Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Exactly How Smart Does My Kid Have to Be to Justify the Death of My Career?

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)...


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. :)


  1. The shout out to us Dads was noted and appreciated.

    On a serious note I struggle with the same question myself. Some days I envision a scenario where we have a couple more kids just to stick them in day care from day one (well day 180) and see who turns out better. Is that scientific?

    I think that is the heart of the issue, there isn't a scientific way to determine whether my sacrifice is paying dividends or if my child would be roughly the same had I been bankrupting corporate America this whole time.

    Sometimes the fact that my kid isn't sick 24/7 seems like justification enough . . .

  2. (First and foremost - I'm commenting because you guilted me into it with your post a few days ago. FINE. I'll stop lurking and engage!)

    Anyway, I know this is targeted toward SAHMs (and dads! hi!)...but it's actually kind of comforting to me, too, a WOHM. Our older son has been in daycare since 12 weeks and, sure enough, has a pretty significant speech delay for which he's been having therapy twice/week for the last five months. As the therapy sessions roll by without a major breakthrough to date, that (mean, nasty, annoying) little voice in the back of my head keeps whispering that maybe he'd be talking just fine and be fully on track if I'd been home with him all this time. Yes, yes, I KNOW, it doesn't really work that way - but isn't a huge part of parenthood always wondering and second-guessing whether you're doing it RIGHT? AT ALL TIMES, of course.

    So, in this era of epic mommy wars (and let's face it, it's really the mommies, not the daddies, doing it), I appreciate the acknowledgment from a SAHM that I haven't destroyed my child's future by putting him in daycare and continuing my career.

  3. On behalf of all those in our pjs, thank you! Please keep writing! The excitement I feel when I see you've posted a new entry (yes, I'm one of the stalkers who subscribe) can only be matched when my child takes an unexpectedly long nap.

    I definitely agree with the stream of questions and "conversation" and have been doing that since my child was a baby (admittedly, sometimes this just means reading people's facebook statuses aloud). We've now reached a point, however, that I worry whether I should be doing more deliberate activities with him instead of just allowing him to roam at-will around our playroom all day long while I provide color commentary. I have some friends who have had their children on a daily schedule of reviewing letters, animals, shapes, colors, etc since they were a year old, whereas I have taken the "let him be a free spirit" approach. Perhaps that's just laziness on my part though. What do you (and others) think? At 16 months old, should I be directing/guiding his activities? The only structure I currently provide to the day are his nap times and meal times.

    Nursery school might be a good solution to providing more structure and variety. At 14 months, would your daughters go every day each morning or just one day a week?

    I wholeheartedly agree with Rick too...the simple fact that we've made it 16 months (knock on wood) without a single antibiotic prescription helps assure me that we're doing the right thing (for our family), even if I do miss the pre-child budget.

  4. I never thought to read facebook statuses aloud! What an EXCELLENT idea! :) Now if only I could find a way to avoid my son trying to eat my laptop (or crush it, depending on his mood), I'd be in business....

    Thanks for posting. And, yes, you guilted me into engaging. As a working-all-the-time lawyer-mommy, I have to say I wonder a lot whether my son would be different (read "smarter" or "advanced") if I were home with him instead of his adorable (but dumb as a box of rocks) nanny. Alas, I have to face the fact that I'd be a terrible, rotten, no good SAHM, and the nanny is so much better at her job than I would be at her job. So....these are the cards we are dealt and will live with.