Daycare Costs Exceed College Tuition

Everyone knows daycare is expensive. But now, a new study says it costs more to have someone else watch your kid than to send them to college. What is wrong here? Parents have 18 years to save for college, but no one has that kind of time to save for daycare. That’s why a lot of parents are choosing to stay home. Many are finding it cheaper than go to work and hand over 75% of their paycheck to someone else. When and how did things get so crazy? What do you think?

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a SAHM

It’s the life of champagne wishes and caviar dreams. You’re a stay at home mom. You don’t have to listen to a boss. You can pretty much do what you want when you want. You have all the time in the world to devote to yourself and to your home.  You must be floating on freshly fluffed pillows every morning when you wake up and realize this is really your life.

Reality check.

You can’t remember the last time you had champagne. You have two little bosses who constantly nag you for stuff with a deadline of NOW. You can’t do whatever you want when you want because if you did you would have a weekly massage every Thursday afternoon after your manicure. Every day you notice some new cob web or area that really needs to be cleaned. You’ll get to it…one of these days. You can’t remember the last time you slept an entire night on your pillow all by yourself because one of your kids always ends up climbing into your bed. This is really your life.

Since I have been in the world of SAHM-dom for more than two years, I’ve come to realize the many misconceptions people still have about the lives we lead. I could honestly write a book. I, too, had many preconceived notions that I now laugh at. Silly, silly, me. With that said, I’ve come up with five things I wish I knew before becoming a SAHM.

1. You won’t be cooking meals that would make Rachel Ray jealous

“I can’t wait until I’m home so I can try new recipes.” Yep, I remember myself saying those very words. Well, chicken cutlets are still the “house special” and when I see a recipe with more than six ingredients, I still turn the page. If you were never a lover of the culinary arts, you won’t become one just because you have more time at home. The sooner you realize it, the happier you will be.

2. You’re not a circus; don’t try to entertain your kids like you are one

You can’t be “on” for your kids 24/7. This is something I still grapple with everyday. I feel guilty if I’m not doing something with them. That’s the reason I stayed home, right? It is alright to let them entertain themselves. In fact, it’s probably better for them. I’m learning this. You should too. Sure you can do stuff with them, but you don’t have to keep pulling out tricks from your hat.

3. Schedule “time off” for yourself every week

Just because you stay home doesn’t mean you can’t have time for yourself. You may not have the twenty minute car ride to work by yourself or a designated lunch break every day, but you can still have time off. The best way to do this when you’re a SAHM is to schedule it. It may sound silly, but I’ve found it’s the only thing that works. Find a time every week when you know you’ll most likely be able to find a sitter. Stick to that time as “your time”. Use it to do something for yourself. It may be hard, but anything worth having doesn’t come easy, right?

4. Have other interests besides your kids

Okay, so once you can schedule that “time off” you may want to use it to explore interests that are not for the five and under crowd. What did you like to do before you were “so and so’s mom”? Do it now. Maybe you want to try something new…a new workout, a new hobby, etc. The point here is while you’re always going to be “so and so’s mom” you’re also always going to be “you”.  Find your passion and explore it. You don’t have to stop following your dreams just because you decided to be a SAHM.

5. Accept your accomplishments as a SAHM and don’t try to compare

As a SAHM it is sometimes so hard to figure out what your accomplishments are on a daily basis. Some days the only thing to brag about is the fact that you got your kid to the potty before she peed her pants. It’s okay. It’s still an accomplishment. Don’t try to compare it to the promotion your friend got at work. If you do, you’re going to start feeling like crap. The truth is there are accomplishments to be proud of when you’re a SAHM. The moment when your daughter can write a letter on her own that you’ve practicing for weeks. The time when your little one realizes there is more than one color in the rainbow. Some may laugh. While these moments may not fill your bank account, they do make your heart overflow with joy.

I really think knowing these five little things would have made the transition to staying home a lot easier. Trust me, there are a lot more. Each day I am still learning how to make this situation work. Just like anything else, there are easy days and there are hard days.

For all the SAHMs reading this, what is your biggest piece of advice?

Mommy Guilt

I am usually the cheerleader of “Mom-Me” time, but lately I’ve had some bouts with some uncharacteristic mommy guilt. Ugh. I don’t really know why because it’s not like I leave my girls often. When I do it’s to go to the gym, do some shopping, or run an errand. It’s not real exciting stuff,  I know, but I enjoy it and it allows me to keep my sanity.

