  28. Key said:

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned since becoming a mother, it’s that there is never a perfect answer for this. There are so many constraints in all directions that I never saw coming, having been a kind of “whatever it is, I can solve it!” person. I have stayed home with my kid since she was born because that’s the way the scales tipped for us, and I’m both so happy and so sad about it. I spent years missing my job (which didn’t even exist anymore, because recession) and now that I really love being a SAHM, she just started school and I’m kindergarten-empty-nesting and “what the hell do I do now”-ing.

    Having a job/daycare is a *different* life than staying at home, for you and for your kid, but that doesn’t mean better or worse. Amen to human adaptability! What kids really need is love and kindness and safety and security and you can provide that however you arrange your work life.

    One thing you know for sure is that Auntie has NO SAY in how you decide to run your life and your family. There are enough situational constraints that the last thing mothers need is people adding emotional ones to the mix.

  29. PetPeever said:

    Why, in these kinds of conversations, it is never an option for the dad to stay home? Yeah, both can work, or the mom can stay home, but HELLO, there’s a third option here! And a lots of combinations!

    • Guava said:

      Thank you! I work from home, my husband is the primary SAH parent to our two kids. I was stunned by the amount of blowback we’d get from family/random people about it. My parents are constantly wringing their hands to the entire family about how I’m this poor, hardworking victim supporting my lazy husband. Yes, he is “lazy”, even though he does the exact same job that my SAH mother did, but she was a “hard-working, self-sacrificing” woman.

      Then there are the “every man is a potential predator” type random moms who snap photos of my husband kicking the soccer ball with our kids on the playground because…you know…a father can’t possibly be home, parenting his own children in the middle of the day.

      • Tosca said:

        Ha, I got the opposite. My husband stayed home for a lot of the first year or so, and *I* was a selfish bad mom who *made* him stay home and how could he stand being married to a woman that would make him do that? And a woman that would willingly give up the SAHM role? It’s like I wasn’t even a Real Woman! :D

    • Sandra said:

      I totally agree! When I was little (~30 years ago), my mum stayed at home with me for 6 months and then my dad for 6 months. After that, they both worked. To me, this has always seemed like the ideal arrangement for everyone involved.

    • Burnt Umber Ella said:

      THANK YOU. I was waiting for someone to mention the fact that stay-at-home dads exist! And they are awesome! My dad stayed at home with us kids for TEN YEARS before going back to work. He was the only dude on the PTA, often the only dude on volunteer work councils, took us on day trips when we were too little to be in school, and gave absolutely no fucks about what people thought of him and my mom (though he was appalled that people thought that I was a boy, on account of the fact that I wore green overalls and was hanging out with my dad, as if only sons can do that). If/when I get married, future spouse has to be willing to at least consider being the stay-at-home, because I’m bloody well not going to do it just because I’m a lady.

  30. Leigh said:

    As a mom who has stayed home, worked part-time from home, and now works full time away from home, let me say this: your aunt is full of it. Sadly, she will not be the only person who judges you for the decisions you make as a parent; the world is full of people who think they know exactly what you should be doing and exactly how you should be doing it. Those people are also full of it.

    I have to disagree with the good captain’s advice, though. I would not recommend telling your aunt, “Thank you, I’ll think about what you said.” I’d tell her, “This situation is what works for our family, and I am not selfish for wanting to do what’s best for us. I’m so glad that Cousin is able to do what works best for her family; many women don’t have that choice.” And then you repeat that ad nauseum until she shuts up or goes away.

    I love my two daughters more than life itself, but I found that staying home with them when they were babies was BORING. There is nothing wrong with you wanting something different for yourself, and certainly nothing selfish about it. You just keep loving your daughter and loving your husband and making the decisions that are best for the three of you.

    • JenniferP said:

      Very good script and perspective.

  31. You know what? It’s okay to be selfish. Even if you have a baby. Everyone is selfish. If it really impedes on other people’s happiness, that’s when it’s bad. But this doesn’t. Plenty of people work and leave their children in daycare or with a babysitter, and you’re lucky! You can leave your baby with family! That means not only not paying the cost of daycare, but you know who’s looking after her, and hopefully you trust them, because they’re your parents and they raised you and you turned out awesome.

