Unfiltered Mommy

An honest view of parenting in today's world

I’m no stay at home mom…

Recently on a friend’s fb page she made a statement that she was not a housewife, but rather a stay at home mom (SAHM). At first I was a little offended by the statement. I didn’t understand why she would not want to be referred to as a housewife. I asked her to clarify her statement. She had a great response. She said that her job was to enrich the lives of her three children, not to do all the cooking, cleaning and household chores. She spends the 8 hours a day that other people spend at work, entertaining and teaching her three young boys. Just as families with dual wage earners, the family shares the household chores on the weekends. Her husband helps out with meal preparation and they all pitch in to do the cleaning.. After hearing this, it made perfect sense to me and after being home with two children all day for three months I definitely see where she is coming from.

Having a background in child development and psychology, I try to spend my days teaching my oldest daughter all of the wonderful things I know so she can be a well-rounded and conscientious human being. I limit TV time and engage her in all sorts of activities to challenge her and help further her development in all areas including: sensory, fine and gross motor, social/emotional and cognitive. It is exhausting! There really isn’t any time for cleaning and laundry except on the days when she takes a good nap. Therefore, twice a month we have a cleaning lady and my husband and I share the burden of the laundry. My husband is more of a neat freak than I am so he cleans on the weeks when the cleaning lady doesn’t come and he also picks up after all of us every night. That is his choice. If it were up to me, I would just let it get messy until the next visit from the cleaning fairy. We both agree that this is money well spent each month.

But after thinking more and more about my friend’s statement and seeing SAHM listed as the occupation on people’s fb pages, I started thinking that maybe I am offended by the term “Stay At Home Mom”. Honestly, there are very few days where we “stay at home”. Our weeks are filled with outings to the park, walks on the ocean, trips to the library, zoo, aquarium, Legoland, and running errands.  I prefer the term “Full-time Mom”.

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She didn’t “let herself go”

We’ve all heard it. The disappointed statement of a young male, usually childless and more often than not, unwed, who feels let down that a woman who has children or has gotten married has “let herself go”. Because we all want to be depressed, frumpy and overweight by the time we hit middle age right? This statement is one of my biggest pet peeves. When I hear it I cringe! But it wasn’t until having my youngest child 3 months ago that I realized why.

When I was on maternity leave with my oldest, I was a mess. I was lucky if I got to brush my teeth before 2pm. I showered every 3 days or so and barely had time to use the bathroom. Having freshly shaved my legs was a distant memory. These things seem much easier now, but having multiple young children has a whole new set of challenges. This week my husband is out-of-town on business so I asked my parents to come and help out for a few days. I scheduled a day of beauty for myself. I got a mani/pedi, eyebrow wax and a haircut. It was a little slice of heaven, and I am truly grateful. Yes, I said grateful. Grateful that I could get 3 hours away from home to get some much-needed TLC. You see, I haven’t had my haircut in over 3 months, and the last time I got my eyebrows done on the fly at some random salon, I felt like I flushed $20 down the toilet because you couldn’t even tell that had been done afterward. This little slice of heaven will have to hold me over until I get the next opportunity to be childless, which will likely be in another 3 months or so. I sat down and thought about this the other day and figured that I get a day of beauty once a season. This was my Spring Makeover. I am guessing that I will have to wait until June for the next one.

So, one could look at me at the end of May and say that I’ve “let myself go”. Sure, my eyebrows will look like caterpillars, my hair will be stringy and I will have tons of split ends. My toenails will be jagged and my hangnails will be out of control, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t long for a day away from my regularly scheduled program to focus on myself and improve my mental health and outer appearance. It’s just that without the proper support, doing something without one or two children in tow is quite difficult. You see, we don’t have any local family or a regular childcare provider. Paying for drop-in care at child care or paying for a babysitter nearly doubles the cost of these services.

Next time I hear this phrase come out of someone’s mouth, I may try to help them understand how ignorant they sound. Or, maybe I’ll ask them to come and watch the kids so I can go to the salon so they won’t have to look at an unkempt version of who I used to be.  I wonder how well that would go over…

