Unfiltered Mommy

An honest view of parenting in today's world

Have I lost my umph?

When I was younger I was very outspoken. I was not afraid to be who I was and I did not take shit from anyone. I wore what I wanted ; which ranged from short pink patent leather skirts with teeny tank tops to ultra baggy Jenko jeans and oversized concert T-shirts. I got decent grades and stood up for victims of bullying. I was in the Marching Band and Drama Club. I stayed out late and had friends from all walks of life.

I grew up in  a conservative family in a very nice (and… Conservative) community north of Detroit. The kids at my high school were mostly WASPs, and kids who caused trouble were sent off to alternative schools or to the Fox Center, never to be heard from again. I got into my fair share of trouble at school and made my parents less than proud on a few occasions, but overall I was a good person with a good heart and I knew that once I got the hell out of there, I would be able to “find myself” and be me. You see, in a small town like ours, there was no getting away with things. People knew my parents and I lived in fear that they would tell my parents if they saw me doing something, like smoking cigarettes. The fear of disappointing my parents was the worst. I could never imagine having to tell my parents I was pregnant or calling them from jail to bail me out so this fear kept me out of a lot of trouble.

When I moved 2000 miles from home to attend Arizona State University, I was so excited to be away from all the people I had known my whole life. The kids that thought they knew me and I was grateful to have a fresh start. I made a lot of friends from the Mid-West and also had some pretty crazy roommates. Actually all of them. I learned about love, life, and heartbreak. I dated the wrong guys and made some not-so-good decisions. But I always stayed true to myself and I always spoke my mind.

But somewhere between here and there I lost that part of myself. Maybe it’s because I grew up or maybe it’s just being too tired to care anymore, but somehow I stopped being that version of me. I stopped being the me who loved to go out on the town and dance the night away. I lost the part of me who loved to get dressed up all fancy and accessorize new outfits. Ok, ok, so having two young children is probably why I have no time or energy to invest in my looks or social outings anymore, but what about my spunk? My umph?

Some would say that I still pretty outspoken. Being a Social Worker requires me to step up and advocate for others and to fight oppression. I still cannot sit in silence and watch others be degraded or taken advantage of but I feel like my tolerance for ignorance has changed. I remember that I noticed a distinct shift in myself a few years ago when I started working at a new hospital. I was working in a very wealthy area of San Diego and I’ll never forget the day when we had a patient who was a meth addict who was on a ventilator and on death’s door. I cannot remember all the details of his case now but he had numerous brain aneurysms and some other medical issues. His family was all Spanish speaking and I had contacted them in Mexico to have them come and speak with the doctor regarding his situation. The nurse taking care of him that day said “Uh, I don’t know why I even have to take care of this guy.” Standing there in shock, I said “Well, because he is our patient and he is very sick.” “Yeah well this is (name of our hospital), we don’t get patients like this here!” she said. My reply, which was the only thing that came out was “Well, we do now, and we will be getting a lot more of them from now on.” Now, old me would have just laid into her about respecting the dignity and worth of the person and helping her understand that addiction is a disease and that although he was not a US citizen, he was still a human being. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see how doing in to this much detail with this particular nurse was going to make one ounce of difference so I chose not to.

For the next 3 years that I worked there I tried my best to speak out and be a good advocate, but when you are working in a company steeped in “Good Ol’ Boys” charm, and working with patients who run multi-million dollar companies, you have to mind your Ps and Qs. I learned to bite my tongue and choose my battles. I decided to bide my time until something changed and promised myself that I would not expend any more energy than necessary. After all, I would get nowhere, and I knew it.

After having two kids and after finishing enough hours to apply for the LCSW license, I was finally able to quit. I quit, for multiple reasons but I never told them how I felt about the corporate bullshit there or the way that walking into that job everyday made my heart sink. I never told them that despite the fact that they were constantly telling us how “lucky” we were to work there or what a great place to work it was, I secretly hated it.

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There’s a new boss in town

Tomorrow was supposed to be the day that I returned to work after my lovely five month maternity leave. About a month ago, after several discussions with my husband, l resigned from my full-time position. We decided that this is what is best for our family at this time. When we were both working our lives were very stressful. We both spent two hours a day commuting and it felt like we were always playing catch up. My husband’s job required him to travel quite a bit and when he wasn’t traveling, he was working until the wee hours of the night. After picking up our oldest from daycare, where she spent 10 hours a day on average, I found it almost impossible to cook a delicious, nutritious meal every night. We wound up eating out or getting carry out several times a week. Weekends were filled with household tasks and errands that seemed to be never-ending.  I remember how stressful it was the first year back at work after our oldest was born. Trying to juggle all the things above and the responsibilities of being a new mom was more than a little bit overwhelming. I was pumping 4 times a day at work in the beginning and became obsessed with my milk supply. The guilt I felt every night when I saw my daughter after being away from her for 10 or more hours a day was crippling. When she stopped nursing, it became a little easier, and by easier I mean more tolerable, to be away from her. She was growing and learning and although I was missing it, I knew that she was being well cared for by the daycare provider. I cannot, however,  imagine trying to do all of this now with two little ones. Just the thought of trying to get myself and the two girls ready and out the door by 7am seems completely impossible to me.

That being said, I am still getting used to the idea of being a full-time mom and not earning a paycheck. It is starting to sink in a little more each week but still remains somewhat surreal. I can’t believe that I am lucky enough to be able to stay at home with our girls.

Sure, it will be really difficult not having my “own” money. This is one of the hardest things to accept. I have always been fiercely independent and I got my first job when I was 15 years old. I have worked consistently since then with only three brief periods of not working when I was living abroad and when I was a freshman in college. Today I am being paid in smiles and love from my two girls which is worth more than any amount of monetary compensation. The day our oldest asked me not to go back to work, and I was able to say “yes” was one of the best feelings a mother can have. I am so happy to be able to make her wish come true. Being present and spending quality time with my girls is gift that only I am able to give. Witnessing my youngest meet all of her developmental milestones is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The working world will always be there, but these precious memories are only attainable for a very short period of time. I don’t want to have any regrets about choosing work over my kids so whatever corners we need to cut or sacrifices we have to make to make this work, we’ll gladly do it. I am very lucky to have a husband who supports and actually encourages this decision. We are all looking forward to a less hectic and more healthy and happy family life this time around.

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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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