Thursday, October 23, 2008

desperately searching for balance

Earlier this week, I started a post in which the very first paragraph read, "Here we go again ... me not sure what the heck I'm doing. Me wondering if sending the children to Montessori is the right decision. Me wondering if we should move. Me wondering what to do with my career. Me wondering how in the world I'm supposed to keep all of the balls that represent the various facets of our lives successfully in the air. Me realizing that although I'm getting through each and every day, it doesn't feel like I am doing any one thing particularly well."

Over the weekend, and almost all of this week, I have been in a stupor regarding what I "should" be doing. This most recent seizure and subsequent, immobilization of my psyche was prompted by two managers who cornered me on the last day of my meeting in Palm Springs, and asked point blank, "What do you want to do? You know you'll need to make a decision, soon. Right?"

My peaceful world wobbled and fell off it's axis.

Career. Opportunity. Relocation. A Decision.

I've known that I need to make a Decision soon. But this is the first time that I've been TOLD that I need to make a Decision soon.

I stink at making Decisions.

One of my bosses, the more senior of the two said, "You are very talented. We could really use you in a number of locations within our corporation. In fact, I think we could use Charlie, too. For the past several years, you have been leading a very eclectic life. And while that is admirable, you are living a mainstream life - while being out of the mainstream. Right now, you have the opportunity to give your family more stability."

Then for the swift kick that sent my peaceful world rolling out the door where it was run over by a semi-truck, "Do you want to move? Yes or no? Do you want to work full-time? Yes or no?"

I stuttered.

I couldn't make eye contact.

I was fixated on a bird sitting on the top frond of a palm tree outside of the pool. In a span of five seconds I tried to dig deep in to my soul and come up with the right answer.

What do I want to do?

What is the right choice for my family?

When it became clear that he wasn't going to move until I provided an answer, I blurted out, "Can I use one of my life lines? Uh. Maybe call a friend?"

It seems that there is a potential opportunity for me in Virginia in the middle of next year. Management wants me to consider this job. I have no idea what I want, even though the idea of living closer to family and in an area with changing seasons is appealing. My mind changes throughout the day. I ponder and pray at night and wake up with one decision, only to have my mind change five times before I've even climbed out of bed.

Add to that, the children's Montessori teacher pulled me aside today and said that they have three spaces available in the nap room. The option is available for us to leave the children at school for six hours a day as opposed to three. I can't believe I'm even considering this but the part-time schedule is pure torture.

The delusion I had of having three hours of "free" time to myself in the morning has yet to come to fruition. Not once have I jaunted off to the store - or to the gym. Usually, I'm trying to clean up from breakfast and lunch preparation, take the baby down from the table, make beds, get myself and the baby dressed, take the baby down from the table, play with the baby, throw in a load of laundry, take the baby down from the table, tidy up miscellaneous piles, and get Henry settled in for a nap.

I hardly have time to get anything else accomplished in those three hours during the morning, before it's time to go pick up the kids. And even then, I'm usually five minutes late. Twice in the past week, I've had to wake up a (finally) sleeping baby so I could go get his siblings from school. I'm sure it would be less painful to stab myself in the hand with dull scissors.

Was my life easier before school or is it easier now?

I really can't tell. It feels like I am constantly running around trying to get things accomplished. And even though I'm moving nonstop and sleeping very little - I'm not getting half the things done that need to get done.

Grocery shopping? If I'm lucky.

Laundry? Maybe but probably not.

My list for thank you notes is a mile long.

And the resulting guilt when I do something like blog or sit and stare at dirty grout, when I should be working or playing with the children or talking to my husband about "Oh my God, what should we DO?!" is debilitating.

People have been telling me that when the kids go to school, life will be easier. When I hire help and have people come clean the house, life will be easier. Currently, I have our children in school AND I have someone coming to clean the house. And thus far, life is not any easier. If anything, it is more complicated and I feel more driven to work so that we can afford all of these "conveniences."

Now, the option is there to send the kids to school full-time.

I feel like I'm on a slippery slope.

This isn't what I wanted to have happen, I think they're too young, but it seems so tempting.

Six hours a day.

