A friend of mine recently announced her second pregnancy, and I was flabbergasted. We hadn't been talking much lately, and last I'd heard, she was supporting her family while her husband looked for a new job. My first thought was that this was really, really bad timing for her. I struggled for a couple of days -- I wanted to reach out to her and see what was going on, but I didn't want to come across as snarky or condescending. I mean, she's a good mom, definitely the type of person whose children will grow up and be awesome people. I was just so, so worried. So I asked her if she was going to stay at home with the baby full-time, like she'd wanted to do with her first. She said no, that she couldn't afford to. This opened up a very big, and very ugly, can of worms.
Over the years, when we talked about family and kids, she'd always said that she didn't want a career, she wanted to stay at home to raise her kids (well, that's a career, in my opinion). She's been working since the first baby was born because, well...I don't know why. I remember being kind of stunned when she put her daughter in daycare before she even went back to work. I didn't get it then, and I still don't, but at the time I didn't say anything. I figured she was working so that she and her husband could save for a house, since they've been renting for a while. And I'm totally fine with that -- like I told another mom-friend of mine last night, I can completely understand working full-time if you're doing it to make your family's life better (put yourself through school, buy a house, get out of debt, etc.) or if you have some awesome job that you got into pre-kids. I'm not fine with you working your ass off just to put a kid in daycare, and then have ANOTHER ONE, ON PURPOSE, just to put that one in daycare, too.
Now, I know I'm getting into the really scary 'hoods of Judgement Land, here. So let me try to clarify before rage is unleashed in the comments section.
THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH DAYCARE. Not a thing. I definitely considered it before I gave up my management job. Just because it wasn't right for me, doesn't mean it's wrong for anyone else. There are some fantastic facilities out there, staffed with amazing, caring teachers who do really great things with tiny people. And I know of lots of awesome moms who take advantage of those facilities. It just wasn't for me -- the one I wanted to use cost so much, I'd have been working just to pay for daycare, which didn't make any sense to me. (And the fact is, I didn't love my job. It sucked. It sucked big ol' hairy balls.)
Having said that...I don't think it's right to put your kids in daycare and work at a job you don't like, turning your life into a big fat compromise that makes no one happy. (I'm not saying that this is what my former friend did, I'm just putting it out there.)
We scrimp and pinch and sacrifice so that I can be at home with Austin, which is what Charlie and I both want, and so that Charlie can finish his MBA and eventually get a better job. I was not going to scrimp and pinch and sacrifice to pay for daycare and go work a job I didn't like. Before we had Austin, when we first decided to try for a baby, we had a lot of long conversations about work, long-term plans, finances, school, daycare...everything. We knew from the get-go that the goal was to have one of us at home with the kid(s) while the other one worked. Charlie took the working role because he wants to work, he likes his job, and he's happy that way. I know that if I were the career-driven one, he'd be just as happy staying at home while I worked. And if I had a career I loved, I'd probably be down with that, too. But when I was working full-time, and our amazing wonderful super fantastic friend Melissa watched Austin, I WAS MOTHEREFFING MISERABLE. And my misery made Charlie miserable. I really think if I'd kept working, we wouldn't have made it.
So where am I going with all this? I guess it's all about choices. If my friend is happy with her choices, great. But I don't think she is. I think she's pretending to be happy with a compromise that she never wanted. I could be wrong, for Pete's sake, I hope I'm wrong. At the end of our discussion, I told her that I guess that was it for us, and that I wished her well. I do, I really do. I just don't think I can stand beside someone whose choices seem to be in complete opposition to everything she's ever told me about her life goals.
It's sad. We'd been friends for what seemed like forever; we met at community college back in '98. I thought we could tough it out through just about anything -- bad boyfriends, drinking, depression, marriage, living several states apart -- but this is really it for me. With the choices she's making, she's showing me that we really don't have anything in common anymore.