    Incidentally, when we first moved our call centre from another city to ours and a bunch of us got thrown on the phones with no training, one of my earliest memorable calls was from a woman who talked to me for forty minutes about absolutely nothing because she was a SAHM who was sick of it and was just desperate for adult conversation. I didn’t mind at all because talking to different people is kind of fun but it sounded like things really sucked for her.

    Go back to work, tell your aunt that you’re doing what you think is best for your family and you’d appreciate her shutting the hell up, and consider booking a therapist in case you do have post-partum depression, because that shit’s not fun. Other than that, keep doing what you’re doing and everything will be perfectly fine. You’re doing great, your husband is doing great, and your baby is going to be great.

  32. RodeoBob said:

    I have no experience being a new wife, and even less being a new mom, so let me just talk about something I am familiar with…

    …I had always considered myself a cheery person.
    …I got so bitter and envious
    …I feel insecure…
    …It makes me feel inferior, stupid, and useless.
    …I was disgusted with what she said, it made me reconsider if I was …just being selfish.
    …I don’t want my dream to end…

    I know that internal dialogue! I recognize that script! I know those feelings! Those are not fun feelings. The good news is that there is help. Your letter, especially the closing (“I just wanted to talk about this…”), makes me think talking to your doctor about PPD is a very good idea.

    LW, you already know to ignore the aunt. You know that lots of families function successfully with both parents working. You know that while a new husband and baby make for a huge change in your life, it doesn’t mean the end of your dreams. You know these things, but it sounds like you’re feelings aren’t connecting to your thoughts, and that’s an indicator that things might be a bit off-kilter.

    • Leigh said:

      You know what, I was so irritated by the busy-body aunt that I missed this. Post-partum depression could very well be a factor here–not to negate your feelings about working outside the home at all, OP, but PPD is all too real and can make your new life feel dark and unlike what you expected. I’m normally very optimistic and sunny, but after my second child was born I felt like I was in a dark hole all the time. The lack of sleep didn’t help, either.

      It might be a good idea to talk to your doctor and see if PPD might be clouding your thoughts a bit. If that’s the case, getting your confidence back would help with your job search AND with standing up to over-stepping relatives.

  33. Britt said:

    Just want to echo that a happy, fulfilled you is going to be a better mother than a bored, depressed, grumpy you.

    For what it’s worth, the two biggest female role models in my life are polar opposites in terms of what makes them happy. My mom has worked basically my whole life (with the exception of when she was on extended maternity leave after a rough pregnancy with my brother), she’s gone back to school to get her masters and PhD while raising first me and then my brother, and she is a FANTASTIC mom (aside from just a super cool person who has nurtured her own interests and her career even while raising two pretty great kids, if I do say so myself). I periodically remember being vaguely jealous that my mom couldn’t do things like chaperone all the field trips in elementary school or work as a room mother and bring cookies to class for snack time, but that was a tiny blip and I imagine that I would have found something else to be slightly jealous of if she had been at home.

    My grandmother, by contrast, was my babysitter for my whole childhood and was basically always a stay at home mom except for fits and starts where economics demanded she get a job when her own kids were young. She LIVED to be at home with kids, and by all accounts it was the best thing in the world to happen for her when she found herself with grandkids to take care of because she was bored and just not especially happy once her own kids were grown and out of the house. Traveling with Grandpa for business was only fun for so long, apparently. She’s had various jobs that I remember that she liked and was good at, but any time the money wasn’t necessary and there was a grandkid or several to babysit, she’d be right back there in a heartbeat.

    The thing about both of them is that they did what made them HAPPY, and it made them into incredible role models and awesome people to be around. I can only imagine that if you had reversed their situations, it would have been at least moderately miserable.

    So yeah, basically do what you need to do to be happy, love your daughter, everything will be okay.