The additional cost of full time school is so marginal, it's not even worth discussion. But since our children's energy stores are exploding, I've enrolled them in gymnastics one day a week and swimming lessons twice a week. At this point, our children's education and extracurricular activities is equivalent to our mortgage.

It's a fact.

Financially, I can't stay home and send our children to school. I also can't send our children to school full time on some days, and not on others. This particular program is five days a week so it's all or nothing. And although there are other preschool programs, I've already invested a lot in this particular one, so I don't want to make a change. Unless, that change is to terminate school altogether. But that seems wrong.

I think?

What really bothers me is that my patience with the children seems so slim.

Why is that? Wouldn't it make sense that if I was gone for them for longer stretches during the day, I would embrace them and all of their completely irrational four-year-old behavior when we were reunited? Why do they annoy me? I feel like I am spread so thin and the best that I have to give is subdivided upon far too many entities.

Although one might think that with all of my "free" time, the time I have with the children is focused. But it's not. I'm distracted by the next thing that needs to be done. Dinner preparation. Baths. Putting the mail away so that the kids don't open random bills, and cover them with scribbles from a purple crayon and pumpkin stickers.

Yet even though just one of our children, let alone all three, has the ability to drive fruit flies from a rotting banana, I really miss them. I miss our outings to the zoo and the library and play dates and various parks with picnics at random times throughout the day. Is it possible that the small window of opportunity for unstructured free time, before they were pulled away from me and in to a rigorous daily routine has already slammed shut closed?

On our current schedule - or proposed schedule - it certainly seems that way.

I feel like I have very little time with them anymore. Except for those days when they are home sick from the most recent virus they picked up at school. I have a bit of time in the morning during breakfast. A bit of time in the afternoon before I wrestle with them to take a nap. A bit of time in the evening when I'm trying to prepare dinner and keep them away from the hot stove because yes!! it! is! hot!! must you burn yourself again to know that your mother speaks the truth?!

I really want to be one of those women who have a passion about their career - or know in their heart that absolutely, they could give their children everything that they could learn at school and more. I want to be one of those women who knows the best and right thing to do. I want conviction. I am so afraid that if I stop working and pull the children out of school, the visions I have for success will not match our reality.

And then what?

I'll be unemployed during a dire economic time and the children under my tutelage will have glued their eyes closed with an adhesive stick that they thought was sunscreen.


  1. Children's work is play and where they play best is home. That 's were their imaginations will take off with the security of knowing their mother is near by. Studies show that kids with imagination will cope better later in life. When they are home with unstructured time their minds begin to create. They are growing out of naps. Forget the nap room. Adjust your expectations. Why are you making things so hard? What are you trying to avoid? It will only get harder if you keep this pace. Listen to your heart. Your are a mother at heart. Don't disconnect with them anymore by leaving 4 yrs olds at school all day. I vote for you continuing to work part time if you can and if they must stay in that school maybe look for a closer one for next year. Moving by family is good unless you have to work full time. It's impossible to be a full time mom and a full time career women. Who will make o-henry bars and celebrate their birthdays with them every other week? It won't be you. Let them be kids. Think about all the options and what you'll most regret later by the different choices you could make. What would you recommend someone else do in the same situation?

  2. Studies show that kids over three don't suffer at all from being in full time care. And that's in relation to daycare facilities. IMO the school you have them in is better than a five star daycare centre. So I wouldn't worry about that. There are still the hours after school, and the weekend to be able to have unstructured play. And what is to stop you taking a day off once a month to go to the zoo, or things like that (can you get that written into your FT work contract?).

    To get to where you are in your career, you are obviously HUGELY talented, and have done a lot of work to get there. Do you enjoy it? Can you afford to be out of the workforce for another two years before the kids are in school, will it affect your job prospects?

    I have not had to make that decision so I can't comment...but I just wanted to play devil's advocate to the person above me!

    Personally I hate that you have to make the decision...that anyone has to make that decision...but I don't think you should feel guilty if you decide to return to work FT. Or feel guilty if you decide to stay home. Either way you are doing the right thing.

    My friend uses this tactic: she decides at the start of the day that she's made the decision. Then acts like the decision is made for 48 hours. By the end of that time, she either feels really good or really horrible. Decision made. Does that help?

