Impossible dilemmas of the Stay at Home Mother

I’m sorry.  I know that the “rules” say that you need to write every day to keep your readers from leaving by the droves.  And every day, I do plan in my head what I’m going to write about that night.  Except… somehow, life takes over.   It’s crazy, really, I just don’t know where the time goes.  I guess it was easier when Henry was a newborn – he would sleep (sometimes), he would lie on the floor batting at activity arches, or he was quite happy to be hoisted around the house in a sling, while I got on with keeping the Dream House presentable…ish.

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Oh, immobile baby, how I miss you!

Now, though, oh my goodness!  Henry is a dream, he really is the happiest little boy you could ask for.  He’s a very inquisitive, adventurous  wee man, and loves nothing more than exploring the garden, digging in the sandbox, emptying the water-table, and tormenting the animals / his sister…..just as long as I am watching!   The minute he realises that I’ve dared to go and pee in peace, or empty the washing machine, or, God forbid, logged into Facebook…suddenly he’s Chucky.  Seriously!  For 2 precious minutes today, I opened up WordPress to finally start this post, and before I knew it, 4 tiny little teeth had angrily (and painfully) sunk into my thigh.

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Errm……. okaaaaay!?

I think I’ve previously alluded to the fact that we now live in vampire country, but this is ridiculous!

And then, while Henry’s attentions are finally focused on loading Oreo cookies into the X-Box, I surreptitiously check out Facebook on my phone, and see this:

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Oh, fuck off!

Passive aggressive, much?

Oh.  My.  God.   How sanctimonious is that little gem of crap?

At first, I felt a little deflated.  Like, yeah, the mum who posted that is obviously SuperMum!  She wears a cape, feeds her kids nothing but home-baked, fully organic treats, and can darn a sock with one hand, while responding to Very Important Emails with the other.

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Well, aren’t you precious!

I, on the other hand, can just about manage to get showered by lunchtime, have decided that holes just add character to the Pepperlings’ clothes, and am still carrying around a shoulder-load of guilt over Evie’s birthday Thank You cards (or lack of).

I actually don’t know how this happened.  I used to spend my days on global teleconferences with terribly important people, write 50 page professional documents, & review complicated costing spreadsheets.  My job title was “Senior Strategy Manager”, for God’s sake, and yet now I find myself completely stumped by a packet of pipe-cleaners.  I know they can be fun, and I’m sure there are a myriad of brilliant craft projects a 3 year old can entertain herself with, but somehow I can’t seem to get beyond little stick people whose heads keep falling off.

Is this what Pinterest is for?  I suspect I need more googly eyes and pom pom balls….

Hmmm….  Earth Mother, I clearly am not.

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Another “Keep Calm” meme? Oh, deep joy!

I digress.   What I’m trying to say is that the reason I found that hilarious eCard so irritating is that I completely disagree with the horribly condescending message within.  I’ve seen both sides of the equation.  When Evie was 12 months old, I did go back to work.  Not quite full-time, but 4 full days a week, with Tuesdays off to take my little princess to her swimming lessons, and catch up with my best buds.   She was in daycare from 8.30am until 6pm each day, and I’d often have to continue working after she had gone to bed.

Now, while we await the arrival of our elusive Green Card, a process that could take anywhere from 6 months to 10 years (depending on who you speak to), I’m a visa-enforced Stay At Home Mom to 12 month old Henry and his big sister.   Evie is in pre-school 3 mornings a weeks, and her baby bruv seems to be surgically attached to my left hip.

I can honestly say that life was a lot easier whilst I was a working mother.  Yes, I still had housework to do, and we had to be much more organised to make sure everyone was fed, washed and dressed in time to get out of the house by 8.30 each morning.  And yes, it was initially so very heartbreaking, handing over my sweet baby girl to somebody else to care for each day.   Heartbreaking, but, dare I say it, liberating!

