Oftentimes during my parenting journey, I’ve had to defend several of my choices.
“Yes, he’s still breastfeeding. He’s growing and happy, so it must be all he needs.”
“No, we believe it’s better if he sleeps with us.”
“Oh, the sling is easier for me than a stroller would be.”
Most of these statements and defenses had to be made to my husband’s family. My family has either had the good sense to let me do what I want concerning these issues, or was blissfully ignorant.
The one issue of which my family has stressed their opinion is my choice to be present for my children.
When I was pregnant with my first and announced that I was going to be quitting my job to be with my newborn, I was surprised to meet resistance from my family.
My mother said it’s boring, and I’ll need fulfillment in my life.
My sister pointed out how lucky she was to be able to work, and that her infant daughter and toddler son loved their daycare. “It’s good for us to be apart.”
My brother was just puzzled. Afterall, we were raised by a working mom. We were shuttled off to babysitters and daycares. That’s just the way life is. And besides, I’m his little sister and he knows I worked hard for my education, and he just wants me to be happy.
They had so convinced me that it was wrong to want to be with my child that I told them that it was just for a year. “When he’s a year old, I’ll go back to work.”
I even halfway convinced myself.
As I currently say, hopefully humorously, in my previous life I had been a counselor/therapist. I worked both in schools and in a private practice. I quit a month before my son was born.
It was hard. I had spent years waking up to an alarm clock, getting dressed in professional clothes and spending the day with clients and peers to being home with a baby who, in all honesty, wasn’t a terrific conversationalist.
It was boring as heck. It was lonely. But I never doubted my decision to be with my son. I wanted to be with my son in a way I had never experienced wanting to be with anyone.
And yet I defended.
“He’s breastfeeding. When he weans at a year, I’ll go back to work.”
“There just aren’t any good daycares around me, so there’s no place to leave him.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll go back!”
But truth be known, by the time my son was one week old, I knew I wouldn’t be going back for a long time. My child needed me.
When I was pregnant with my second child, my daughter, my family once again let me know it’s time to separate.
“Will you be putting your son in daycare now?”
“You know, your sister really enjoyed having her son in daycare so she could spend time with the new baby.”
But time and confidence can be a wonderful thing.
“No, my son will not be going into daycare.”
“I enjoy being with my son, I enjoy staying home, and we’re extremely fortunate that we can afford it. I’m looking forward to being with two children.”
Five months later, my mother came for a visit. During which she said to me,
“It’s always so sad when a woman revolves her life around her small kids.”
I said nothing. There was nothing to say. I smiled to myself, confident that I was doing the very best I could to be present for my children. My children were happy, I was happy.
I no longer felt the need to defend.