Tracy McArdle: I was laid off a month ago and was unexpectedly thrust into the role of Almost Full-Time Stay-At-Home Mom.
I was not used to it. I am still not used to it.
Am I happy to have this time with my kids? Yes. Do I miss my paycheck? Hell, yes. Do I miss not having to be the house/life/marriage manager -- in addition to the kid manager --because I work, too? Yes, I think I miss that most of all, Scarecrow.
Seriously, I was lucky enough to work part-time at a job I liked in my field. I had one foot in the playground and one on the on-ramp that career coaches love to talk about. And yes, sometimes on the days I was at work I wanted to be home with my kids. And sometimes on the days I was home with my kids waiting out the afternoon eternity between nap and dinner, I wanted to be in the Caribbean, by myself.
I can't lie: When you've spent a lifetime working, being a full-time mom in suburbia feels like being in the Witness Protection Program, only without the wistful memories of a past life of glamorous danger. Remember that last scene in "Goodfellas," when Ray Liotta (as snitch-gangster Henry Hill) opens the door to his cookie-cutter subdivision Witness-Protection-Program house to get his newspaper? Remember the look of panicked boredom on his face?
Sometimes I know how he felt. But then I read "The Butterfly Book" for the billionth time, or replace the wheel on the hapless fire truck whose sound mechanism has been mutilated by someone or something (making it sound like a malfunctioning droid). A strange, Zen-like calm overtakes me, and for a moment, I am a good mom.
Sometimes I feel like I fell off the planet and entered a time warp of daily survival. Before my eyes open every day, my body is moving to fulfill needs -- all kinds of banal needs -- that have nothing to do with my own. Time is divided by meals, sleep, bodily functions and their respective cleanup, Play Doh, the playground, the Fight of the Day (today's was "He Took My Fishy"), the broken fire truck and its creepy noises and 30 minutes of Big Bird.
So for those of you considering quitting your job to spend more time with your kids -- or quitting your kids to spend more time with your job -- here are the pros and cons of each route. All the answers you need about work and motherhood -- in one blog! (Seriously, someone should pay a lot of money for this list.)
PRO: I know my 3-year-old's digestive schedule now, and as a result can handily intercept him on the way to his secret corner to do what we both know he should be doing in the bathroom.
CON: Because I eat kids' food all day long now, I have no digestive schedule of my own.
PRO: The laundry and dishes are done and dinner is made by 5:30.
CON: I spend my days doing laundry and dishes and dinner. And it's never beef bourguignon.
PRO: No more rush-hour traffic.
CON: No more listening to what I want to listen to, when I want to listen to it, in my own car, as I eat breakfast and read the Times.
PRO: No work schedule means we're free to vacation with no time restrictions!
CON: No second paycheck means no vacation!
PRO: Because I'm lucky enough to have a part-time babysitter, I can get away to interviews, write or work on my resume.
CON: I end up Facebooking and cruising Overstock.com with the time.
PRO: Every morning, I get up with my kids and make them breakfast and get them dressed, and every night I am there for dinner, bath and bedtime.
CON: Every morning, I get up with my kids and make them breakfast and get them dressed, and every night I am there for dinner, bath and bedtime.
I hope this has been helpful to all those struggling with balancing work, motherhood and sanity.
When you figure it out, let me know, won't you?