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hey honey, why don't you stay home with the baby while i go back to work?

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the mommyhood memos: hey honey, why don't you stay home with the baby while i go back to work?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

hey honey, why don't you stay home with the baby while i go back to work?

By Louise, author of Mommycrat

{This is part of the Moms Who Work series.}

Whether to work or not as a mom is a big decision.  But, when I looked forward to how I saw myself in motherhood, I always saw myself having a career.  Towards that end (and being the planner that I am) I spent some of my 20s getting myself into one that would suit motherhood.  My choice was the Canadian federal public service, which has good parental leave benefits, generously topping up Canada’s Employment Insurance, which provides some benefits for parents to stay home up to a year following the birth of their child. 

My husband is also a public servant, so we decided to split our year, given our jobs allowed it.  I took the first nine months, and he took the last three.  The “uneven” split was due to the fact that we wanted to breastfeed baby for more than six months, if possible (it was).  Obviously, only I could do that.

We knew early on that we were going to split the year as we both wanted the opportunity to be the primary caregiver and get that bonding experience.  We also hoped this would lead to each of us knowing the work required to care for baby, so we’d be better able to share those responsibilities once we were both working.

I'm still happy with the choice.  When we first made it, I had thought nine months was forever.  Heck - I could make a whole other baby in that time!  And I honestly thought I wouldn’t really like staying home.  I thought I might sometimes find it boring and isolating. I quickly learnt how busy it was. A different pace, but busy none the less. It was a break from my work life; but in no way a "break".

And it was a whole new kind of rewarding.  I loved it. In a different life, I now think I could happily have been a stay at home mom. So it was with mixed feelings that I returned to work.  I fought the urge not to regret the choice to split the year.

But now that I’ve been back about two and a half months, I don’t regret it.  Returning to work was easier for me in that I knew baby wasn’t going directly into daycare.  Also, my husband was so excited to start his time at home with her, that I’m glad our jobs allowed it.

In going back to work, I also learnt that some of the expectations I had of him as the “working parent” had sometimes been a bit off. For example, while I miss my daughter while I’m at work, I don’t always have the energy to be the parent “on duty” once I get home, which I’d often expected of him, given I’d been with baby all day and needed a break. 

And, while hubby adjusted really well and quickly to the stay at home role, he certainly now has an appreciation for all the work that involves.  Some amusing memories from my first week back at work involve him asking me if I was aware baby could sometimes take up to 40 minutes to eat lunch?  And did I know she sometimes just REFUSED to take her afternoon nap?

Seeing the roles from both sides has been really valuable.

Another thing I’ve learnt from changing roles was that it’s okay that our parenting styles are different.  After spending over nine months as the parent responsible for pretty much all decisions concerning her life, I had to take a deep breath, let go a bit, and be okay with things being done differently.  For hubby’s time at home, he’s been in charge (like I had been) of making and choosing baby’s food, planning her days, and setting any rules or schedules we both follow. 

Ultimately, I think having both of us have some time home with baby has worked well for us.  I also hope it will work to our benefit when, next week, baby starts daycare and we are both back at work.  I’ll be sure to blog about how that transition goes...

On a final note, the last thing I feared returning to work was that her life would happen without me.  The reality is that much of it does. But I don’t feel any lack of connection.  We continue to have special activities we do together.  For example, I still take her swimming twice a week and I am generally the parent who does the bedtime routine.  We still have “us” time.  And, finally, while ideally it would be better to not have to leave, the excitement in her face when she sees me coming home is one of the best feelings in the world.

Bio: Louise, aka Mommycrat, has been blogging since May 2010 at Mommycrat.  She lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and blogs about her thoughts on, and life with, her family and daughter.

Further reading in this series:

Dear mommy-friends, have you ever worked while your husband stayed at home with the kids? How did this work out for your family? While I was still pregnant with Levi, Ryan and I used to "fight" (not really) over who got to stay home with the baby. I won because I have the boobs... but Ryan would love his chance to be a stay-at-home dad for a while. And who knows... maybe one day it will be possible for a period of time. (?!) How about you?

    love hearing about involved dads,

    adriel booker | the mommyhood memos | 2010 
    do not reproduce without written permission

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    At September 25, 2010 at 1:06 AM , Blogger Greta said...

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    At September 25, 2010 at 1:07 AM , Blogger Greta said...

    I am currently the full-time work out of the home mom. My schedule is such that it allows me to be home right after nap/quiet time (7am-3pm). My husband is pursuing his master's in counseling in a 3/4 time program that meets in the evenings so he stays home with the kids (we do have help from our parents 3 mornings a week so he can study). As soon as I walk in the door, he leaves to go study so I put my mommy cap on and take over. One thing that isn't addressed in the above post is how the role-reversal can affect a daddy. There aren't many (read:any) stay-at-home-dad groups in our area and he is never invited to any of the mom groups since he's male. It can be very isolating. Also, he would love to be the one working full-time and have me stay home (pipe dream) so he feels some shame in how the roles are reversed since our culture doesn't favor that. But we both believe it's best for our children to have one of us home and it makes the most sense right now for that to be him.

    P.S. I married Chelsea's brother...funny that you think we look alike but I'll take that as a compliment:) Thanks for comment on my blog :):)

    At September 25, 2010 at 5:59 AM , Blogger Eat. Live. Laugh. and sometimes shop! said...

    God bless you! I have a horrible time letting my husband be in charge. Still. And my kids are 7!!!

    Any sacrifices required, though -- it is worth it to have a parent at home!

    At September 25, 2010 at 7:24 AM , Blogger flyrish said...

    It sounds like you have such a great arrangement with your husband. How nice for him to experience being the primary caregiver for your little one during the day! I wish my husband had that chance. Maybe someday.

    Also, Canada is awesome with that 1 year maternity leave.

    At September 27, 2010 at 9:31 PM , Blogger Mommycrat said...

    Adriel - thanks so much for giving me the chance to be part of this series!

    Greta - stay at home dads are definitely in the minority here, but they are welcome at all the groups we take our daughter to (ie: playgroups, specific baby programs, babytime at the library etc...) There were always a few dads at any group or program I went to while I was on parental leave and they certainly didn't seem to be treated differently, so I'm sorry to hear that's the case where you are. As to our specific case, my hubby took our daughter to a few of the paid programs we were in once I went back to work (ie: a music and movement class) which he said went fine, but didn't end up doing any of the playgroups as he isn't really a joiner. His best guy friend was off work for much of the same time he was, also with a baby, so they hung out; and - as I've blogged about, he also use to bring our daughter to the pub after work to meet up with me and friends. Personality (and possibly some gender) differences going on there - but he certainly would have been welcome to go to any of the groups I went to.

    Flyrish: Yes, we really are blessed in Canada. It's better if you have additional coverage from work for parental leave above what is provided by the federal government, but it's great that we have it. There is always discussion about how to further support families (ie: looking to what is done in Scandinavian countries) but what we have is certainly well above what's offered in the US, and what use to be offered here.


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