I was, admittedly, fortunate enough to work from home.  If I decided, mid-morning, that I needed more of a caffeine hit than my jar of instant Nescafe could deliver, I could skip out of the house, run to our local cafe, and be back before anyone had time to notice my Instant Messenger status had switched to “Idle”.  No diaper bag to pack, no bottles to sterilise,  no elusive baby socks to hunt down.  Just keys and cash, and off I trot.

I could spend my Monday lunch hour on-line grocery shopping at Sainsburys, and Tuesday afternoon unpacking our goodies in peace.  I kept up with my friends through email and Facebook, whilst stuck on particularly dull conference calls, rarely missed a birthday or anniversary, and I engaged my brain each day.  I so looked forward to running down the road to collect Evie each evening, and our precious Tuesdays together were an absolute joy.  But, I must admit, on the mornings that she woke up in a horrible grump, I breathed a sigh of relief that within an hour, her toddler tantrum would be somebody else’s problem.

Oh yes, have I mentioned that, with two salaries coming in each month, we could afford a cleaner?  Sigh….I do miss our cleaner.

Now?  Now….I’m a zombie.  Obviously I adore my little Pepperlings.  Anyone who knows me on Facebook is well aware, from my obnoxiously incessant photo uploads, of just how much they are the centre of my world.  But they are awake at 6.30am, they are in bed by 8.00pm (on a good night), and Henry is still up at least once each night (Evie is not much better).   By the time I’ve got through the teatime, bathtime, bedtime routines, made myself dinner, and then tidied up, folded laundry and poured a glass of wine, I can just about manage half an hour of “me time” (i.e. Graham Norton) each evening.

I know other mums who manage it all brilliantly.  They do all this and complete a degree in their free time, whilst singing show tunes and learning the art of sugar craft for all those incredibly intricate birthday cakes they’ll be showcasing in the coming years.  But I just don’t know how!  Maybe it really is that I’m just not a natural home-maker / cake baker / caretaker?  Maybe I’m simply not hardwired that way.

Last week I received an email from a former colleague of mine.  He was wondering if I would be interested in a US, home-based role with his new company.  It’s a full-time role, quite senior, and they don’t foresee any problem with sponsoring me for a visa which would allow me to legally work here.

Oh.  Gosh.

Argh!!!     It’s such a quandary.

From what I know of all the other “SAHM”s I’ve met in the last 18 months, I really don’t think there are many of us out there who can honestly, hand on heart, say “Oh yes, I never ever question my decision to turn my back on a University education and 10 year professional career, in order to bake cake pops and negotiate the rules of sharing with pre-schoolers!”.

But, I don’t think any of us would admit to regretting it, either.

So, do I go back to work?  Do I get my brain back, my sense of importance, and my “free” time?  With a good second income, we could afford a cleaner, maybe some help with the garden, and a nanny or au pair for my sweet little monsters.  We could start some of those “one day…” projects that would turn The Dream House into Our Dream House.

On the other hand, have you seen the weather here this week?

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Do I really want to be stuck at my desk brainstorming patient recruitment strategies for an anal fissure clinical trial?  Or should I be spending the coming months hanging out in our slightly neglected garden, soaking up the sun and filling the paddling pool for two excited, naked little Pepperlings?

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Another one for the “too hard” basket?  Maybe it’s a no-brainer.   As I’ve heard it said many times before, nobody ever went to their death bed wishing they’d spent more time at the office.

And, Godammit, who knows how long I’ve got before “I love you so much I’m going to bite you!” turns to “Ugh, whatevaaa, Mother!”.

