"How old is your child?"
"2. And yours?"
"2.5. Is your baby potty-trained yet?"
"Oh. We potty trained ours at 1.5 years old. What other languages does yours speak?"
"He can say three or four words in Spanish, mostly learned from Dora the Explorer."
"Oh. Our daughter can speak three languages, including Mandarin. And we don't let our kids watch TV."
Bam, bam, bam! And then you go home and are super pissed off that Mrs. so-and-so talked to you that way. And then the big G starts creeping in: Guilt. Then you start thinking to yourself, "Dammit! I shoulda done this or that, but now it's too late because I should've started that a long time ago. I've failed my child! It's hopeless! Because I let him watch Oprah with me a few times a week, he's going to grow into a withdrawn child who eats hair and scabs."
This is basically what happened to me a few months ago when I was trying to decide whether or not to hire a nanny. I have been reading some amazing parenting blogs, which, more often than not, are full of SAHM (stay-at-home-moms) whose sole purpose in life, it seems, is to provide round-the-clock stimulation for their children. Which is fantastic, you know. There are women out there who have worked day in and day out to write a novel, map a genome, design a prosthetic, etc. I will contend that spending an equal amount of time stimulating a child, while not rocket science, is just as draining. After spending a whole day with Desmond (a whole day = 8 hours, mind you), I'm physically, psychologically, and mentally drained. It's not that spending time with Desmond is tedious (well, not ALL of the time), it's just that making funny faces, talking in "parentese," having to shake the same toy at his face over and over again...I'm exhausted at the end of the day. I don't know how stay at home moms do it for years and years.
So, when I was thinking about hiring a nanny, a small trickle of guilt started creeping in. Was I being a bad mother because I had to spend more time away from Desmond? Even worse, was I a bad mother because I WANTED to spend time away from him? Shortly after hiring Maria, our nanny, I started taking classes again up at the U. I am gone every Monday from 9-3, Wednesday from 1030-4, and Friday from 11-1:30. These are times that I have class and meetings. As soon as I get home, I'm hanging out with Desmond until Billy gets home. The first two weeks, this has worked out beautifully! Maria and Desmond are forming a fantastic relationship with each other, I get time to go to get ready and attend class/meetings, and Des is being exposed to a second language. Great, right?
So, what's the problem? This week, after staying up until 2am reading articles for my qualitative methods class, I decided that I needed even more time in order to be able to get my work done for school and my work as a research assistant. So, we're making a (financial, among other things) sacrifice to have Maria come on Tuesdays so that I can sit and get some work done. Once we made the decision, two simultaneous waves, one of relief and one of guilt, hit me. I questioned the necessity of the extra day and wondered if I was just being too greedy. We could surely use the extra money and I'm sure Desmond would prefer to spend that time with me rather than with Maria, but I need those extra 5 hours. Physically, psychologically, and emotionally. I can't tell you how rejuvenated I feel after a few hours away from the house. I come home excited to see Desmond, having missed being away from him, instead of being at home with him and anxiously handing him off to Billy the second he walks through the door. I feel that the time I spend with Desmond now is full of love and affection, and less with exasperation.
However, because of the guilt that I'm feeling about choosing to be away from him, and the pull of my emotions from making this decision, I've decided to take care of my psychological well being by seeing a counselor to talk about the tumult of feelings I've got going on. Hopefully, by talking this through with someone, I'll come out of this without any guilt about my parenting choices, including my choice to have several hours a week of time all to myself. I have to realize that it is my level of contentment and happiness with my life that will allow Desmond to feel content and happy in his life.
Hopefully, I'll be able to come to peace with the decisions that I make day-to-day regarding Desmond's welfare. And hopefully, the next time another mom tries to mom-up me, I'll be able to smile and congratulate her on having a parenting philosophy that works so well for her and her family. And mean it.
And now, for your viewing pleasure, the demon and I one morning waiting for Maria to come. He's getting to be so vocal now. Back then (a few weeks ago), it was all about the raspberries and the spit bubbles.