Ever since Older was a year and half old we have sent our children to daycare (which I always called “school” because it sounded better to my mind, but daycare is what it really is) when I worked. I have worked part-time since Older’s birth, usually three days a week. After I returned from my maternity leave with Baby last fall, she went along to the same daycare as Middle. When I decided to leave my job I naturally went to give notice to daycare. I had expected to be home with both Baby and Middle this year – a full time stay-at-home mom. However, after consulting with Miiddle’s school and psychologist and receiving some substantial financial aid we have decided to keep Middle at her current school, part-time for this year before kindergarten to help her socialize as a girl. I want to spend lots of time with Middle in this last year before she goes off to real school but she is “winning” the prize for “Most Difficult Child in the Family” right now (it does seem to rotate between all three) and I have to admit that it is a relief to get a break from her.
So I now have the pleasure of having two days a week where from 8:00 am until we pick up Older from school, Baby and I get to be together – just the two of us. There is nothing like a summer of being home with three children, ages six and under, to make me appreciate the simplicity of one child at a time. I am almost afraid to admit how awesome this is. I know that when I had only one child, being home with them didn’t seem easy and I also know that their are many stay-at-home mothers that find being home with their children a constant struggle. I wouldn’t want to make any other mom’s out there feel badly. That out of the way – I am absolutely loving my life right now! All my days are good, but my days with Baby alone are really special. I realized that except for maternity leave I have been in school or working constantly since just after I turned five years old. Now, we plan our day around what the two (or three) of us want to do. It might sound strange to say with one or two or three kids in two but I feel a huge amount of freedom. We go for runs (I run, the girl(s) lounge in the stroller and eat snacks). We do the 30 Day Shred (Baby exclaims “Hi!” to Jillian Micahels as soon as she sees her and the proceeds to hog the exercise mat. It’s worth it though, a two year old attempting push-ups and crunches is ridiculously cute). We work out in the garden, hang Christmas lights, grocery shop, prep dinner, visit some of our local attractions. When Baby is sleeping I’ve even managed to study and do some home improvement. A couple of times I’ve even napped myself while she slept. We laugh a lot, nurse even more, and since I stopped working we’ve probably made at least two hundred muffins. I know that I can’t do this forever – for one thing Baby will be off to school herself in a few years and financially this just isn’t sustainable for us, but I am going to enjoy the hell out of this year.
My in-laws retired recently. They seem happy-ish. They finally have the time that they always wanted but it seems so sad to me that they don’t have their families around to spend it with. Their parents have all passed away. Their children have moved away. Their grandchildren don’t live nearby. They spend a lot of time playing tennis, going out to eat, and spending lots of money on their too-big, empty house. Not a bad existence, but from my perspective it seems so hollow.
We won’t be able to retire at age 60 like my in-laws did, but I did get to work part-time while all my children were young and I am getting to “retire” for a year or two now while my family is all still with me. I can take off to my parents house with the kids for five days and go for a visit. I can wake up with plans that involve nothing but reading books to Baby or answering every question that Middle asks. When I am in the car line to pick up Older, behind all the after-school program pick-up vans, I am so grateful that right now Older gets to come straight home with me every day. Now is when I want time. Now is when I need flexibility and freedom. I’ll be working when I’m 60 and probably even 70. I am looking forward to it. If I have a career that I love I will be happy to go to work. Honestly I think the American idea of retirement – has got it all wrong.