  34. LW, you are getting a lot of positive reinforcement to work, and to do what you need to make room for yourself to be happier. There are a lot of choices between full time work and stay at home mom too – there’s part-time work, work sharing, alternating shifts, and volunteer work if money is less of an issue but you still need a reason to leave the house. Or you can get child care for no reason beyond mental health. A friend of mine finishing a PhD was the main caregiver for his son, and he had 8 hours of daycare a week because he needed the time for writing and coping with school stuff. His mother-in-law mentioned she hadn’t had a day off, and was told this was working for them thankyouverymuch.

  35. Ruth said:

    I agree with most of what’s being said, but either I’m reading too much into this or something’s been overlooked: what if the aunt is speaking out on behalf of the mother (LW’s mother, that is)? The letter mentions they live with LW’s parents. Are you considering having the baby cared for by their grandma? Are you not, but the aunt doesn’t know that?

    I know women myself (including my stepmother) who believe that it’s a mother’s duty to care for her own children 24/7, and not her mother’s, because her mother has already made her sacrifice. They recognise that women don’t exist to care for babies, and have other things they need and want to be doing, and then fall just short of the mark. If this is true for her, then her weird boasts about her daughter could also be about her fear of being roped back into unpaid childcare.

    My money is still on sexist (or both!), but if her fears are really about your mother, and you can allay them one way or another, then she ought to back off.

  36. Heidi said:

    LW, believe me, what’s important for your baby is to be cared for well and to be loved…and to see its parents happy. You say you live with your parents, and I’m sure you believe they will care well for your baby. And as your child grows up, it will be a good thing to see, mom and dad working together to take care of the family while having a fulfilling career.

  37. katyisbutthurt said:

    Oh, this makes me SO angry for you, LW!

    I heard this same line of drivel when my daughter was born, and I had to go back to school AND find a job on top of it, because babies aren’t diapered and clothed for free….and my ex was and is useless. HIS money was spent on himself and his plaything of the moment who was usually female, but not always. Any money that I made was considered OUR money, and OUR money was really HIS money….until I got a separate bank account.

    But, I’m digressing right off the track here. My point is this, not only is this “welcome to motherhood, every choice you make will be utterly and totally wrong according to someone else,” but also your aunt putting her nose where it doesn’t belong. LW, you are going to have to grow a spine and tell your aunt to mind her own goddamned business, and how YOU raise YOUR child is not up to her. If you choose to stay home because you can be happy doing so, that’s up to you. If you choose to go back to work and put your child in good daycare because otherwise you will be very unhappy and may start to lose your sanity in the process….that’s up to YOU. It’s not up to HER as to what makes YOU a good mother or not.

    I worked until my daughter was four, and I remarried. I then got to stay home for eleven years, and I loved every minute of it. But then, I didn’t have the privilege of staying home when she was small, it was never considered as an option for me because my ex was not going to provide even necessities for her. When we moved back here, I worked for two and a half out of the two years and seven months we’ve been here, and I recently quit my full time job because of my health. I loved being able to go to work, and not sit at home, too. There is no one right answer, not for anyone. You have to find your own balance. And oh dear Lord, no, motherhood is NOT the be-all, end-all of fulfillment. I liked my baby, and I do like other babies, and I like kids, hell, I used to work in a daycare. I did not find it fulfilling to perform the tedium of motherhood without an escape route. And fortunately, the second time I married, I married a man with good sense and compassion, who would often hand me the car keys and tell me, “Go to Starbucks. Go to the library, go to the bookstore, go to knitting – I’ve got this.” I had a social life the entire time I stayed home with my daughter that didn’t revolve around playdates and what teacher at our kids’ elementary school is horrible and deserves to be fired, but real adult conversation with other women.

    Tell your aunt to shut her mouth and mind her own business, and that your family is none of hers. When she tries to tell you she was “only trying to HELP,” tell her that HELPING would be butting out, not putting her two cents’ worth in to try to MAKE you conform to her image of a GOOD mother, and validating her and your cousin’s choices.

  38. VA said:

    Just… who died and made your aunt the queen of “how a woman/mom ought to behave”?

    I hate to think of how lousy I would feel if my mom told me that spending time with me was “the ultimate sacrifice.” I certainly understand that parents often have to make sacrifices for their children, but you shouldn’t sacrifice your entire self to fulfill your bossypants aunt’s idea of motherhood.

