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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hi Ho, Hi Ho...

For those who are “Online Mommy Bulletin Board” savvy like me, you’ll know what that acronym stands for. 
Work Outside (the) Home Mom.
You’ll also know that there are very different opinions as to the validity of being a WOHM.  Yikes.  You want to start a heated discussion on  Entitle it, “What’s best for my family—if I work outside the house or if I stay at home? ”  We’re talking FIRE. 
Me?  My opinion has always been that YOU need to decide what’s best for YOUR family.  Once you’ve made that decision, go with it, be happy with it, and don’t expect anyone else to make the exact same choice.  Because every family is different and at the end of the day, I only come home to MY kid(s) and husband (singular :-)).
Certain people, I’ve come to realize, believe, for some (what I consider to be CUH-RAZY) reason, that God has already made that decision for my family and that as a Christian wife and mother, I need to stay home and tend to the hubs and chillin’.  Reedonkulous, I say.  And if anyone wants to get into an argument with me about it, I’m open.  In fact, I’ve got my mouth or pen & paper ready.  I’ve been known to write a letter or two to the editor of a Christian publication regarding this topic.
I have always wanted a career.  Sure, it’s taken me 15 years to decide WHAT that career looks like, but deep down, I’ve always known that I would work outside the home while raising my kid.  There was a six-month period of time, during the last half of my (short) pregnancy and the beginning of Ellie’s life, when I thought that staying at home with her was the best choice.  I was so tired.  SO TIRED.  And my brain, in its mushy state, could hardly tell left from right; formula from coffee cream; diaper from sanitary napkin.  I was literally incapable of working outside my four walls.
But, with a little Zoloft, a lot of sleep and regulated hormones, that period (pun intended) of my life passed quickly and by the time Ellie was smiling, I was DESPERATE to return to work. 
I returned to my job when Ellie was 4 months old.  Although the decision to return to work wasn’t a difficult one, contemplating Ellie’s care was excruciating.  Ellie had so many special needs as a preemie baby, and a large daycare was out  of the question because of her underdeveloped lungs and susceptibility to colds-which-could-easily-turn-into-pneumonia.  So, we hired a nanny.  A wonderful, caring, sweet, gentle, loving nanny.  Pretty much every penny of my paycheck went to pay Carlin.  And it was SO worth it.
Being back at work gave me perspective again.  I was happier there.  I felt fulfilled there.  I no longer felt raging jealousy towards Richard, who “got” to leave the house for 8 hours every day.
The best part of it all was that ELLIE was happy.  Carlin was so great with Ellie (when she was actually awake—those were the “good ole 3-naps-per-day” times), and she became another member of our family.  I truly believe that Ellie could sense MY happiness, and therefore, she was more contented.  It was a smiley sort of sunshiny cycle.
‘Course, those were also the days when I thought that Ellie would grow out of her preemie issues and life would continue as “planned”.  There would be no physical therapy appointments.  We would have no need for a physiatrist, an orthopedist, a neurosurgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, a neurologist, an ophthalmologist, a developmental pediatrician, a gastroenterologist.  Nope.  Just an annual visit to the “regular” pediatrician.
When Ellie was diagnosed with CP and the reality of how our lives were going to change actually started to sink in, I began questioning my ability to build a career.  How would I be able to hold down a job while ensuring Ellie received the best therapy and medical attention?  Not only was I grieving for Ellie and the struggles she was going to face during her lifetime, but I was also selfishly mourning the loss of a career for ME.  It was profound.  Selfish, sure, but incredibly real and painful.
But, as is the case for all things in my life, God was shining down and He knew there were better days ahead.  I truly believe that He created me with the desire for a career and has opened doors throughout my life path, ensuring opportunity to attend to that passion.
When we first moved Up North, I spent a LONG time looking for the perfect job.  (I was going to surround the word perfect with quotation marks, as if to mock the possibility of a perfect job existing.  But, I stopped myself because, honestly, my current job is THAT perfect.)  I job-searched for an entire year, in fact.  I was unmoving in my request for Tuesday mornings off (so that I could bring Ellie to her conductive education class).  I demanded my employer be flexible in regards to doctor’s appointments.  It was a tall order.  God led me to my current job, my current position, my current employer, where my requests were met with high-fives and smiles. 
God also led me to the perfect child care provider for Ellie.  And Ellie has thrived there.  I worry about Ellie being an only child, and her lack of “kiddie socialization”, but she has made sweet, sweet friends at daycare and has been loved on in ways I cannot describe. 
God knew.  He knew when He created me.  He knew when He created Ellie.  He knew when He formed a family between Richard and me.  I am living in His will BECAUSE I am a WOHM.
Just as those of you who are SAHMs (hopefully) feel you’ve made the right choice for YOUR family, and that you’re living in God’s will for YOUR life.
Sometimes (bold, and often rude) people ask me if I work for the money.  The answer?  A little.  My salary is a reflection of my talent and hard work.  If my employer paid me something below what I thought I was worth, it would leave me feeling inadequate and insecure.  So, of course I work for the money.  Additionally, I work so that we can afford the very best care for Ellie.  Also (and here’s where the controversy begins), I work because I like to have nice stuff and do fun things.  If I’m going to, guilt-free, pay for Ellie’s Matilda Jane outfits or my (totally overprice, but worth every penny) cut, color & highlights, then I’ve gotta work.  I’m happy to admit it!
Mostly, though, I work because of how it makes me feel.  I feel smart and accomplished.  I feel energized and fulfilled.  I hope that every SAHM (or dad!) feels the same way doing  THEIR work every day! 
What brought on this post, you ask?
A stupid radio program I listened to in the car at lunchtime, while picking Ellie up from daycare and dropping her off at school (I didn’t say that being a WOHM is EASY…).  I was just minding my own business, trying find a nice praise & worship song on the Christian radio station, when blasted Focus on the Family has to fire me up AGAIN. 
I hate Focus on the Family.  I really do.  First, because I tend to hate all things that Sarah Palin likes.  Second, because they perpetuate this idea that God has somehow called all women to stay at home and take care of their families.  The speaker of the today’s program was telling the radio audience that families need to make the financial sacrifice in order to ensure that one parent is home with the kids, and tending to the house.
What about the SANITY sacrifice?  The SELF-WORTH sacrifice?  The HAPPINESS sacrifice?  For some families, like mine, it has nothing (or, at least, very little) to do with the financial sacrifice. 
So, there ya have it.  My two cents worth on that topic.
Wow, it’s good to be blogging again!