  3. I have twins, 21 now and a son almost 18.
    I think you would be better to have the triplets in full time school.
    My reasons are that although as you say, they are young, in some states here, 4 yr olds go to full time school. You already made the choice to send them for part of the day and by your postings, they seem to be enjoying it. They are also gaining independence and socialisation skills with other children. As you said, 3 hours goes in a flash, well does a full day of school. You will find getting toward the end of the week, the children will be very tired, then it's time for some quiet time with you, and early to bed. Also because you will get more done while they are at school, your patience will return.
    It's a hard call but I think I'd go for full days at school. :-)

  4. I had my 4-year-old in preschool three hours a day, and really struggled with the idea before changing her to six hours a day. Now she goes from 8 to 2, and it's working out just fine.

    You mentioned that you wrestle with yours taking a nap. My daughter won't ever nap at home, but she sometimes does at school and that has made a huge difference to our lives.

    At her school, naptime is from 12-2. You might find that if they go to school a little longer and part of that time is naptime, you still have about the same time available with them when they are home, PLUS they are better rested. Kids often surprise you and sleep when the rest of the pack does.

    I put her in school because I really needed the time to work (I work at home), and finally I have a big block of time and am getting my work done. It's such a relief. Like you, I found three hours almost useless. Six hours, though, works.

    The other thing to consider is that you don't have to take them five days a week. I pay for five days a week, but in my head she is on a four-day-a-week schedule and so we take a random day off every week. The school doesn't mind, and it's a nice break and some nice time for us.

    So it works really nicely for us, and my child is not at all suffering for it. She enjoys it and we still have a lot of time and do an awful lot of stuff together. I wouldn't have stuck with it if I didn't see it working out for her.

    Good luck with figuring out what will work for you. Maybe you could probably try the longer days for one month and see how it works out.


  5. How do you do it! How do you make the last line of your posts so HILARIOUS? Here I am reading this, thinking yep, yep these are the struggles that a working parent has to face. What advice can I provide? Then I get to that last line and end up laughing so damn hard I snort Diet Coke out my nose. I'm sure that your kids aren't the only ones to use a glue stick like sunscreen. ROFLMA OFF.

    Love, love, LOVE your blog. It is the highlight of my entire day. Girlfriend, you got serious talent. ;-)

  6. Personally I think that a good school is good for children. And it sounds like you definitely have a good school. I would let them stay longer, I bet they do love it there with their friends. Might having those extra hours finally open up some time so that you can finally be relaxed and just enjoy them either when they get home or on the weekends? I don't know, maybe though. It might just be the difference.

    VIRGINIA! It is pretty nice here - and being so close to DC is great for free outings with the children. We goto the Air & Space museum ALL THE TIME and have spent many trips at all the other museums downtown as well. The change in seasons is great - there are tons of fall activities to do with the children and for them to learn about.

    Good luck - but I do think you are over analyzing everything a bit. What would happen if you sent the kids to school one day and then didn't do any chores that you wouldn't get done if they WERE there? Maybe 1 day a week, just do that and relax a bit with Henry?

    I do love how you make even posts like this funny!

  7. Oh wow! How exciting. You've worked hard for a quality education, work, family and children. Look at all you've accomplished!

    The kids will be fine no matter what your decisions as you make it with your wonderful husband. Virginia is a great place, so much history and they say it's for lovers! Ew La La!!

    Guess we should find a good tri or jog within in the next few months...;-) (We'll tell Regina after she gets off the plane) Love, Marg.

  8. Wow, decisions. I am not good at making them for myself either, I always second guess myself, wonder "what if".
    I vote for all day school, that will give you some more time to do what has to be done. Lower your expectations on what has to be done. You know if you go to bed one night with toys on the floor, so be it, they will be there in the morning;) kind of thing.
    If the kids go to all day school they will probably rest there and be ready for an afternoon at home. Let school be for structure, relationships (other than siblings), etc... If they go to school full time, schedule a couple days of the month that you all do something special whether that means taking them out early, keeping them home all day or after you pick them up. Taking them and turning right around and picking them up doesn't seem to be working so I would try the other just to see.
    On the move, all I can say is Virginia is beautiful. I live in Western North Carolina (also beautiful) and I couldn't imagine living any where else. Love, love the seasons. Where in Virginia is the job? Have you researched it (the area)? Ha, that was probably a stupid question, did you like it?
    Don't beat yourself up so much, pray and ask for guidance, talk, talk, talk to Charlie and I am sure that you two will come up with the best solution for your family. That is truely the key, it is your family and only the two of you can make the decision that will be the best for it.
    Hoping that you find some peace in the decison making process.