  39. Also, you are not deciding what to do Forever, you are deciding to do right now based on the data available now. My mom gave birth to my brother and I while attending law school two hours away from our home, and then went into a big corporate job. She scaled back more and more until, when I was 13, she quit to homeschool us. Anyone could change our diapers, but there were no good middle school options.

  40. irishup said:

    LW, another mom who loves loves loves her children and hates hates hates the idea of staying home as a 24/7 on the spot caregiver!

    My motto is “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t NOBODY happy!” Which does not mean that I set out make other people miserable when I’m miserable, but by which I mean that, if someone (you) in the family is suffering, that is going to have a negative effect on everyone else. As the commenter above so brilliantly noted, your taking actions to ensure YOU are fulfilled can only benefit your entire familial unit.

    It’s like on the plane, when they tell adults traveling with children that, in the event of loss of pressure in the cabin, put the air-mask on YOURSELF first, then on the child(ren). If you’re not getting what you need, you will NOT be in position to adequately care for your family.

    • mintylime said:

      Now -there-‘s a script for Nosy Auntie… “I understand you think that, but I’m just putting on my own air-mask first.” ;)

  41. Agentofentropy said:

    We should hang out.

    I had postpartum depression and going back to work did wonders for my recovery. The plan was always for me to go back to work when my leave time ended because I carry the medical benefits for my family, but I also had to go back for me. I needed the stimulation and I needed to spend the day talking about something other than what a great poop she just had.

    My daughter has been part of an in-home day care group since she was six months old and we both love it. She has friends and I know she’s well cared for. And also? After being away from her, I appreciate her so much more.

    Infants are boring. So is being home all day with one. Take care of you. Your aunt can take care of herself.

  42. PCSDevil said:

    I’m delurking to say that I have two little ones and a career I love. I’m happy and they’re happy. If I weren’t working, I would be desperately sad and angry, and although it’s scary to think about, I might even be a danger to them. It’s awful, but it’s true. As it is, however, far from being a source of anger and resentment for me, they are delightful, hilarious little people with whom it’s a pleasure and a treat to spend time. I am a better mother because I get to be my best self.

    Also, I was taking a break from grading papers to nurse my newborn and read some CA. I was sitting here contemplating how horribly bleak it would be for me (for me) to be a stay-at-home mom when the baby decided he needed to spit up everything he had just drunk, and it went all down my back. My two thoughts: First, because I am happy and relaxed, I laughed and laughed about it instead of crying and crying about it, and second, he must not think very much of the idea, either.

  43. ona555 said:

    Dear LW,
    Welcome to the wonderful world of motherhood, where no matter what you do, no matter why you do it, someone, somewhere, is going to openly verbalize their totally unwarranted and unasked for disapproval right to your face, without any sense of tact or apology. Get ready to flex your “go fuck yourself” muscles, you’re going to need them.

    You have already fleshed out your reasons for wanting to continue to pursue your career. You have already discussed it with your spouse, and garnered his support. You and your spouse are the only two people whose opinions are warranted in this situation, and your spouse’s is only warranted because if he wasn’t supportive, then that would make your life harder directly. Guilt mongers and gender role pushers like your aunt can go get bent. It wasn’t okay for women to have to sacrifice their dreams to motherhood in 1950, and it’s not okay now. Hordes of women who led unsatisfied lives and resented their children because of it are not a good example to follow, and I am saying this as someone who *did* choose to stay at home with her kids. Key word: choice. Yes, there are sacrifices we make as parents for our kids. Key word #2: parents. Not just mothers. The burden of accomodation is not nor should it be entirely upon you. Nor should those sacrifices include our sense of self, our dreams and goals, our personalities, our needs, or our life satisfaction, exigent circumstances not withstanding.

    There is nothing, I repeat, nothing wrong with having a baby and a career. Men do it ALL THE TIME and catch no flack. Nobody asks them who takes care of the baby while they’re at work, nobody guilts them for being to busy to join the PTA or blames them for all the wrong in the world if their child has a bad day at school. It’s expected (and that’s another whole level of wrong I won’t get into right now) and even rewarded.

