Making the Decision to Resign After Having a Baby

Yes, you saw that correctly. I officially resigned from my position as a public school teacher. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. I had (still have) lots of questions – will I ever find another public school job? Will we be able to swing it on only one income until both the kids are in school? Will I ever be able to pay back my college loans? If I find a new job, will I make new friends who are just as awesome?

I know that we made the right decision, though I still have minor anxieties about it. Here are a few of the discussion points that made us sure that someone needed to stay home with the kids. Maybe they will help you decide if resigning is the right move in your situation.

1.) Amount of time at work. I was a commuting teacher, so I was in the car for 2 hours a day, had normal responsibilities and (being a music teacher) often had after school or evening commitments. My husband works from 8:30-5…or 5:30…or 6… so that is a lot of time away from home for our kids. With one child, we would both get home at around 5:30. Then we would make dinner, eat dinner, play for a few minutes and then have to start the bedtime routine…then get ready to go to work the next day, pass out (get woken up 50 times a night because my daughter was ridiculous) and do it all over again the next day. Exhausting! With two it would have just been divide-and-conquer, and that is a hard way to build a family dynamic.

2.) Daycare situation. My mom watched my daughter from the time she was 6 weeks old until she was almost 2 1/2, when I started persistently going into preterm labor with my son and had to stop working. Her health took a turn for the worse when I was on maternity leave and she was no longer able to watch the kids. So, not only did we have to look at inferior childcare (because we were spoiled and no caregiver was going to love our children as much as my mom), we were going to have to pay through the nose for it.

3.) Budget. This was the hardest part of the decision. Honestly, we never thought we would be able to do it, and I was insanely jealous of anyone who could. When I went out on maternity leave, I had been making the same amount as my husband. We owe an arm, a leg, and three fingers to the government for our student loans. We also own a house. But, we buckled down and made the Most Meticulously Stringent Budget Ever and pinched every penny until it bled…and it worked. We eat a lot of reconstituted dried beans and rice. We know where all the deals are. We rarely go out. We buy absolutely nothing that hasn’t been budgeted for in advance. If it isn’t on the shopping list, it doesn’t get purchased. We questioned every single expense – hence, the absence of a television from our lives. We sold stuff. We unashamedly and gratefully accept all sorts of hand-me-downs from friends. We fix things that break, or figure out how to do without. My son has pink boots. We decided that if everything went to pot and JP lost his job and we had to sell everything and the house and move in with our parents, we were OK with that. We figured that if we could make it work, we would, and committed to it.

4.) Stress Level. Some women are probably much better at juggling everything than I was. If you think that perfectionism sounds like a lame problem to have, I understand, but it really can be debilitating when you’re a mom. I don’t just feel bummed when I can’t do something to the absolute best of my ability. I feel like the world is about to end. As a working mom, I felt like I wasn’t doing my best as a wife, mom, OR at my job. Everyone was getting a fraction of me. I was doing the best that I could with the resources I had at all three, of course, but it didn’t feel that way. Unfortunately, this translated to me being majorly stressed out. I managed to kind of hide it to my daughter and (I think) at my job, but my husband got the I-have-absolutely-nothing-left-to-give dregs that were left after everything else. He still loves me (because he’s awesome), but I was pretty hard to love with that much on my plate. When I could focus on just being a wife and mom (and, for a few hours a week, teaching and writing for extra income), I became a different person. Relaxed. Flexible. Patient. Joyful. Intentional. And I can keep a (sort of, almost, if you don’t look very close) clean house. Who knew?

5.) What is best for the kids? We decided that, if our kids could make a cogent decision, they would choose to live in the basement of their grandparents’ house and have more time with us rather than stay in our house and see us for only two or three hours every weekday. If their dad loses his job, that’s what will happen. Knowing that this was the absolute worst case scenario – and that we didn’t think it seemed so bad – helped tremendously with our decision. My son has, since birth, been particularly attached to me. My daughter has that special connection with my husband. Both of them enjoy seeing other people, but they really shine when they are at home in their own environment. Paired with the fact that I really shine when I’m at home in my environment, (teaching my favorite students how to be excellent little humans), the decision became much clearer.