  9. PS I just have to tell you that after spending the spring and summer months in Va - due to Reiner's work. I would move there in a heart beat! Especially Williamsburg! It's a great place for kids (and adults)!! Marg.

  10. I am going to have to comment just to try and even out the sides :) I have three kids who are very active and tend to drive me crazy at times, so it was a hard decision to homeschool. But now that we do our lives are so much more peaceful and I have time to enjoy the kids. I CANNOT enjoy them and get to know them and talk to them when we have a busy day of trying to get here and there. I get really frustrated and stressed and so do they.

    If I could decide what you do- which I know I can't- I would say this:

    Take them out of school for now (with the idea that you will re-evaluate again when they are 5).

    Keep the house cleaners

    Try to work from home some if you can- some projects that will keep you fresh and give you something that is YOU and not about the kids.

    Plan a preschool like morning- fun activities, field trips. You will enjoy these times SO much with your kids. And they will be fresh and not crabby.

    Work on them having an hour (or more) of quiet time in the afternoon- each child in a different place- alone with some toys.

    I will leave you with the statistic that says that the most stressed out human in the world is a full-time working mom.

    Having said that- I fully understand that some moms do best when they work. I am just speaking about what has personally worked for us.

    I love your blog and I think you should write a book. You are a GREAT writer.

  11. Maybe you need to break this all down and deal with one issue at a time.
    School? I think putting them in all day would be a great choice. The way preschool can chop up a day is far from convenient, in my experience. If they are happy at school, let them go for six hours.This arrangement only has to last until summer, doesn't it? But remember you don't have to accomplish everything in those six hours. There's nothing wrong with allowing yourelf a day here and there to do nothing but enjoy Henry.

    The job? You will get many points of view on this. I absolutely have never regretted being home full time. I am never for one minute blind to how fortunate we are that we can do this as I know many women don't have that option, but for us it's been a great thing. If you are working to provide your kids with a Montessori education, ask yourself if other more affordable schools would meet your standards. If you don't want to work and are willing to go another route, the kids can also thrive in a church preschool or other traditional settings.
    If Montessori is what you really want and working is the only way to make that happen, then there's your answer.
    I recently read that, when faced with a major decision, listen to your body. Imagine each scenario with deatil and pay attention to how your body reacts. If it reacts with a clenching stomach and a feeling of dread, then that's not the answer. If your body reacts with a sense of relief and calmness, then that is the best way to go.

  12. I would leave them in school all day. It sounds like you wouldn't be missing much awake time anyway. My son has gone to all day everyday daycare since he was 7 weeks (because I have to work full time) and is now 15 months and he is perfectly happy, healthy, and completely bonded to me and my husband.

    I work in my church nursery and you can tell which kids go to school/childcare and which do not. It is not fun trying to entertain and play with those children who stay home with Mom all day. I think being around other kids creates more well rounded and confident children. It sure doesn't seem to be cause them any harm to be in school all day.

    I've been reading your blog for a few months and your kids seem very well rounded and level headed. They seem like such fun kids to be around. I get a lot of great mothering advice from you so thank you.

  13. penelope, i wouldn't say "don't suffer at all." i suffered quite a lot and my little cousin is suffering a lot right now. i was over three, as is she now. it's not a black and white issue, by any means.

    in any case, jen you know what's best for you and your kids and your family. and think i'd be a little PO'd at your boss. "eclectic" what exactly is that supposed to mean anyway? it frustrates me that their seems to be only one or two definitions for a "mainstream" woman's life--stay at home mother or shark-like career woman. no other options. in some ways i live in the mainstream, but if you look a little deeper i'm far from it and getting further by the day. damn the mainstream expectations if they don't make you happy. you've got nothing to prove (you already have proven a lot anyway).