    You do what works for you, do what works for your family. It’s the 21st freaking century. Maybe your aunt didn’t get the memo? We can wear pants and everything now, and even drive cars, and buy stuff we want with our own money without asking permission from our hubby.

  44. the witching hour said:

    My mom worked full time plus, all through my childhood, on her Ph.D. Not only did I have a happy, loving childhood and a good relationship with her, seeing her accomplish so much has made me more ambitious, more willing to aim high in my own life. It’s not just that happy parents raise happier kids; it’s also inspiring for you to go for what you love.

  45. Shannon said:

    When I had our daughter, I was the one who had to go back to work. It was right, for many reasons, but still a struggle. What I have learned from being a parent is that you really can’t do a good job of it unless you are free to feel the feelings you feel, and unless you give yourself space to deal with them. ‘space’=time. Taking less “mommy time” so you can meet some of your own needs means ultimately, you’ll be a better mom. Tell your rels it’s not quantity, it’s quality, and that should shut them up. Then, put that time to good use on yourself so you can enjoy parenthood, ’cause its a blast. Then, to be fair to your kid, when it’s her/his time, be fully present. Enjoy the ride; it’s all good.

  46. JS said:

    LW – not all of us are made to be stay at home moms. I love my daughter dearly. However, I also love being at work and getting to use my brain for more than the 30th repeat of “B is for Bear”. Day care can be a wonderful experence. My outgoing toddler loves it so much that she gets cranky when she has to spend 3 days in a row with her introvert parents. Even for a baby-wearing, breastfeeding mother with a co-sleeper, Day care was the life saver for us. I’m happy and the baby is overjoyed.

    In short – do what works for you.

  47. dualityheart said:

    Ok, so here’s the thing. Every single person in the universe sees a child as an invitation to talk to you for better or for worse. On one hand, there are people who sincerely have the empathy when you’re overwhelmed to say things like, “I know your pain,” or “let me hold the baby for a second while you take a break” or whatnot. And then there are the people who Know What’s Best- the people who tell you that your relationship with your child is RUINED because you had a C-section or that if you don’t breastfeed for FIVE YEARS you are guilty for all of your child’s illnesses. Or the people who give you weird looks when your 2 year old falls down and latches on for some comfort nursing. Or the people who SAY THINGS when you DARE to give your kid a lick of your ice cream (and this is especially bad if you’re a fat mom because YOU ARE MAKING YOUR KID OBESE YOU EVIL LADY).

    UGH.

    My mom was a stay at home mom until I got out of high school. She treated SAHMing like it was her JOB. And by that, I mean that she scheduled every day to a ridiculous degree. She had us all potty trained before we were a year old. We were doing preschool/kindergarten level stuff at least a year or two before we actually went to preschool/kindergarten. ETC. She is both controlling and abusive in many ways, but she was a hell of a mom to have at a very young age.

    So when I had a child, of course the comments started. My mom commented about my breastfeeding (OH YOU DO NOT SEEM TO MAKE THAT MUCH- MY MILK SQUIRTED ACROSS ROOMS), then she commented on my sleeping arrangements (WHY ARE YOU COSLEEPING? YOU WILL SQUISH YOUR BABY!) and then she commented on my use of pacifiers (SHE WILL NEVER STOP USING IT AND WILL NEVER LEARN TO TALK).

    ETC ETC ETC. Sure, she was a really helpful help this summer when she helped my daughter potty train and did swim lessons with her, but that’s mainly because she was home for the summer (she teaches kindergarten now) and my daughter simply needed the intensive taking-to-the-potty work that my husband and I just can’t do right now because we’re both severely overextended.

    Our current situation makes daycare overly expensive and infeasible. So we work completely opposite schedules. I work day shift because my job has benefits. My husband works graveyard but is trying to get back on part time evenings. For awhile, this worked because our daughter would sleep in late in the mornings and he could get enough sleep to function. But then she started waking up earlier and earlier and he would be asleep and I’d come home at lunch time to see my family and he’d be dead to the world and she’d be doing things like running around trying to wear the cat as a hat. This only happened once or twice but I freaked out and basically said NOT OK. Of course, on graveyard shift, my husband makes a bit more, which allows us to save a bit, but the toll is really bad. And since his work knows that he’s over a barrel, they keep extending his graveyard shift time even though they’ve told him that he has been approved for part time evenings.

