Every Monday my 16 month old son and I go to Toddler Time at our local recreation center. It’s a free play for pre-school aged kids a time for them to socialize and interact. Mixed in with the stay at home parents are an unnerving amount of nannies. When I first noticed this, I spent some time daydreaming about what I could do if we had a nanny. I could go back to work, and we could move out of our middle class neighborhood to the gated estates a few blocks over. I could talk to other adults, talk which would allow my vocabulary to stretch gloriously beyond “baba,” or “pottytime”. Someone else would receive my son’s staunch and rowdy protest of naptime. I could eat lunch sitting down. I felt the kind of longing that I used to reserve for sports cars or trendy vacations. Yes, I thought, we will have a nanny.
Then my son said a phrase. A real, whole, logical, distinguishable phrase. I had been searching frantically for my keys and grocery list when he reached up and grabbed my hand and said sagely “Let’s go now.” Let’s go now! I cannot tell you the delicious pleasure of being the first person to observe your child do something for the first time. It is such a wonderful, unique, private joy because you know that they are changed in that moment. A moment I would have missed had I commissioned a stranger to care for my son for the large chunk of the day I would be at work. Just the idea of it made me feel sad.
I had a realization. There are things that are worth paying someone else to do, and there are things that are not. I know I have better things to do than mow my lawn or clean my house. But do I have better things to do than raise my own children? I can’t imagine how I would have time to instill in him lifelong values were I only able to see him a few hours a day during his formative years. I had to ask myself, in fifty years, will it matter what kind of house I lived in or car I drove, or that I did my best to raise my son each and every day?
Being a stay at home parent means living with some sacrifices. I may not have the newest car or the nicest clothes for a few years. But, I feel good about that if it means that at the end of each day I can go to bed feeling like I did the best for my family. Because at the end of my days, I believe no amount of success could make up for failure as a parent.
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