    i think you are passionate about your career...right now your most important job or "career" if you will is to be a mother. i too vote work part time and stay home. go back to what you were doing with the kids and in a couple of years you can start doing formal homeschooling if you want. there are a lot of home learning options out there and a lot of great groups online, check them out and find an approach that works for you.

    can charlie work full time in virginia and you work part time? or both of you work part time there?

    because here's the thing, i'm not saying your boss was lying about you being great at your job, i'm very sure you are. however, and this is a big however, he wants what is best for his company first. doesn't it make sense he'll tell you what he needs to to make that happen? i'm not saying it's a conspiracy or anything, but he's looking out for the company first, as he should. you, on the other hand need to look out for your kids and your own mental health first. company comes at least second, if not tenth with all the stuff you've got going on... know what i mean? i think you're feeling this dissonance over full time work and the kids being in school because it's not really what you want. at the very least i would pull them out and reasses when they're at first grade age, because in the grand scheme of your career...are those two years really going to put you that much farther behind? and at the same time look what you will have gained: two more years home with your children.

    think about it in terms of opportunity cost. they way it is right now, well, it sounds to me you feel the opportunity cost is far too high.

    good luck!

  14. I too struggled with putting my four year old in all day Montessori. I was adament that I stay home with my kids and not let someone else raise them. However, when I realized that the extra two hours was spent driving to and from the school and her in "relaxing" time, I decided it just wasn't worth it.

    And she THRIVED there. Even when she dropped the nap, the teachers would pull her aside and work with her and the five year olds on Kindergarten prep. I took her out of school at various times during the year to go to the zoo, museums, even Disneyland.

    I don't have any advice for you on the job. I believe with talking to your husband, colleagues and God, the answer will come to you.

    Ask the school if you can try the kids out a few days next week on the new schedule and see how it feels. Most schools are willing to work with you and your kids.

    Good luck.

  15. First I have to say that you are by FAR my most favorite recent blog find. You make me laugh, you make me cry and you make me think. So, thank you.

    My son just turned 3 and is in 1/2 day Montessori school. I wrestle daily with "am I making the right decision?" and "Is he happy? Is he going to turn out okay?" and of course, "Am I spending enough time with him (even if it's not QUALITY time... am I spending ENOUGH? what's the point in that)?" I also don't have the option of 3 days. It's every day or nothing, so it sounds like our schools are similar. I also have to decide if I want him to go through summer or give him a break, because that's an option. Of course, I have been told that it's BETTER for him to go through the summer. Bah.

    I have to say that the 1st anonymous commenter wasn't fair with their comment. If you are aware of the way that Montessori schools are ran, you would know that it's NOT structured and that these children ARE encouraged to expand their imagination.

    I have kept my son home on occasion - not when he is sick, but on days that I just want him near. I promise you this: he is HAPPIER at school. He is happier with other kids around and an entire school area FILLED with things for him to CHOOSE to do. And, not only is HE happier, but I am, too. The days that I have kept him home, I have regretted it unless we are going on a trip to the zoo or something like that.

    I don't have the same quandary that you do, however. I don't have a job outside of my children. This is it. I have a 3 year old that is gone 3 hours every morning and has proven to be better for it and a 1 1/2 year old that is benefiting greatly from having even that small chunk of time to himself. Financially, it isn't plausible for us to send him to school full days and, even then, I am not sure that I'd want to. But again - I don't work, so I can't tell you what I think of that. I do know that 3 hours is NOT a lot of time to do anything. You catch your breath and you're right back at it again. And this is only with 2 kids! Not triplets and a baby! ;)

    Follow your gut. Follow your heart. Do what is best for YOUR family regardless of what anyone else thinks. Your kids will all turn out fine. Thank you again for the myriad emotions that you allow me to experience while reading your blog. I appreciate the opportunity to peek into your world.