    I get a lot of shit for “never seeing husband” from other people who know of our situation. I get a lot of shit for asking my mother in law to come and watch our daughter in the morning a couple days a week when she’s not in preschool because my husband NEEDS SLEEP. I get a lot of shit for being a working mother, as though medical benefits just magically appear out of thin air (and no, my husband’s job does not provide good benefits, and he has zero job protections and he is paid less than me and due to depression issues he never finished his BA and so I’m the one with the “good job” and the degree).

    Plus, I find going to work is useful because it refreshes me for dealing with parenting stuff. Yes, it’s extra stress and work in some ways, but it’s a different sort of work- work that is UNINTERRUPTED. That’s a big problem with being a SAHP- you are CONSTANTLY interrupted. You NEVER really get those long stretches where you can focus on things or can actually see a project from beginning to end. Sure, many jobs can have high interruptibility, but parenting is basically non-stop interruptions. You know all those projects you keep telling yourself you’ll complete but five seconds into making the scrapbook the kid starts screaming and then you have to spend at least 15 minutes putting away all the stuff it took you 15 minutes to take out and then you eventually find yourself worriedly glancing at the bedroom door every five seconds when the baby is napping and trying to fit in a couple Words With Friends turns before you are SUMMONED YET AGAIN.

    The baby stage is one of the more unpleasant- it’s just a bunch of repetitive tasks and the baby is unhappy because the baby wants to DO THINGS but cannot and is therefore CONSTANTLY FRUSTRATED and wants to look to you to make things better and sometimes you just can’t (because the dishes must be done and you can’t hold a baby while doing dishes because baby doesn’t want to be in the sling or on the backpack or even sitting next to you or anything- NO- MUST BE HELD).

    Now that my daughter is 3 years old, OH MY GOD, it’s gotten better. If she accidentally hits me when she’s dancing or jumping around, she kisses the place that got hurt and says “sorry Mommy!” She says please and thank you (because we say please and thank you to her). She gives big hugs and cuddles, and is such a PERSON! I feel like I’m starting to breathe again. Obviously, there are new challenges, but I’ve found that I’m the opposite of many of the NOSY LADIES who tell me about how great babies are. I like babies- I think they’re adorable and I want to protect them like a mama lion. But the baby stage is just MEH to me. It’s a necessary evil to create that foundation of love, trust and connection with a human person so they can set about developing their bodies and brains. But babies? Meh.

    So yeah. I think that it’s great to know what you really want, what your priorities are. And people will give you shit. And parenting is basically fraught with inconvenience, last minute emergencies and WTF HOW DID THAT HAPPEN moments. You will go FML FML FML a number of times. You will worry that you have “ruined” your baby (my husband accidentally bumped into a shelf and a heavy glass lid fell off and flopped over lightly on the baby’s belly when she was only a week old, which sent her into a screaming cry and I felt like my HEART STOPPED and I would DIE, but after rushing her to the doctor, it turns out she was fine and all my fears that CPS would run off with the baby after declaring me UNFIT were allayed).

    But in the end, children persevere. And it’s incredibly true- how you treat your children is more of a measure of how they will react than how you attempt to “teach” your children with LESSONS and giving them all the green things on their plate and making them wear organic onesies or whatever. If you respect others, your children will do so as well. If you eat well, so shall your children. If you show them the joy of movement, most kids will refuse to be stopped.

    And, best of all, each child is his or her own person. Finding out who that person is, is an amazing journey, regardless of working in or outside the home.

    Oh and PS: Working moms are also working at home too. Just because you have a job doesn’t mean you have nothing to do with your kids. I think that’s a leftover piece of bullshit from the “honey I’m home and I don’t want to do anything” Leave It To Beaver days (or romancitizations) of yesteryear. It’s not like all the stuff you need to do in the home just magically goes away if you go off to work unless you’re privileged enough to have money to pay for a housecleaner.