I’m beginning to think some women, myself included, are hard-wired to have mom guilt. Why do we feel like we need to be playing Barbies or cleaning dishes all the time? It’s really annoying.
Don’t get me wrong, once I’m out and about I shed that guilt faster than the celebs lose that baby weight. But, it’s all that time beforehand that can sometimes have me second guessing myself. Pre-kids I remember telling my mom friends how important it was to take time for themselves and not feel guilty for leaving their kids once and awhile. I was the crusader for alone time. What happened? Oh yeah, I became a parent.

I keep telling myself I change enough diapers, read enough stories, and wear my “mom hat” enough hours in the day that it is okay to hang it up every now and again. But yet, I can still feel that guilt creep up every now and again. The funny thing is, I think that “Mom-Me” time makes me a better parent. I think time away and a glass of wine or two is sometimes just what is needed. Coming home after having that time away can make me really appreciate and miss the things that otherwise drive me nuts 24/7. Does that make any sense? The challenge now is to remember that and ignore the stupid little guilt trips.

Stay at Home Momiversary

It’s been a year. I really can’t believe it. One whole year that I’ve been at this stay-at-home mom thing. It’s my stay-at-home momiversary.You may think it sounds cliché but it really seems like just yesterday that I was freaking out about having a screaming newborn and demanding toddler on my hands. Fast forward one year and now I have two demanding toddlers on my hands with a little less freaking out…well, at least sometimes!

When I signed up for this stay-at-home mom thing part of me thought it would be easier than it really is some days. I mean, really, stay at home and just take care of your own kids, piece of cake, right? Not so much. This gig is no joke. You are on call 24/7 with no sick, personal, or vacation days. I really thought I would have more free time than I do. It seems like I have less somehow. I thought my house would be forever clean because I would be here more often to clean it. I thought I would transform into some kind of Martha Stewart with decorations to die for and dinners to drool over. Guess what? My house is still a mess, if not messier. The decorations haven’t changed and the dinners are the same crap we’ve always eaten. So, perhaps I failed in those areas. But, I think I succeeded in some others that are more important like being able to feel proud that my three year-old knows her letters because I am the one who taught her before her teachers ever did. And the fact that she is becoming a puzzle whiz and loves to look at books.

But, I would be lying if I didn’t admit there are days that I do miss the daily routine of getting up and going to work and interacting with people over the age of three. There are days I miss driving in my car alone without answering 20,000 questions. But, there are also many more days that I enjoy play dates, story hour at the library, strolls on the beach, and many other activities that I know I wouldn’t be able to do as freely as I do now, and for that I am grateful.

As a SAHM, you have bosses who can be so demanding and relentless that you sometimes want to cry. And guess what? There’s no cash money paycheck or 401K! What kind of job is this? It’s the kind of job that pays in “I love you’s” and hugs and kisses and things like “Mom, I want to be just like you.” You might not be able to take that to the bank or save up to buy a condo in Boca when you’re 70, but the payoff is  far greater.

Title: Stay-at-Home Mom? Yes!

   What do you do? People ask each other that question all the time. It seems like a simple question that should come with a simple answer. But, sometimes it’s really not so clear cut. I was recently at the doctor’s office and had to fill out one of those patient update forms that ask you every question under the sun except for your blood type. After the name, address, and phone number areas, came the “title” and “place of employment” sections. For years, that was a no brainer. But, for once in my life, I actually stopped and stared down at the piece of paper like it was some kind of impossible S.A.T. question. I toyed with writing “unemployed”. I quickly decided that would be stupid.  I thought for a minute and then remembered a conversation I had while I was at a baby shower about a month ago. Someone had just found out that I no longer work where I did and asked where I worked now. To my surprise, I blurted out “at home.” It was one of those moments where your mouth takes over for your brain and you don’t realize what just happened. It didn’t stop there.

   I went on to say (and proudly) “I’m a stay-at-home mom”. Before my mouth could continue its hostile takeover of my brain, another woman chimed in and told me she was really glad I said that. She went on to talk about how so many people don’t think staying home is a real job. Sure there is no tangible paycheck or 401K plan to rely on, but it is still work. I have to admit I was one of those people who thought SAHM’s (as I learned we can be called) had it easy. After about a year into the gig, I can tell you that’s anything but the truth. If you think we sit around all day and watch TV, you are sadly mistaken. It’s a lot harder than I ever thought it would be. We are the entertainers, the maids, the cooks, the nannies, the drivers, the referees, the receptionists, and if we’re lucky, there’s time to just “be”, if you know what I mean. With all of those “real” titles under your mommy belt, you can sometimes question if you’ve made the right decision, although some may never fess up to the fact. But, then you hear your child tell you how much she loves you or you see your baby’s first step, and you know you got it right this time.

