Advice (Unsolicited)

Career Mommy
vs. At Home Mommy

I remember someone asking me about a year ago if I wanted to be a stay at home mom, and I  blurted NO! practically before she even finished the question. I remember thinking, “If I was in a therapist’s office right now, they’d be all over that.”

And now, a year later, I’m seriously considering leaving my job to be a stay at home mom. That’s right, a SAHM. Or, as Dooce famously coined, a shit ass ho motherf*#$#@.

So why the 180? Why now? My children are newly 3 and almost 2—didn’t I already miss the boat? Shouldn’t I have done this when I was nursing? Or when my sweet baby boys were curled up infants? Or even last summer when I had a complete nervous breakdown from trying to juggle it all on three consecutive years of no sleep?

Why now, when I’m back on my feet, doing work I’m excited about and proud of, and content with the groove of four-day-a-week childcare we’ve set up?

If only I had a shitty boss

This would be an easier decision to make if I had a job that required 80 hour weeks, frequent travel, a killer commute, crappy coworkers and a wretched boss.

But I own my own company. My office is five minutes away. I never travel, unless it’s a 32-minute long train ride to NYC, I love the people in our office, and, well, I’m the boss. (She’s pretty cool.)

It’s not about escaping something. It’s about having more.

I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing out on too much of my children’s early childhoods. Right now, they go to “school” (daycare) three days a week and are home with a fantastic, energetic babysitter the fourth day.

I have dinner with them and tuck them in to bed six nights a week. I’m home on Fridays and dedicate my entire weekend to family time. But it just doesn’t feel like enough.

Why now?

I think I could do a better job at being a stay at home mom than before. I’m not perfect, but I’m no longer that sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, moments from a nervous breakdown mom I was when I had two back-to-back infants.

As a preschooler and toddler, my children no longer require the kind of constant physical care as infants. They are engaged, interested, and interesting. They understand the concept that if they do x again, they won’t have Buzz Lightyear for an entire week. They are HUNGRY, starving it seems, for information about the world. And I wonder if anyone can give that to them as well as I can.

Also, after three years of being nothing but a daddy’s boy, my just-turned-three-year-old has started proclaiming his love for me. He asks me to sit with him. He asks me to play with him. He asks to go in my “bewwy,” where he puts his head under my shirt, kisses my stomach, and stages his rebirth, at which point he either pops out of my shirt with a huge ta-da (“I’m here!!!”) or pretends I’ve given birth to a roaring monster.

And he asks me to stay home.

While I may have missed the boat by not staying home when they were babies, I don’t want to look back ten years from now and regret not taking this time now, before they get into elementary school and never have this opportunity again.

I don’t want to look back and mourn not having them as close as possible during the years they wanted me the most.

Why is this so terrifying?

I’m going to guess most career moms could relate to the fear I feel at throwing in the towel at work. And I can’t say that I’ll go cold turkey. I’ll pare back to working 3 days a week for awhile, see how that feels for all of us (including our budget) and go from there.

Good or bad, the mentality of still having my hand in the game gives me a life raft to keep all the ego fears that rise up at the thought of being “just” a mom at bay. Because, according to the ego, if I’m “just” a mom, I’m “opting-out.” “Wasting” my hard-earned experience. Getting demoted to the slow track. Joining the yoga pants crowd, becoming a “mommy blogger,” and being the person people turn their back to at cocktail parties.

Who are you kidding, ego? I’m already there!

I have a secret to tell you

When you work part-time, you’re not doing a great job at work, and you’re not doing a great job at home, either. It might seem like the perfect solution, and it very may well be what I end up doing long-term, but I cannot say that during the past three years I’ve felt like a standout student in either category.

You can’t claim either lifestyle fully. You’re not exactly a working mom, and you’re not exactly a stay at home mom, either. On my days off, I go to mom/baby yoga and feel like a chameleon among all the stay at home moms. At work, I am “peers” with the hard-core mommies who travel several times a month and have live-in help.

If I could have the luxury of focusing on either or, my theory goes, imagine what I can accomplish.

And thus begins my romanticizing of the stay at home mother:

“I’ll read up on Montessori and turn the playroom into our own private preschool!”