    • Rosa said:

      This. All of it. Also you’re a fucking hero, my god. I can’t believe people criticize you for not seeing your husband or needing child are.

    • SadieBlake said:

      Seconded. This response makes me feel like having kids someday may not be as terrifying as I once thought it was.

      Also – the bazillions of stories on the struggles of parenthood, both here and everywhere, are the reasons why, when I encounter a child in public, I make it a point to ONLY EVER say something positive about the child and do my best to compliment the parent.

      Like the time a twelve-or-so-year-old held the door for me, just to be polite. Melted my heart. I made sure to let his dad know he was Doin It Rite. Still makes me smile to this day.

    • Guava said:

      Loved reading this, and it is so true. I was “meh” about the baby stage too. Once my kids turned two and we began to be able to have actual conversations, that’s when the real awesome started for me.

      • alphakitty said:

        Who knew toddlers could be so interesting? I remember being shocked at what a little buddy my daughter could be when she was that age.

  48. secretrebel said:

    Letterwriter, imagine you have a sister. In 25 years you’d sister tells your daughter that the noblest sacrifice she can make us to give up her dreams of career and stay home to look after your grandchild. Would you tell your daughter that you’d sister is right? what do you want your answer to be for yourself, for your daughter and for any woman who is told this?

  49. Veronica said:

    One of the most important things my mother ever told me is to basically take people’s advice on being a mother at face value. Because society *always* has something to say to woman about how they should do things because the more you break down a woman’s confidence and self-esteem, the less she has a sense of direction and the more likely she is to “do as she’s told.” So her advice was basically, “Fuck ‘em.” There’s no one way to be a good mother because mothers are human beings and so are their children, and Christ knows not a single one of us is the same because that would make every parent’s job a little easier. There can’t be “one way” to do something that involves the transforming a crying, drooling, whinging armful of neediness into a self-sufficient, ethical adult because human beings aren’t that simple. As a mother, you will make mistakes because you are human and nobody’s perfect. As a parent, you will also do plenty of right things because you are human. Eventually, you’ll get to a point where it won’t matter what you do because they’re an adult and have to make their own decisions, and no matter what society tells you about how this was totally your fault for not being there 24/7 to coddle them and hold their hand, it’s really not.

    Being a good mother isn’t about getting everything right – it’s about doing the best you can by that person you brought into the world. Being a mom parent means sacrifice, but that sacrifice shouldn’t be yourself.

    • Veronica said:

      Oi, that one line was supposed to be, “As a parent, you will also do plenty of right things because you are human and will have moments where you are secretly perfect.”

      Because we all have those moments, however transient. All of us.

  50. keleri said:

    Off-topic, I want to show this post and the comments to people who insist that the lack of women in high-ranking or high-achieving positions has to do with a fundamental biological quality of women, and not, y’know, all the pressures and expectations posted above. RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE

  51. J. Preposterice said:

    Yo. I am a stay-at-home parent who thought I wanted to be one and as it turns out, I do not. (But I am also sick unto death of my previous career so I am taking random classes and trying to figure out what the everloving heck I do want to do. The classes keep me sane enough to parent, basically.)

    My mother just yesterday went on a long ramble about how she “never understood those parents” who “didn’t like it when their kids were home” and the best of all possible things was when kids were home all the time in the summer or babies and so on and so forth. Said ramble was triggered by me saying that my preschooler loves going to school.

    And I gritted my teeth (because we had plans that said preschooler was super-excited about that would have been derailed by a fight) and thought to myself, “way to remind me that I can’t talk to you about any issues I have with parenting, Mom. Way to remind me I can’t talk to you about my mental health or how I’m happier now that my older child is in school. Way to remind me to stick to topics that have nothing to do with what is going on in my own head because you will find a way to be totally freakin’ weird about it.”

    Towards the end of her ramble, I started mentally singing the Smurf theme song to myself. It was SUPER effective at drowning her out. A+ would sing again!

    • J. Preposterice said:

      Anyway I lost my point there. My point was, you are not alone in being all “AHHHH STAYING AT HOME SUCKS” and also, a mental mantra might help. I suggest cartoon theme songs.

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