  So, as I was sitting in the doctor’s office having this little flashback, I decided to write “Stay-at-Home Mom” on the title line. I even thought about writing the same phone number in both the “home” and “work” sections, but decided that really didn’t matter. What does matter is that more people should realize that staying at home with your kids 24/7 is truly a job and a real title to be proud of!

What Do You Do All Day?

   Okay, so ever since I became a stay at home mom, a lot of people have been asking me what I do all day with these two kids. I have to admit before I joined the SAHM club I wondered the same. I would often ask my mommy friends. Now I know how they felt! I know everyone’s day is structured differently, but I think a lot of us do the same things and run in the same circles. It’s inevitable.

   I really try to start my day at the gym. The goal is to get my butt there three mornings a week including a 5:45 a.m. spin class. That has happened once. But, I can though usually get there for a half hour workout and then back home in time to shower and to start the day. Once the kiddies wake up, the real fun begins. If I’m lucky I get to kick things off with a daily breakfast brawl with my two and a-half year old. She hates anything that has to do with the most important meal of the day. If I’m lucky I can get her to eat a piece of toast or an Eggo. As for the baby, we’ve moved on to cereal and fruit. I pray she does not take after her sister!

   So now what? How do I entertain these girls ALL day long? No, I don’t hire a circus. I try to define each day with an activity. Some days we go to story time at the library. Other days it’s the play gym. A good day includes a play date. When they’re really lucky they get to run errands with Mommy! My older daughter loves Target and “Shop Shop” as she so lovingly calls Stop & Shop. Then there’s play time at home which includes puzzles, blocks, dolls, and anything else that magically appears in my living room, kitchen, etc. Don’t forget ABC learning time with the Leap Frog letters. When Mommy has had her full load of caffeine there are dance parties. My girls have “Moves Like Jagger” I’ll have you know! Now that the weather is getting warmer, we’ll be movin’ it outside. Nothing like some fresh air to tire those kids out!

   That brings us to naps, that is if I’m lucky. The baby is a given, but my older one hates to sleep so it’s a real gamble. In this casino, the house actually loses! When that happens, it’s quality DVD time with either Barney, The Wiggles or Elmo. This is Mommy’s down time to get some chores done, make some calls, and of course check Facebook, Twitter and a few other sites. OK, we all know that happens more than once a day!

   If all this activity is not enough, there’s still the evening. My kids are really not down with DBB…that’s dinner, bath, and bed for all of you who don’t know. Dinner and bath are usually good. It’s just bed time which is the real chore. We are slowly working to get out of some bad habits. But, that’s a whole other blog! Once they’re off to sleep land, it’s time to chill with the hubs and catch up on the DVR, but more often than not, the sandman buries my TV time.

   So, this is what I typically do all day. Glamorous? No. Boring? Sometimes. Rewarding? Definitely.   


You’re a What?

   “You’re a teacher, wow, that’s great you help kids.” “Wow, you’re a nurse. That’s nice, you help people.”  “You’re a lawyer. That must be a tough job.” “You’re a what? A stay-at-home mom?” Silence.
Wait for it, wait for it…”are you okay with that?”

   It’s been really interesting to hear people’s responses to my decision to become a stay-at-home mom. While the majority have been positive, there are many who feel the need to continually ask me if I’m alright with the situation. They look at me with sympathetic eyes, like someone died or something. They feel the need to tell me that being a stay-at-home mom is a whole new world (cue the music, minus Alladin, mind you). Well, yes, Sherlock, it is a whole new world, but having a child does that to you whether you stay at home or not. I am constantly asked if I miss work. I constantly say I miss the people, but not necessarily the work. It was time for a change and there is a time for everything, simply put.

  Every time one of these conversations happens I think to myself, would you say these kinds of things to me if I was a doctor? You and I both know the answer. Sometimes I feel like I get scrutinized more for staying at home then if I went to work and put my kids in day care all day.  It’s kinda sad that we’ve come to that in the wonderful U-S-of-A.

  While many have had their share of criticism, one person said something to me that’s really stuck with me. Someone recently told me they admire me for my decision and for what I’m doing. Admire me? I get spit up on and peed on constantly, and if I’m lucky I get to stick my hand in poop once or twice a week. I spend a lot of time reading board books, playing with dolls, and finding kid-friendly activities. I usually have to cut  phone conversations short because someone starts to scream for attention. Sometimes going out means going to WalMart for diapers. In between I’ll clean something or put some clothes away. Glamorous, I know. I guess I never thought of all of that as something to be admired. Tiring, yes. Admirable, no. But, from the outside looking in, maybe it is. I have to say that during all my “working” years, no one ever told me they admired me for the job I did. Maybe, that’s why it came as such a shock!

