If you're a stay-at-home mom, and you're anything like me, then you live in a constant state of wondering whether all this time spent in your pajamas is worth it.
As in, what, if anything, am I giving my child that he or she could not be getting in day care, other than a few months' reprieve from the ubiquitous snot nose that comes from being around other toddlers six hours a day?
And what am I *supposed* to be doing with this child, other than hoping that this episode of Barney can entertain him/her for a few more treasured minutes so that I can check email/Facebook/TMZ/SportsCenter (enjoy the shout out, stay-at-home-dads!) in peace?
Well, friends, I'm not sure what I think about these questions (or rather, I do know what I think about these questions, but I have to tread carefully here, because I do NOT want to piss off all of my friends whose babies ARE in day care, and seem perfectly brilliant). So how 'bout I just tell you the formula that, so far, has worked for me:
Kid is born.
Kid spends 3 straight months in Fisher Price Aquarium swing. (Yes! Is HAS to be that one!)
Kid gets schlepped around in Baby Bjorn for a while.
Kid watches a lot of tv (yeah, I said it).
Kid turns one.
Kid gets put into nursery school at 14 months.
Kid is way smart.
I take full credit.
Now comes the nature/nurture issue. Would my kids be doing just as well in nursery school if they'd been put into day care at 12 weeks?
I gotta tell you... I kinda think so. I mean, the anti-tv propaganda abounds these days, telling us that letting babies watch tv will turn them into pod people... but heck, we had the tv on in the background for most of the time that my children were infants, and if my kids are pod people, then they're the most clever damn potatoes to ever come forth from a human womb. And the PSAs want to intimidate us into reading books to our children on a daily basis from the time they are 9 months old or whatever... but to date I have not instituted a nightly reading requirement in this household, and all 3 of my kids seem to have developed a healthy interest in being literate all on their own.
Nah, I'm starting to think that a lot of what's going to happen to our children has already been predetermined by their DNA: that if they're going to be smart we just need not get in the way of the smart, and that if they're going to be dumb we just need make sure they are as attractive as possible. (I'm kidding! slash, I'm not kidding!)
If this is true, you ask, then why the heck am I sitting here in my nightgown singing the ABCs for the umpteenth time when I could be sitting at a desk in an air conditioned office, listening to the glorious sound of coins dropping into my piggy bank?
Well it's a fair question, to be sure. I'm actually not entirely convinced that being a stay-at-home mom isn't more for the *mom* than it is for the kid... you know, it brings US great comfort to know that we've got those little munchkins within arm's reach (because heck, no one knows how to soothe / stimulate / discipline my child better than *I* do!).
And clearly, I'm not an advocate of keeping those rugrats at home TOO long, since I practically CATAPULT them out of the house on their 14-month birthdays. (What's so magical about 14 months, you wonder? Nothing. It's just the age when our local nursery school starts enrolling kids for the full-morning program.) (But I have to say, I have received many, many compliments on how well-adjusted my girls are, socially, and I am positive that this can be chalked up to early nursery school.)
So how can you make the most of your stay-at-home time, in order to minimize the odds that you will one day look back on this career-less period in your life and think, I COULD'A BEEN A CONTENDAH!... ?
Well I will offer you this one word of advice, in all seriousness (ASIDE from recommending that you keep your tv on all the time, because not only does it promote early speech development, SAYS DR. ME, but it also keeps YOU from not completely losing your sh*t out of boredom)...
ASK YOUR BABY QUESTIONS.
All the time.
Questions like, What color is this? Where is your nose? What's your name? How many dogs do you see?
I wasn't even aware that I was doing this until a friend once said to me, rather accusingly, "Why are you always TESTING that poor kid?"
Then, once I started noticing that I was doing it, I only did it more. Because it ENGAGED the kid. It got her thinking. I wasn't talking DOWN to her just because she was a baby, or ignoring her because all she wanted to do was eat her feet; I was having a CONVERSATION with her. And I've come to really, and truly, believe that interacting with a kid like this gets those cute little baby synapses firing.
And for those of you who sacrificed your potentially lucrative careers to stay home with your kids and they STILL turned out to be dangerous felons? Why not start a blog about your heartache! At least then you can entertain the rest of us who are sitting here in our pajamas. Not a total loss. :)