SAHM: The Fair Market Value of My Sanity
By Natalie A. Sullivan
My son is eleven months now. I was rifling through some paperwork today, and I found this. It was written when he was 3 ½ months old:
A friend recommended her. She only stands about 5 foot 4, but she is the firm root of my newfound sanity. I’ve been caring full-time for my son since he was born three and a half months ago. My beloved husband was home with us for the first three weeks before returning to his high-stress, long-houred job to become the sole supporter for his newly expanded family. How could I justify a part-time nanny? I don’t have a job and the only place I really want to go is to bed. Besides, being a mother is what I have always wanted.
About a week ago, I realized that being without my son feels foreign, even uncomfortable to me. On the rare occasion that I am running errands without him, I find myself racing to get back to him. I’m the one who knows what his every cry means. I’m the one who responds to his every beck and call. I’m also the one who is losing a little bit of my mind! A lot earlier, I had realized that my son also feels “uncomfortable” without me. He rarely wants to be put down during the day and naps more soundly and far longer on my chest than he will nap in his crib or anywhere else. During those ten minutes here and there when he agrees to be put down, he tolerates the offense longer if he can at least see me nearby. Yes, my son and I are co-dependent. This is where the nanny comes in. I may pay her $25 so I can go to a $10 yoga class, but …it is what it is. I look forward to the day when I can walk out of the house and feel free to visit a bookstore or catch a drink with a long-lost girlfriend. Whatever the cost, it sounds like a great deal to me.
Update: The nanny came a few times while I was home and my son screamed the whole time, so I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house. As a result, I thanked her wholeheartedly and decided that neither he nor I was ready for a nanny.
As I looked further into my stack of paper, I also found this. It was written when our son was seven months old, and I titled it “Wanderlust”:
It’s official. I’m bored. There, I’ve said it. I fluctuate between feeling honest and feeling horrible about it, but it’s true. I am bored out of my mind at being home 24 hours a day. Even writing it makes me feel bad, so you can imagine how I feel just knowing that it’s really how I feel. All those years we wished for a child. The year we lost our first one. And now, just over nine months after bringing our son home, I’m saying it: I’m tired of being a full-time stay-at-home mom. I have friends who would sell their souls to be able to be home full-time with their kids. So, I feel guilty.
I thought motherhood would be perfect. Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful. Our son is wonderful. Motherhood is wonderful. It’s just that I still crave to do things other than take care of him 24 hours a day. I’ve been home full-time without outside help for nine months. Our son is a delightful kid with a bundle of energy and an easy smile. He’s a busy little guy, both at home and when we’re out. And opinionated? For a guy who can’t talk yet, he takes the cake.
I’m thankful to have been home all this time. Otherwise, I might not have seen our son delight over playing with the blanket from the couch. I might not know that he has a penchant for chewing the corner of the carpet. I might not be aware that licking the remote control is like eating a Three Musketeers bar to our son. But for the past couple months, I’ve realized (once again) that it’s time to get some help.
If I’m wise, I’ll take my cues from our son. I think he’s bored with me too. We visited a day care last week. I was still nursing a little mommy guilt at the thought of putting him in day care one day a week so that I could have a break. And then, something amazing happened. Seeing the little babies in the day care, my son screamed with delight, wiggled to get down out of my protective arms, and beat on the glass between him and his new friends like a madman trying to break into an insane asylum.
Update: A couple weeks later, our son went to day care for the first time, and, as expected, he screamed and cried for the first hour. I walked the streets outside the day care, half not knowing what to do with myself and half expecting a call to come and pick up my inconsolable child. But then as I was hanging my head over a hot bowl of soup nearby, I got an email with pictures of our son smiling and playing with the toys. I ventured a few blocks further away. By the time I picked him up four hours later, our boy was laughing and bouncing on his teacher’s lap. He was fed. He was clean. He was rested. He was happy. When he saw me, he attempted a little whine, but then sort of shrugged his little shoulders as if to say, “Aw, never mind. The gig is up!” On our way home, my son swung happily from my chest with his little mind, I imagine, replaying the excitement of the day. As for me, I had in my possession a report card that told me what he ate, how many minutes he slept, and exactly what had come out of his little body that day! Whatever they pay his day care teachers, that day, it felt like it could never be enough!! Our son went to day care three times, each time with increasing success. So much so that we put ourselves on the waiting list for part-time enrollment, and I began to dream of all the things that I have needed or wanted to do for the past several months.
Our son turned 11 months old this past week. One day later, I got a call from his day care center. A spot has opened up, and our son can now come to day care two days a week. Immediately after the call, I scooped up our son and lifted him into the air. I smiled. I danced. I called his father at work and sang my own version of “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse. “Christian’s going to day care and I say ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah!”’ But once the dust settled and I caught my breath, my mind began to flood with doubts, fears, concern, and, yes, my old nemesis- guilt.
Starting in April, the same week that marks our son’s first birthday and my one year as a full-time stay-at-home mom, he will start day care twice a week. It will cost us more than I can probably make working two days a week, but I’m convinced that it will be good…for both of us. Despite my realization that the time is right for us to take this big step, as I fed our son a bottle and rocked him to sleep, I wrapped both of my arms around him and held him even closer to my chest.