“Stay at home my a@@. We’ll be out exploring the world—they have so much to see!”

“Dinner dishes will be washed before we even have dinner, and I’ll have hours at night to write!”

“I’ll be so much less stressed that I’ll have time for my husband again!”

“I’ll finish that novel I started in my MFA program!!”

“I’ll make one of those ‘home management notebooks,’ shine my sink every night, and have this place running like well-oiled, stay at home, good ship mommy pop.”

Stay at home moms, feel free to set me straight.

And also: When do you go to the dentist? When do you get your hair done? Should I join the gym just to get a couple hours of gym babysitting? How do you feel at the end of the day? How do you feel overall?

To be continued…

I’ll write more from both sides of the fence later, along with some great resources I’ve found for anyone interested in making a similar change.

But for now, this is where I’m at. All I keep thinking is, “When do I get to start my new (mommy) job??”

It’s almost time for our annual summer vacation on Cape Cod. Every year we thank our lucky stars (and our good friend Nina Max) that we get to go to this little piece of paradise yet again—10 cottages owned by one family tucked away on a little island.

The kids run free from house to house (usually sans clothes), pick raspberries, and busy themselves with vintage toys like this one while the grown ups practice out-doing each other as we trade nights cooking for 20.

I’ve given myself the week to pack in hopes of warding off that “oh my god we’re going away for 10 days what have I forgotten” bit. (So cliche, such a downer).

I’m also remembering what packing was like last year, which included the breast pump, bottles, baby food, baby spoons, and the big ass Exersaucer, something we decided our pre-crawler really couldn’t live without. Packing seems a whole lot less overwhelming this year (it also helps that I’m not in the middle of a postpartum breakdown, ahem).

Since we’re staying in a cottage with a full kitchen, I’ve been putting pantry items aside and keeping it all together in one of these clear plastic bins, like so:

(I keep the top locked on it to ward off curious little fingers.)

Last year I also brought a clear plastic shoe box (if you don’t own a whole case of these from the Container Store yet, you don’t know what you’re missing) with “junk drawer” type stuff. The best thing about these shoe bins is that little kids can’t open them, so that’s where I stashed things like scissors, post-its, a Sharpie, extra Ziplocks, and kid medicine.

This might seem like overkill, but when you are staying in a house for 10 days, you’d be surprised how often you need a Post-it. How else are your fellow cottagers supposed to find out who is hosting cocktail hour, and when not to knock because babies are sleeping? Sending DMs via Twitter is so not Cape.

As for toys, I’ll be packing a backpack for each kid and filling it full of their favorite toys and organic junk food bribes for the car ride. I’m also bringing one small bin with art supplies, Legos, some small toys, and a few books.

For kid clothes, one great piece of advice I read somewhere is to only pack for 5 days, even if you are staying longer. (Of course, with toddlers, each day involves at least 3 changes of clothes…) Packing for 5 days assumes your vacation spot has laundry facilities. Does anyone with more than one kid vacation anywhere without laundry facilities? We sure don’t.

And finally, there’s the stuff to do before we leave list. Somehow this cutesy summer printable from Wonderful Joy Ahead makes it more like a vacation countdown than a boring to-do list.

So that’s what I’ve got. What are your tricks for getting off to vacation stress-free?


In the midst of a really bad storm, you can be so focused on trying to remain calm and get everybody through it alive that it’s not until well after the storm has passed that you think–holy shit! How did I survive that? That’s exactly how I feel about the two under two years.

The Hardest Things About Having 2 Under 2

1. If you had a C-section, you can’t pick up your toddler for six weeks. And we’re not just talking about fun romps around the house. We’re talking about getting them out of daycare and into the car, carrying them up and down the stairs, lifting them onto the changing table, and putting them in their crib. Obviously you are going to have to pick up your toddler. But not without some shooting abdominal pains and fears of something really horrible happening to your midsection.

2. You can’t nurse your newborn without worrying your 16-month old is going to fling himself into the fireplace to get your attention. This is a rational fear because it’s what your toddler threatens to do every time his arch enemy finally gets a good latch.

3. Your toddler is still too young to be left in a room alone. But he can’t sit still. If you are nursing, you will rarely have the luxury of doing it sitting down.

