Wednesday, August 30, 2006

To be or not to be... a stay at home mom

What are the values I want to teach my kids? I want them to always have a sense of hunger, or unfulfilled desire - that there's always something they wish for that's just out of reach. I want them to learn the value of hard work, and that relationships take as much work and dedication as careers do. I want them to know that they can do anything, but that doesn't mean that they can do everything. I want them to know that we are all equal on this earth in terms of our value and self worth, but that each person has individual talents, weaknesses, privileges, and that equality doesn't always translate to fairness. Appreciation - for what they've earned and for what they've been given. Responsibility - for themselves, to others, and for the things they care about.

So the next big question is, how do I teach them these things? Is staying at home with them the best way to do it? Don't get me wrong, the idea of putting them in full-time daycare (or preschool as it's more p.c. to say) while I run off to my career gives me the heebeegeebies. I can't imagine dropping off my 2 year old and infant and driving away, not to see them for 8 or more hours. I don't know how working moms survive the trauma of it!

At the same time, I am enormously privileged just to have the choice. And I don't take that lightly, which is why I have to question the long term effect of my decision on my children, and their children after that.

What's really best for my kids? And is what's best for my kids also best for me? And my husband? The most profound influence I can have is most likely on my kids. And if I'm not there to be that influence, no one else will step up to the plate and teach them the values that I think they should have.

But, would being a stay at home mom unintentionally teach them other things that I don't want them to learn? Am I conveying a message to them that they're the center of my world, and by default the center of the world? (or, as they'd say in Romanian, the belly-button of the universe) Or, am I teaching them archaic role division, that men should earn a living and women should stay home? (I won't take time here to delve into that role division and why I chose 'archaic' to describe it) Where will they see an example of a successful woman who can balance a career and a family? And are starbucks and consignment sales just today's version of the ironing board and fresh baked pies that wives and mothers were so focused on 50 years ago?

Or, if staying at home isn't all it's cracked up to be, what are the alternatives? A full-time career would likely mean missing more than just lunch-times with my kids and sidewalk chalk murals. It would also likely mean missing PTA meetings, piano recitals, and field trips. Or, staying on the bottom rung of the proverbial career ladder in order not to miss those events. Alternatively, there's always part-time employment, but I know of no career that allows people to work part-time hours (or, let's face it, mere 40 hour work weeks) with any ambition of upward mobility.

All that leaves me wondering, what is more important - being available to my kids every waking hour (be it 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning), or showing my kids the importance of a fulfilling career and the potential to affect and influence the world around them? Or is there a way to do both?

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