I love kids. I just may not love watching your kids.
Guest blogger Sara: The first time it happened, it was a family member. I had two kids at home -- a brand new baby and a rambunctious toddler -- and a family member asked me to watch her son's baby (an infant who was just a few weeks older than my own) full-time.
I said no, politely and with kindness. For weeks afterward, I was pressured with phone calls and e-mails that were meant to make me feel guilty. I didn't.
Here's a newsflash that should be obvious but isn't: "Stay-at-home mom" isn't code for "free babysitting."
Before you call me selfish, let me explain. I'm not talking about swapping childcare with other parents, or helping out a friend or neighbor in an emergency, or even taking part in a babysitting co-op. I'm talking about parents who think that because I don't work outside the home, that means that I should be happy to watch their kid for them, or that they don't need to go to the trouble of actually hiring a babysitter.
The career that I put on hold to stay home with our children earned half of our household salary. We had to make serious financial sacrifices to make things work. We chose this lifestyle because it was important to us as a couple and as parents, not because we wanted to subsidize daycare for friends and family.
Stay-at-home moms do not have 48 hours in every day. We also don't have an endless well of patience. I love kids. I especially love my kids. But there are certain things I need in order to stay healthy and happy. Even when my kids were babies, we left the house every single day -- to go to the library, to the play scape at the mall, to scheduled playgroups. An afternoon nap, or rest time at a minimum, was a requirement in those days. Just because I chose to stay at home with my kids doesn't mean that I'm Mary Poppins.
Now that my kids are older, I get different kinds of requests. Two years ago, I agreed to help out a mom from my child's class with before- and after-school care a few days a week. For two years, I've fed her kids breakfast and kept them until dinner countless times. Not once has she invited my kids over to play.
I started working from home three years ago, but the requests haven't stopped. Last week, a couple I know and have swapped childcare with each separately drilled me about my summer plans, saying that they thought three months was "too long for their daughter to be in daycare," and that the additional cost would stress their finances. When I answered that I'd be busy working and spending time with my kids -- and didn't offer to let their daughter play at my house instead -- the conversation got awkward.
I'm a go-to girl and someone who naturally likes to help other people. If you ask me for a favor, I'm pretty likely to say yes. And we love having other kids around to play with. But I chose to stay home with my kids because I want to spend quality time with them, and because I crave a slower-paced life.
So here's a tip: If you suddenly notice that you can't get ahold of me, that I never seem to pick up the phone or answer e-mail or respond to your chat request on Facebook anymore, or that I even can't seem to hear you yelling at me from across the street -- it just might be because you're taking advantage of me.
If you're a stay-at-home mom, has this ever happened to you?