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The Road Less Traveled

Some Thoughts on My Choice to Stay at Home

I love this, the sound of my little one’s voice as he plays by himself.  The way he talks to the characters in his life, the chipmunks on his musical birthday card—“Hi Alvin.  Hi Theodore,” he says, gazing at their funny little images on the front of the card.  Or I’ll be doing dishes and he’s playing with his pirate ship.”  “Oopsy daisy!” he cries with embellished music and drama as a small part falls to the floor.  I love this little voice that vocalizes itself all day long for the sheer love of voice.  It is a voice filled with such tenderness and complexity—it hums like a finely strung harp.

Being at home makes me privy to all the nuances of my son’s developing voice.  It may even be part of the reason he talks so much. 

But there is a loneliness to this stay-at-home life.  It cannot not be said.  It cannot be denied.  It is so real, after three years of staying home with C and caring for another younger child part time.  I’m an ambassador of attachment parenting, a Bildunsroman of breastfeeding, a connoisseur of the child’s world. 

I love how they run to me.  How they hide behind my leg and reach for me. 

But when I’m at the playground and all the other women are nannies, it can be the starkest kind of lonely.  Perhaps we know the children, we see them over time at the parks and the early childhood center, we know their mothers, even. But the nannies and I have little in common, we are pleasant, we make an effort for the kids, but phone numbers aren’t exchanged.  We won’t likely see one another again.  Or if we do, it won’t stick.  The other day the twenty something nannies made plans to meet later at the beach. The children of all my own friends are in daycare or preschool, especially this year.  And those mothers will being making plans with each other at pick-up in the afternoons.

So I remind myself of the magic, of the wonder. When I am sitting in the midst of a music class with Marcia Hempel at the library, surrounded by these young little lives striving to find their songs, I think, this is it.  This is what it is all about. I could let these moments stretch on forever.  I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

But I want to find time to put some of it down.  So I can show others the magic of what transpires, this beautiful unfolding of wings.  It is a quiet little life, and yet, here we are, in the pulse of everything that ever mattered.  If only I could give it sound, give it voice, and let its true meaning be felt.

For instance, today, the dialogue included things like this:

“Cayce, do you have a poopie?”
“No. I’m fine.”
“But I think you do. You do! Let me just go change you.”
“Is Marfa coming too?”
“I’m sure she probably will. She won’t be far.”
M, following us into the room, “Cayce hawa widda poopie!”
“Yes he does.”
Cayce, “Do you have a poopie too, Marfa?”
M, “No.”
Cayce, with great interest, “She says ‘No.’”

Well, my little friends, I’m so glad we have established that! Now we can move on with the rest of our day, replete with pirate shrugs, funk renditions of Ring Around the Rosie, hill rolling, and lots of laughter laced with the most hilarious conversations known to man.   

And if I’m lucky, I’ll be able to capture just a pinch of the stardust of our days.  And while I sometimes feel cut adrift in a world of working moms, I hope that one day I will be able to look back at these precious, fleeting years, and feel grateful that this was the choice I made.


Rachel-- this is the most difficult decision a mother has to make in the early years--and there's no one right or wrong.  So many factors enter into it--needing the money, needing the emotional support of working success, as against needing to be there when the children start noticing things and only a mom can give the response from which a child flourishes.....  I was extremely fortunate to be able to stay home with my children when they were very young, but it definitely came with a pricetag, and not only a financial one.  On the other hand, being an older mother, it was better for us, in our family, to make a financial "mistake" in leaving the paying work world, than to miss those early years when your children think you walk on water.  Those years end all too soon!  and I'm glad I was there for them.  But lots of times I've thought back on what my own professional life would have been if I hadn't left at that stage.....  So good for you!  If Cayce negotiates the school years well you can get back to work fairly soon, and those brief irreplaceable years at home will absolutely have been worth it.