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Keeping Up in North County

I live in what is considered North County San Diego. It is a beautiful collection of quintessential beach towns stretching up the Pacific Coast from La Jolla to Oceanside. It is a wonderful place to live and raise children. The weather is perfect and the scenery is gorgeous. For the most part, people here are pretty laid back. There is a strong surf culture, and the area is also a big vacation destination. I actually credit the move here with helping us conceive our oldest since we struggled with infertility for four years prior to moving here. Despite all the wonderful things about this area, we still have our fair share of judgmental assholes. I encountered one just the other day at a local Rubio’s. I was there with the two girls when my youngest was about six weeks old. Ms. Judgey Eyes, as I like to call her, was there with her husband, daughter and son. I was looking at her son’s hat because it was from one of the schools that I was researching for my oldest. After ordering and settling down at a table, I noticed that Ms. Judgey Eyes was staring at me from across the restaurant. I took a quick inventory: nope, everything seemed to be in order. My oldest was safely strapped into her high chair. My youngest was sleeping peacefully in her car seat/Snap-n-go contraption and all my clothing was zipped, tucked and covering all the right places. I wondered to myself, “What in the world is she staring at?” Being a social worker, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s a little something we learn in school called Strengths Based Perspective. We look for a strength to focus on rather than looking for a weakness or some kind of pathology.

Judging by the clothing that the Judgey Eyes children were wearing, and the fact that they attend this very elite school, I am guessing they are pretty well off. Now I like to think that my husband and I earn a pretty good living but I am also quite frugal. Especially when it comes to buying baby items or clothing that our children will use for a short time. I don’t buy $50 shoes for my toddler and I am always looking for ways to save a few bucks by shopping sales and using coupons. I want my kids to look good but cannot justify the overinflated cost of designer clothes that my kiddos will outgrow by the time the credit card bill comes. If Ms. Judgey Eyes wants to buy overpriced items for her children, that’s her prerogative. Maybe she has more disposable income, owns a children’s clothing boutique or has a passion for fashion. Whatever the reason, I was uncomfortable with the way she was looking down at me.

This experience got me thinking about the pressure to “keep up appearances” in today’s parenting world.  Whether it is having the hippest clothes, fancy stroller or attending the newest trendy preschool, there are a lot of things that can make a new mother feel like she is not doing enough for her kids even though none of this really matters. Let’s face it, children don’t know if you bought their clothes at Juicy or Goodwill. They don’t care if the stroller you bought was $75 on Craigslist or the new Bob with the $600 price tag. What they will remember is the love and time you spent playing with them. Why is it that moms feel the need to judge one another? Can’t we just support one another? It always seems strange to me since we all belong to the same “club” and we all know how hard it is to be a mother. I really wanted to go up to Ms. Judgey Eyes and call her out on her snooty-ness, but I didn’t. I bit my tongue and forgave her. After all, she did look pretty unhappy as her husband as his guzzled his beer at 11am

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Should I Stay or Should I Go Now

When I was pregnant with my oldest my husband told me that he wanted me to quit my job and be a stay at home mom. I wasn’t surprised since the German culture has a very different attitude about parenting and family values, but I just didn’t see how we could do it financially. The cost of living here in San Diego is pretty high as I am sure you can imagine.

We were also new to this area and I had just landed my full-time position after a year and a half of waiting. I wasn’t ready to just walk away from a job I had fought so hard to get. I also wasn’t ready to give up my career at the tender age of 32. Afterall, I have a lot of time and money invested in my education and training, and we are still paying of my student loans. I was working toward my lifetime goal of being able to do private practice child and family counseling and was about halfway done with the hour and supervision requirements needed to sit for the LCSW exam so I wanted to go back to finish the hours.

As my maternity leave drew to an end, I knew that I needed to make a decision. We looked at our budget, and I just didn’t see how we were going to be able to manage if I didn’t go back to work. I figured that I would be able to finish the hours I needed in about a year and by that time we would be ready to have a second child. I didn’t have a choice that time. I felt like being a stay-at-home-mom was a luxury we couldn’t afford.

Since that time our lives have changed so much. I have finished the LCSW hours and am awaiting approval to sit for the exam and my husband has been promoted. Now the cost of child care for two children under three is a huge expense and is a major factor in whether or not I will return to work this time around. Despite the fact that I have a Master’s degree and 12 years of experience in my field, my income is nowhere near that of other’s with MBAs, law degrees or those in computer related fields.

My maternity leave is now half over so we sat down to look at the budget again. I was planning to go back half-time but when we ran the numbers it just does not make sense. To have both girls at the childcare owned and operated by my work (see my post “Picking a Preschool”), it would actually put us in the red! How can this be? I had a hard time believing it myself but it’s because the child care costs so much. I am still trying to wrap my head around this whole “Stay-at-home-mom” thing. Can’t say that I am not ecstatic to be able to spend every day watching my girls grow and learn new things, but I’d be lying if I said I was not conflicted.

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