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9 Responses to Impossible dilemmas of the Stay at Home Mother

  1. Lucie Wight says:

    I have nothing helpful to add whatsoever, except to say I *love* H’s boy-boobs and knees that look like cinamon rolls 😉 xx

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    • Kerstin Pepper says:

      Ha ha – perv! Amazingly, this is slimmed down Henry – he’s dropped down to the 50th centile (from the 75th), with all this walking / climbing / mischief making! I am still quite in love with his legs and his moobs too, though…. 🙂 x

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  2. Emily says:

    Kerstin, it’s a difficult one but all I can say is that I don’t regret giving up my career – yes there are sacrifices to be made – but how I see it is the kids are only young once and you will never get those years back which are full of such wonderful memories …. now mine are older, 6, 9 and 11 I can only forsee a part time job in the future working for us …. just wait til they go to school and they have all the afterschool activities etc. You got to go with what works best for you and your family, like you I dont have family on the doorstep. Good luck x

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    • Kerstin Pepper says:

      Thanks Emily. I know you’re probably right. The only thing that I forgot to mention is that the kids don’t start school here until they’re 5 / 6. And even then it’s Kindergarten, many of which are mornings only. So, it’s quite some time until we get some breathing space. But, yes, I’d hate to look back on this time and wish I’d appreciated it more, and spent more time with them while they still adore me! 😉 It’s a toughie, either decision will never feel 100% right, I’m sure. xxx

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  3. Charlotte Pitts says:

    What a refreshing blog from the other side of the fence!…I get the opposite to you – I get the insulting comments from the SAHMs I know along the lines of “oh, I couldn’t bear for little Jonny to go to nursery more than the 2 mornings he currently goes” and “I’m not going to do a job that means my precious angels would have to go to breakfast club/after-school club/holiday club – that would be so unfair to them”. Even more insulting is the expression “full-time mother” as if the rest of us switch it off when we’re at work! I am permanently wracked with guilt about the amount of time I’m away from Amelie and it isn’t helped by people fuelling my already deep levels of paranoia! Best that we all respect each others’ lives and not judge. Thanks for a human perspective and whatever you decide you will continue to be the fantastic mother that you clearly are now xx

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    • Kerstin Pepper says:

      Oh Charlie, I feel for you!! I do now look back at the photos of Evie that her nursery gave to me, and feel so guilty (still) about how small she was, and how much time I missed with her. But, at the same time, I also remember how much we enjoyed our swimming time together, and really making the most of our weekends. AND, she’s such a social toddler, she’s always looking for friends, and hugs and holds hands with everyone she meets – I’m quite sure that that’s because she socialised so much with other kids and other adults from such a young age. So, you win some you lose some – as you say, there is no “perfect” solution, it’s just whatever works for you and your family.

      Someone will always have an opinion on how you choose to parent, and I figure that those people can just suck it. Or, I can choose to write a blog post to rant about it, ha! 🙂

      For what it’s worth, anyone who knows you can see how very much in love with Amelie you are (and she with you) – that’s the only thing that matters. The only thing!

      xx

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  4. Anita says:

    Don’t do it. If I could stay at home with mine I would, but we need the money. I do think that a part time job would be ideal, but that’s not an option for me – if you can do that, then yeah, no brainer. Best of both worlds. But seeing my kids for about 3 or 4 hours a day Mon to Fri sucks so badly. I keep thinking work will start to be enjoyable again soon, and shouldn’t I be so happy that I’m back in the “real world” again and using my brain, but I’m just not feeling it this time. If you can do it for a few more years, I’d vote to keep being a SAHM………like you said, you’ll never regret not spending more time in the office, but I am certain I’ll always regret the time I’m losign with them now.

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  5. Pingback: The Visa Situation | The Peppers head Stateside!

  6. Jen says:

    Both are hard. I’m actually getting ready to go back FT after having my 2yr old and almost 6 month old, so this is encouraging 🙂 I only worked one day/week after the oldest was born and it was the best of both worlds for me. I got a much needed break, but was home most of the time. Now after having been a complete SAHM for almost 6 months I am dreading going back. Don’t get me wrong- it is HARD being home, but I keep thinking I’m going ot be working full time and trying to keep up with all the house work and laundry and cooking. But I have to remind myself I can’t do it all- so somethings will have to slide. Maybe we will hire someone to clean…

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