6.) Breastfeeding. This was the reason that I get to be the one home instead of my husband. My mammary capabilities far exceed his. The thought of pumping every day, twice a day at work (again – I did it with my daughter) made me just cry. And where would we get the money for formula? If you added daycare, formula and gas costs together, you pretty much had my whole paycheck. Personally, I didn’t really want to use my whole paycheck to pay for things that I wouldn’t need to pay for if I wasn’t working. 

How will we pay back our college loans? I don’t know. It will happen (the government will make sure of that!).  I do know that our kids are going to have a stable childhood, and I am going to be able to say that I enjoyed every second that they were little when they aren’t little anymore…which will be very, very soon.

Bragging Rights

Everyone is finally well at our house! Little Guy is still getting teeth, which he is not fond of, but otherwise we are healthy and happy. And not only have I NOT been sleeping in a crib, Little Guy slept through the night for the first time this week. I was terrified that something happened to him when I woke up (but when the terror wore off it was a great feeling)!

I was talking with another parent one day this week about something mundane, and suddenly heard my daughter include phrases that I had just used in my conversation in her play. I had no idea that she was actually listening. Not only listening, but understanding and incorporating my words into what she was doing.

Fortunately, I try to always speak in her presence as if she were listening intently, because she usually is. (Unfortunately, she is getting better at spelling, so my technique of saying that we’re going to “g-o o-u-t f-o-r- i-c-e c-r-e-a-m” doesn’t work quite as well as it used to). I don’t always succeed in taming my tongue around her. But, one thing that I have done with my speech that I believe has been quite successful is what I like to call “Bragging Rights.”

I’m not talking about telling everyone about how much my child can do, or how well she can do things. I probably do that unconsciously, like every other parent who thinks her kids are awesome and fantastically interesting. (Sorry if you’ve been subjected to it, but try and be patient with me – I’ll listen about your kid too, I promise). My “Bragging Rights” are actually comments that I make specifically for Little Girl to overhear.

I always try to give specific praise when my kids do something that I want them to repeat. “I really liked the way you left the playground without complaining. That gave us more time to do _____when we get home!” Or, “Thank you for listening to your body and going to the potty all by yourself without a reminder. That was a healthy thing to do!” Anyway, I decided that it might be even MORE effective if paired with a little bit of bragging.  So, I take behaviors that I really like and I advertise them within earshot. I call my mom. “Mom! How are you? You’d be so proud of Little Girl today. She took turns on the bicycle with her friend today without being reminded.” Or when Daddy comes home, I drop a comment in about how she helped me at the store by following directions and picking things up for me.

I haven’t written about this until now because I wanted to see the technique in action before reporting about it. I would say that it is probably the most effective of the positive reinforcement tools; I can see out of the corner of my eye that she perks up her head a little when she hears her name, and then she has a little smile as she hears me pass on what she did. Every behavior I have “bragged” about has been repeated enough to become habit.

Unfortunately, I got the idea for this method from someone who was constantly putting down her child within earshot. “He just can’t concentrate. He isn’t my motivated child. He doesn’t stick with things.” He would stand and visibly cringe next to his mother with each passing comment. This woman’s eleven-year-old son was everything she said he was, but it made me wonder what came first – the behaviors or the speech? I think that kids are largely full of self-fulfilling prophecies. They have ears like hungry fruit bats and are always trying to hear what you have to say about them. Judging from my own experience, I think that a little love goes a long way. If that means bragging is OK for now, so be it.

Magical Moments

My favorite part about teaching is when kids have that “Eureka!” moment and actually get it. Parenting is really just teaching every second of every day, right? Except it’s OK to have favorite students, as long as all your kids are your favorites.

Anyway, our experiences of yesterday gave way to a new understanding this morning. Little Girl woke up uncharacteristically late. I told her that if she wanted to go to story time, she would have to get ready quickly. She said, “I will, Mommy. I don’t want to miss Story Time again. Let’s go!” And wouldn’t you know it, all of us were in the car within the hour. We made it in time for all the stories, she played at the library, and then we took advantage of the nice weather with a trip to the playground before lunch.

To top it all off, when it was finally time to leave the playground I was met with “OK, Mommy!” as Little Girl obediently shuffled to the car.

Eureka.