Jill said...

Thank you for speaking up Chrystie! I too am a Christian WOHM, I enjoy the work I do. My husband and I know it is God's will at this point in our lives because He's opened the doors that have allowed me to be available for therapy and a childcare provider with special needs knowledge. Still I must admit I've been riddled with guilt from time to time. But I've found that the guilt surfaces when I listen to the criticism of others.

Anonymous said...

WOW, I bet single moms really love that radio station.

I am a WAHM and there are days that I wish I could leave for work. It's like it forces you to take care of yourself. Worked an 40+ hour week? Oh I deserve a nice pedicure! then taking lunches with co-workers and just doing the "normal" thing.

actually, I am desperatley looking for a part-time job to get out of the house on the regular.

and that part about we should make the financial sacrifices? COME ON. a lot of people do not have that option these days. what century are these people living in?

good post!

Amy said...

I totally enjoyed this post. I totally agree with you, and I miss my career tremendously. I loved what I did, and I felt good about myself while I was doing it. Then, Emma came along with severe CP and many, many needs. I prayed for help, for the right caregiver, etc. That help never came. So, I guess God intended that I be here for Emma. As much as I miss being able to have a career, etc., time for myself, making money, me... I feel good about what I am dong for Emma too. Most people gave up on Emma early on, so I knew I had to rise to the challenge so that she could have the best quality of life possible.

Now, I am a SAHM. It's funny. I am still embarrassed to say that when people ask what I do. Why? I am not really sure. But, I honestly hate questions about what I do because I felt good about myself when I could say, "I am a Development Director for... and a part-time professor for the the University of ..." Now, I am just Emma's mother, her home school teacher, therapist, nurse, attendant, assistant, etc. Believe me, that really doesn't garner that much respect. It kind makes me feel like a nobody in most conversations. Few people understand our challenges and care to talk about sensory issues or walkers or therapy or educational materials.

Don't get me wrong! There are many, many personal rewards and feelings of elation when Emma accomplishes something that she was never supposed to. Those rewards feel far superior to anything I ever achieved in my career.

Yet, I envy you... that you can go out daily and find yourself. That you can get renewed. I think those things make for a good mother--one that is fresh and happy and not stressed. You can just be Ellie's mom when you are home, and you can totally enjoy her and your time together.

I do not regret my decision to be at home. I think it was God's will for us, but I do think women today need more of a balance. Women are intelligent, diverse creatures, and we should never have to be pigeon-holed into one path.

Sorry for the epic. I don't think I really said anything here, but...Thanks for this post. It truly validates how I feel, and that's nice.