In Defense of Being Present

by sarah on October 29, 2008

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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.

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sarah (35 Posts)

Sarah has been involved with API since 2002. She is the mother of two school-aged kids.


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole October 29, 2008 at 8:01 am

Great post!!

It’s amazing the attitudes out there. I get most of it from my in-laws as well. They mean well, they really do. But they deeply, truly can’t understand how I can “waste” myself by staying home all day. “Don’t you go insane!?” they ask over and over and OVER (why, YES! but it’s still the most important job I could be doing just now!).

My ILs are also huge proponents of the playpen. Still, 5.5 years and 3 kids into this journey, when it’s abundantly clear that I’m not going to use a playpen, they shake their heads and suggest a playpen as the answer to any parenting difficulty. “It was easy for us,” they say “we just stuck them in the playpen and they were safe and they left us alone.”

I just smile too. Really, what else can you do? Except feel a little sad that they missed out on how wonderful it is to be present with your kids!

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Annie October 29, 2008 at 8:01 am

I can’t believe she said it is sad when a woman wraps her life around her small children.

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Kathleen October 29, 2008 at 9:48 am

I wanted desperately to be able to make the choice you did, but I couldn’t. I was able to work from home two days a week so we could limit his time in daycare to two days a week. My husband has one weekday off and the afternoons of the two days I worked from home. He’s just started pre-school because we couldn’t afford day care, and now I’m back in the office full time.

I miss those two days with him, and I miss the four hours a week that I know spend in additional commuting time. People who say we don’t need to be there are just wrong. This is a new thing in society – my mom worked, but only when we were in school full-time, and she was there at the end of the day. It’s not normal to do this. It’s good that women can work, good that we can survive if the dads go away, but we still get paid significantly less than men, and now our kids are raised by someone else.

The point of women’s lib was supposed to be to get us better choices in life, not lock us into the one choice men were required to make. I’m glad I can work, and I was really lucky in the situation I had, but most women don’t have that choice, because in reality, motherhood is considered both a luxury and drudgery by society. How wrong they all are, and our society is already suffering for it.

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Sarah October 29, 2008 at 12:23 pm

I have had the exact same arguments with my in-laws and friends about my parenting techniques! Both my sister-in-law and my friend tell me all the time that I shouldn’t let my kids sleep with me, and I shouldn’t carry them around everywhere in slings, etc. I have an absolutely wonderful 2 year old, who is so smart, and so well behaved, and a 3 month old baby who sleeps 12 hours straight at night, cuddled right next to me. I believe my children are this way because of attachment parenting, and I tell that to my sister-in-law and friend when they marvel at my kids’ good qualities, but they remain skeptical.

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Becky October 29, 2008 at 8:17 pm

I found your post to be so wonderful. I wish I could afford to be at home with both kids but cannot. So, instead I choose to pump and breastfeed in the morning and at night and co-sleep. We haven’t put my baby on a schedule and that suits me, my hubby and 2 year old just fine. We chug along in our beautiful life, tired but happy even for the stolen moments in the moonlight.

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Kayris October 29, 2008 at 9:05 pm

I think the confidence to tell people to mind their own business is something that comes with the second child.

I am mostly at home with my kids, and I do work outside of the home about 20 hours, because I have a job that I love and that I’m good at it. But it’s my choice, and we do what works for OUR family. It’s sad when other people can’t respect your choices.

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CAP October 30, 2008 at 8:29 am

It’s hard when what you’re doing is SO against society’s norms. I left a successful career to take care of our child, I still nurse an almost-3 year old and she just recently started to sleep in her own bed (her choice). People always lecture me about taking time for myself. Well, I had years of time for myself!
My family is healthy and my daughter has lovely social behavior and understanding. My husband and I just know that we have different priorities and values and what we do works for our family.

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Laura October 31, 2008 at 6:25 pm

I just made it through my first week at work. I’d say four out of five days were wonderful–and well, if it could go wrong this morning, it did. I nurse my daughter right before leaving the house, pump three times a day, and then come home and nurse her again. That seems to work out well. My boyfriend is staying home on paternity leave for 12 weeks, after I stayed home for 12 weeks. We’ll suck it up financially, because, well, it’s so wonderful to each have that time to bond with our new baby.

I’ve had lots of trouble at the beginning with people telling me that I’m not doing it right, that I should be doing things a certain way, or this weird competition that new parents get into when they tell everyone about their new babies.

The truth of the matter is that I want to be with my baby all time time, hold her, and love her…and when I do, I get called ‘selfish’, or ‘unable to spend any time with anyone else’, or ‘over-attached’…and well, that makes me really uncomfortable. In all honesty, I disagree. I’m making my baby feel loved, safe, and feel that her needs are being met. She’s gaining weight, sleeping through the night, and is happy…what else do you want from me?!?

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Kiera P November 4, 2008 at 6:04 am

Well done on finding that happy place. The point where you can grin, and have the courage in your convictions!

We used to turn it into an internal competition “In the long run, we’ll have the well adjusted secure baby” But, as time has gone on, we are just truly grateful that our son has his mumma home to be with him, and 2 parents to love him around the clock.

Children are a blessing, not an inconvenience.

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