  16. Jen, I read your blog daily and I've never posted a comment, but I feel compelled to this time. You are dealing with an issue that all Moms have to face at some point or another. You just have to deal with 3x the guilt that the rest of us do. Here are my thoughts. Your children will be starting school soon. If it is like here, it will be full-day. It might be good for them to get used to that schedule now so it is not as much of a shock later. The fact that they will have a nap will help when you are all at home. They will be rested and less cranky. You will still have the weekends and evenings to frolick and have unstructured time. You have them in a good school where they can focus on learning, playing, and being with kids outside of their trio. It's not like they are in a daycare center, sitting in a corner, being ignored. They are in a good school, with clear expectations and structure. Meanwhile, you will continue succeeding as a professional, be engaged in adult conversations, and be able to contribute to the economic stability of your family. If you choose to stay at home now, what happens when the kids start school? Will your professional opportunities still be there? Plus, by working you can contribute more to your retirement savings and your children's education savings.

    I would just make sure that your employer knows that they still need to be flexible. If the kids are sick, you should be allowed to work from home. If there is something special at school and you want to attend, they should understand that and offer you the flexibility to attend.

    While I think that the time that you spend with your children at home is important, I also think it's important for them to understand how valuable you are to your company and the rest of the world. Especially for the girls, they need to understand that you can go toe-to-toe with the boys and still be a Mommy. There is something very empowering about that.

    Good luck with your decision.

  17. My "kids" are 22, 18 & 15. I've worked professionally FT, PT, for others and now for myself. Mostly I've worked less than FT and with eclectic work schedules. (I think your boss was an a-hole to use that term with you.)

    As I look at my career, I sometimes feel frustrated because certain levels are closed to me because of the PT work. I know that I would have a better title and $ if I worked in a more traditional role throughout my career. Yet, I mostly like what I do and make pretty good money doing it. It's mainly me ego that feels bruised sometimes.

    As I look at my kids, they seem to be turning out okay- the ones with more daycare and those with less daycare experience. The older two have expressed appreciation for having their parents around so much. They think about career choices and how they impact a potential family. The 15 year old thinks I shouldn't be around so much-but did miss me when I couldn't be home when he got home from school one week.

    Lessons I've learned
    1. No matter what choice you make, you will have regrets
    2. You can move from PT to FT and back again quite a few times before you're thought as squirrely
    3. Teens have a lot of activities and need you just as much as preschoolers. It's easiest to work FT when they are in grade school.
    4. You'll still be struggling with this in ten years, whatever choices you make.
    5. Child care is a must for working parents, no matter if FT or PT. You will drive yourself nuts trying to work without help.

    I think 6 hours a day for the older children is worth a try. Pull them out for a day to have fun or pick them up early once in awhile. If you don't like the results, drop down to mornings only. If you pull them out totally, I know from bitter experience that they will be unhappy and make you crazy!

    So, I recommend fullday preschool and see what you think.

  18. whew, this is polarized topic!

    IMO, I think a six-hour day at preschool is perfect.

    Here's a typical day for us:

    My daughter is in preschool from 8:30 - 2:30. She is thriving. She gets plenty of free unstructured playtime at school and at home. She gets to be social and play with friends.

    I get to clean the house for an hour in the morning while my son plays with his blocks.

    Then I play with my son until lunch and his nap time. I then get two hours to get what I need accomplished (bill paying, etc.) and then we go pick up my daughter and go to the park most afternoons or a playdate.

    We come home and read a book and then I can go in and make dinner while the kids play together. I seem to feel more in control and patient these days. I have friends with their kids in a three-hour preschool program and they always seem on the run. And if we want to have a fun day at the aquarium or zoo, I just keep my daughter home for the day.

    It works for us.