   So, this “new world” is one that never sleeps. It’s one that can be thankless at times, but hopefully rewarding in the long run. So, maybe there is something there to be admired. Who knew?

Maternity Leave…What’s Fair?

   A woman spends nine months carrying a child. It’s safe to say many women don’t get that much time to stay home and bond with their baby once he or she is born. I’ve talked to a lot of women who have had to go back to work after just six weeks home. Six weeks…seriously? That’s ridiculous. Let me break it down for you the way I see it. During the first two weeks after birth, your body is so beat up from being pregnant and labor that you can just about function. Add the duties of mothering a newborn and you’re just a hot mess looking for your next caffeine hit. So, that leaves four weeks to bond with your baby. The only bonding you’re doing is with their diapers and spit up. During the first month babies basically eat, sleep, and poop. It’s not until they reach that three month mark that they become more interactive. That’s not to say you can’t bond with them before then, but all the fun stuff happens later…just in time for you to go back to work. Other women I’ve talked to are lucky enough to get around 12 weeks off under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but don’t get paid for the entire time. That leaves many to deal with the tough choice of losing money or losing time with their child. As many people struggle to earn a buck, many have to choose cash over their child if they want to keep a roof over their heads.
   That is a sad scenario for such a world leader as the United States. I was reading that the U.S. and Australia are the only industrialized countries that don’t give moms paid leave nationally. Some states have different rules though. One article I read talked about a woman in Canada who got 14 months of paid maternity leave! That’s amazing and something that I think will never happen here in the good old  U-S of A. The article also talked about a couple in Sweden who was splitting 16 months of what they call parental leave at 80% pay. And”Czech” this out….I read that in the Czech Republic all mothers can decide to take 2, 3, or 4 years of maternity leave! The state supports them during that time period. That would never fly in the U.S. There are also other countries that have generous maternity leave policies. Wikipedia actually breaks it down in a nice chart. Here’s the link if you want to check it out.
   So, where did the U.S. drop the ball? Do we not value a mother or father’s time with their child? Would the children in this country end up better if they had more time with their parents before being shipped off to daycare or some other caregiver? No one truly knows, but here’s my two cents. No one is going to love or take care of a child like a parent, unless of course they are abusing them or on drugs or something. No one is going to instill the values you want your child to have better than you. Unfortunately, we live in a country where things like that are not valued (then we wonder why some kids have so many problems and are so screwed up). If we did, more women would have access to paid maternity leave to give them time to bond with their children when they are most vulnerable.
   I know some women who would cringe at the idea of two or three years maternity leave. Some women just itch to get back to work because staying at home just isn’t for them. But, they should have that option. Right now so many women don’t have the choice to take the time off or leave it and to me that is just not fair.

Finding Mom-ME-Time

    Every expectant mother hears it…”just wait until that baby comes, your life is going to change, forget about having any time for yourself.” Yes, your life does change. Yes, your free time is severely restricted, but does it mean you have absolutely NO time for yourself and your previous passions in life? It doesn’t have to, but a lot of times it ends up that way. You just have to learn how to put the “me” back in mommy.
   First let’s clarify..”Me” time is not doing the dishes or tidying up the house. At times, that’s what it ends up being. “Me” time is reading a book, catching up on a hobby, meeting up with friends….whatever make you happy.

   I will be the first to admit, when my daughter was first born I longed to get out by myself, but once I was out, I turned into a guilty worry wart. I constantly wondered what she was doing, if she was crying, if she was eating, if she missed me. Truth be told, most times she could care less! Yes she was fed, yes she cried a bit, but many times she didn’t even realize I was gone!
  She wasn’t taking my mom-ME-time away, I was, along with the help of my crazy runaway train of thoughts and guilt. Taking a trip to the store, or the gym, or even, wait for it…a trip to the spa ( I know craziness) is not going to ruin your child’s life or make you the worst mother of the year. It’s taken me nearly two years to realize that, but I’ve finally seen the light. I’ve also learned that if you have people you can ask to babysit or if your spouse or someone else offers to take care of your child so you can get some “me” time, take them up on it! There’s gonna be a day when no one will offer! Don’t get me wrong, I do still feel a tinge of guilt when I leave her to do my thing, but once I’m out I’m now able to enjoy myself. I also find when I get back I am refreshed and in turn feel like I can a better mother because I’m not so stressed out and am not acting like such a female dog, if you know what I mean.
  It seems like men have no problem finding “me” time. Maybe I’m wrong, but if they want to go out and do something, they just do it. They don’t seem to feel guilty. Maybe we all need to take a page out of their book.
 Now…time to go make that manicure appointment!