I knew that our family was not in a financial position for me to be able to give up my “day job” all together after Mathilda was born, but I naturally wanted to spend every possible moment with Mathilda too! Our family struggled (a lot) with this issue. On one hand, two incomes would certainly make our lives less stressful. And on the other hand, we fully supported the principles of attachment parenting and wanted to make as few compromises to those principles as possible. So we started making the changes in our life that would allow us to do both. Working outside of the home is certainly compatible with AP—and AP helps parents and babies create a strong bond even if they are not always together. Actually, AP is particularity valuable for parents who work outside of the home! But being able to work full time and practice the AP principles at the same time has taken some pretty creative thinking (not to mention some big priority changes) for our family.
We are lucky to have been committed to the principles of AP before we had Mathilda. We were both students when we had our three older children. Scheduling classes and trading semesters so that one of us was always home full-time wasn’t any trouble at all. We often took one or all of the kids along to classes where they were able to meet all types of people and be exposed to new ideas right alongside of us. Our oldest daughter was even able to star in a university theater production when she was only eight! After school, while my husband was starting his career, I took a job in a childcare facility where I was able to keep our preschooler with me all day. By the time she was three and ready to spend some time away from us each day, David was enjoying great success with his work, and I had found a dream position as a parent educator.
Being a parent educator allows me to use all of my doula skills, formal education, and life experience to the fullest. And c’mon, let’s admit it, visiting with pregnant mommas and new babies all day is hardly a burden! The children I work with will be helping to run the world right alongside my children someday, so I feel like I have as much vested interest in making sure that the families I work with have healthy prenatal care, informed childbirth experiences, breastfeeding support, loving discipline and the best start in life. I was able to implement a program which provided free slings to our breastfeeding mothers. We even commissioned a sculpture outside of our building which depicts a baby in a sling!
When we decided to have another baby, we had to explore a variety of economic and work arrangement options to create a situation where she could be cared for by one or both parents at all times. That transition period included my husband quitting his job to start his own green technology company—a process which left us without his income for the first six months of my pregnancy. We had to cut back on commitments outside of the home, like participating in theater and volunteering in the community. Most importantly, we had to learn to say no.
Even with the flexibly working from home has afforded my husband, and as supportive as my employer is of Mathilda coming to the office with me in our sling, my transition back to work has come at the cost of quite a bit of stress and strain on the family. David often works at night and on the weekends to compensate for the weekday hours he spends with Mathilda while I visit with families. It has also necessitated dipping into savings, maxing out my vacation and sick leave, and having to work harder during the periods when we do work. Our house may never recover from cleaning-neglect and our neighbors are probably fretting that our overgrown lawn has become a refuge for large, carnivorous animals. And of course, our older children whine about the longer list of chores and the tighter budget. But they were once the lucky recipients of the care, respect and attention of a full time attachment parent, so we know that they are secure enough to weather the loving sacrifices that are being made for their little sibling.
Even though our careers and our family’s long-term financial security are important to us, we both agree that Mathilda will never be this tiny again and we will never be given a second chance to parent her. With four children, we know how it quickly they grow and how fleeting the time is! She is a delightful baby who has made our lives infinitely more joyous. It seems that creating a life which supports our parenting choices, instead of submitting to parenting choices that suit the needs of the world, is the loving choice to make…and I hope that our family can be an inspiration to other new parents who think that they can’t possibly make working work for them!
Justine @ JulianARTS