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  20. First I wanted to give you a big cyber hug! I know you don't love this indecision, but I love that other people have the same tough time I have making decisions. I have never had a career like yours, but I did have to decide if I wanted to work full time, part time, telecommute or be home all together over the past 19 years of parenting. I worked full time for a couple of years when my oldest was a little over 3. I went to part-time when he was 5 and in Kindergarten. I went to telecommuting part-time when he was in 5th grade and I started to homeschool. He is 19 now and off to the Army. The decisions I had to make in his life had so hugely effected the decisions I now make for our 10 year old girl and 4 year old boy. Working full time when my oldest was 3 made me certain I would never do that again. I barely saw him. I missed a lot. Sure, my husband or grandma had him during the day and he was FINE. I missed him though! I missed 2.5 years of his quirks throughout the day. I worked pt at home for 6.5 years until I was laid off at the end of 2006. At that point, I was offered a ft in-office position. My bos (and great friend) put the job out there, but told me it wasn't for me. My kids were what was for me. I went to see my husband at his job and he said that wasn't for our kids. Next thing you know, we are trying to sell our house and move to SC. The cost of living is better and if we ever sell our house in FL, we will be pretty much debt free. I am not telling you this is your way. I am telling you what happened to me. As far as homeschooling... the summer I was trying to decide to pull my son out of school - I kid you not - my eye twitched constantly. I was a wreck! Now, I don't look back. I am in my 10th year. My son is serving our country. He is a great young man and I am proud of who he has become. My younger kids are doing great and I wouldn't change it for anything. It is just our lifestyle. My youngest just turned 4 years old. To help me remember what a gift I have with him, I think about my sister-in-law. She passed away 5 days before her youngest turned 5 years old. I look my sometimes crazy 4 year old and think about how that was the last year my sister-in-law had with her youngest child. It helps with all the frustration he brings and puts time in perspective for me. They grow up so fast and then you are at basic training graduation or college or weddings, etc. It really is a blink of the eye and it is gone. Hold on to your babies while you can. Good luck with your decision.

  21. I will disagree with the first poster. I don't think they are taking into consideration that each child is different and where one "plays best" is not a true statement for all children. Sweeping generalizations like that are NEVER healthy. (Ha!)

    I have one 14 month old. I am in no way qualified to give advice to your situation. I can only speak from my experience, which admittedly is limited.

    I work full-time at a good company, doing a job that I kinda like, but definitely don't have a passion for. But one day I will...I just don't have enough education at this point. Half of my salary goes to my son's childcare. It's not a 5 star daycare, but it's good. They've had a curriculum for him since he was 10 weeks old. Age-appropriate and simple, but they have goals for him every month, which I love! The teachers there are also very loving and when my child sees them, he squeals, runs into their arms and gives them huge hugs. How can I NOT believe he is getting good care from these darling women? He adores them and that makes me happy!

    I'll be honest: I can't help compare my child against my SAHM friends and their kids close to my baby's age. In many cases (not all), my child has a larger vocabulary, is physically more advanced, is more socially adjusted, is more obedient, and more comfortable in different/strange environments. While I'd love to be at home with him full-time, I've realized I'm just not equipped to give him all the benefits his daycare provides. Also, when we see each other at the end of the day, it's focused and quality time. I think I do have a lot more patience with him than if I were to be at home all day with him.

    Do I regret not spending my whole day with him as a SAHM? For my sake, yes. I miss him dearly every hour I'm gone. But for him, no. I'm happy with my decision, because I know that's best for HIM. And isn't that what we're supposed to do? Make decisions that are best for our kids, even if it means we have to sacrifice?

    My pediatrician told me once (speaking on sleep school specifically, but applicable to many decisions), that you do what's best for your child, by doing what's best for the WHOLE FAMILY. If Mom and Dad aren't running on all cylinders, then what good does that do for the kids? I've always used that line to help me make my decisions.

    What choice will make you a better mother? Because whatever that choice is, is what your kids need and will remember as they grow up.

  22. I don't know if I have ever commented before but I wanted too with this. I think to raise 4 children from what I read you are doing a great job. I think that you and Charlie will make the best decision for your family. I vote for listening to your heart and body. Your children will benefit from whatever you decide. With that being said staying at home will be the hardest thing you can do but it is very rewarding in the long run. I only have 2 but I taught them to read, add, and subtract. To look back I love that I was the one doing it but when your in the trenches doing it it is not always fun. I will pray for your decision.

  23. Hi Jen,
    For what it is worth....
    I'm Charlie's cousin and we'd love to see all of you in Virginia! I have a great guest horse and a little farm for little people to explore.

  24. i really enjoyed reading your blog today. i think it's so reassuring to see/hear about other mothers going through the same thing that I am. It's so hard to balance working and being a mother -- especially when others have such strong feelings towards their way of life. But I found I'm happiest when I find what works for me which happens to be working part-time and my son in pre-school. Everyone on here has given such good comments!! It's a lot to think about. But I'm going to repeat what someone else said -- listen to your body and your heart. Do what's best for you. Then you'll feel best and your patience will be better because you'll be happier.