Isaiah, the day we brought his newborn brother home
Isaiah, the day we brought his newborn brother home

4. There is a high possibility that you will open the front door with one boob hanging out of your nursing tank.

5. Your toddler has not yet learned how to wait for anything, especially food. Meals are prepared under a blizzard of wails. And when your newborn starts eating solid food, you have to feed it to him. Every single spoonful. Which means the days of feeding the toddler cheese chunks while you shove some organic “chickn” nuggets into the oven are over. You are strapped to your newborn’s highchair, so you better have dinner ready for your toddler, too.

6. You live on a diet of Cheerios, “chickn” nuggets, apple sauce and beer. No wonder you look like shit.

7. Your newborn thinks his Earth’s Best Split Pea Soup puree tastes fine straight from the fridge. Because that’s all he knows. You will carry immense guilt for this.

8. The aftermath of every meal will make you want to cry. Except you’re too exhausted to cry.

9. You will not have time to fix yourself a glass of water. Which is probably good since going to the bathroom is also out of the question. (Especially when your only bathroom is on the second floor.)

10. A young toddler may or may not have the attention span to watch more than five minutes of television. This young toddler may also be unsteady on his feet and runs a reasonable risk of emergency-room grade damage to himself at every corner.

11. Meanwhile, your newborn does not take to the bouncy seat, swing, or other expensive vibrating contraption happily. He may tolerate it for a couple of minutes. Then he’ll be demonstrating the strength of his lungs.

12. There’s nothing like a screaming newborn to put your toddler in the mood to destroy something.

13. Getting in and out of the car, especially in the winter, is enough to give any sleep-deprived mother agoraphobia. Unfortunately, staying at home with two young children all day, no matter how tired you are, is probably the very worst move you can make.

14. Getting into the house, especially when that involves scaling 20 steep and narrow stairs, is the bane of your existence. Each week is a new tactic. Most fail. Once you finally move to a new house, you almost wish you had video of those afternoons so you could cry for yourself.

15. The biggest goal of every weekend is getting both kids to sleep at the same time. It rarely happens, so you and your husband fall into a pattern of tag-team napping, all day long. This goes on for months.

16. Despite all of this, your husband still expects “the good stuff.” He will not get “the good stuff” and probably not “the mediocre stuff” either.

17. You wonder if having twins would have been easier because at least then people would drop off hot covered dishes and make sympathetic remarks at the grocery store. (Who am I kidding. I don’t take both of them to the grocery store.)

18. When other moms of toddlers ask what it’s like having two under two because they are thinking of getting pregnant again, you launch into an incoherent monologue about the stairs, the godforsaken stairs. Those moms avoid you.

19. Living in sickening fear that your toddler will kill the newborn. You see the news headlines: “Toddler climbs into crib and suffocates newborn.” “Toddler strikes newborn on head with Toy Story sippy cup.” “Toddler feeds organic hot dog to newborn, who chokes while mother is in upstairs bathroom.” You realize you probably need professional help

20. The heart-aching love you have for both of them as you grasp on to their last hints of baby-ness, forgetting all but #20 of the hardest things about having 2 under 2.

When we went to get our little Judah Buddha this morning, he greeted us with his normal huge smile. And he was covered in vomit. Dried vomit.

Which means he threw up sometime in the night, all alone, with no one to help him. And then he went back to sleep on his vomit-covered pillow. Needless to say, I felt horrible.

After my husband and I did the double-team cleanup, I asked him, “Do you feel guilty for not hearing him last night?” And he said, “No. He was smiling.”

I still felt guilty. So I called my mom. “Oh that happens,” she said. “If he really wanted you to hear him, he would’ve cried loud enough. He was probably tired and just went back to sleep.”

Ahh, that did the trick to abolish my mommy guilt. Try it–all you have to do is ring up a Baby Boomer to get a little dose of guilt squashing. And if that doesn’t work, call someone your grandma’s age.

Which makes me recall the time I asked my grandma how she found the time to make dinner with two toddler sons.

“Oh I just put them in their playpen out in the backyard,” she said.

“But Grandma, you lived  in Rochester, NY. It was probably freezing.”

“They were wearing jackets.”