  25. I so feel for you with this decision. I have an 11 month old after multiple IVF's and 5 years of ttc. I am also really struggling with the whole work/ family balance and find the whole thing more than a bit discouraging. I just took my 1st full-time job post baby and it lasted 1 month. I was very clear with them in the interviews that I could only work 40 hours per week, had a baby etc, and in the first week, they basically told me that they needed me 60+ hours per week for the next four months. I told them that I could not do that and they laid me off. I feel so relieved!! And am now looking for a part-time job in my field (not as a manager, I was managing 6 people). Full-time jobs (at least in the SF Bay Area where I live) all seem to be 40+ hours. My DH works long hours and I just could not see having so little time with our baby, not to mention the toll on my health. I need to work at least part-time to pay off our IVF debt but I also really like having some time away and feel like it makes me a better mom. The world of work is not set up for women, moms, etc. I agree with other posters that you may want to try out different things, full-time montessori at least until x-mas and then re-evaluate, check out VA and all the schooling options there, HS groups, public schools, private schools and then go for it if it does not work. You can always change what you are doing. Right now everythig feels so scary and uncertain financially personally, home has lost a lot of value, retirement has lost value etc and the national and international news is so bad, that all we can really do is try to navigate our little boats with our internal compasses.

  26. My heart hurts when I read this post. Although our situations are different, it rings true in the other post that claims every mother goes through these tough choices. I have a ten month old and an almost three year old. I just started working full-time since my first was born and it was the toughest thing I have ever done. I decided to go back to work to support my husband in getting his Principal License. My hopes are that in a year the financial stress will lessen and I can cut back to part-time. My toddler is in school 2 days a week for 8 hours and I have a nanny for the baby. I run around daily like a crazed woman, taking the children to different providers on different days and I always try and sneak out of work early to see them at the end of the day. I am always tired. However, I still make pancakes with my toddler 3/4 times a week in the morning or cookies in the evening, or whatever..I make the time because it's important to me, as you will in whatever situation you embrace. As an LCSW who works in the foster care system I can tell you this: The blueprint for a child's foundation for the rest of their lives is substantially created in the first three years of their life. This is when all children are learning to attach and grow in their environment. Consistency, structure and safety will allow your children to grow into healthy people, regardless of whether they are at school 3 or 6 hours.
    You will always second guess, there is no right or wrong decision here. Your children know you love them and you are their world (for now).
    Good luck:)

  27. Sista, you need to divide and conquer!!! Pick a weekend, SOON, and send some children to this persons house, and the other children to another persons house...FOR THE WEEKEND! Beg and plead for their help, and find 2 people who will take the kids for the weekend. Next, get some rest, catch up on some reading, laundry, grocery shopping, and straighten up the house. Then sit down with a cup of coffee next to the window and spend some time soul searching, and decide where your goals are for both yourself, and for your family.

    You can't 'ruin' your children. No matter what you decide for them, their morals and values have been ground into them so deeply, and will continue to be with your and Charlies guidance and love, that where ever they end up going to school and spending their time, you have laid the blueprint for wonderful human beings. You've ALREADY saved them from being ruined.

    Let go of something. You can't do all of these things forever, and you know that and there's no denying it. That's all you have to do, is just pick ONE thing, and let it go. The rest falls into place.

    Let go, and let God.

  28. You aren't crazy.

    I have one 19 month old and I work 30 hrs per week and wrestle with ALL the same questions you do. Should I work? Am I a bad mom for 'fill in the blank'? Is this f-ing my kid up forever?

    The answer is that there is no answer. You're doing the best you can. No matter what you do you will never feel like its perfect and will always wonder if you should have done Plan B.

    Be proud of yourself and stop feeling so damn guilty! You love your kids and you AREN'T ruining them. They have a smart hard-working mama that loves them. That's 10 times more than I had and more than a lot of kids ever get.

    My best friend stays home with her kids and feels the same way... she worries that they aren't getting enough stimulation, that her husband could lose his job (real concern) and they'd be sunk, that she is going to go crazy from being at home with 3 little ones.

    Being a mom is hard and you always think you're doing it wrong. You aren't alone.