After being a parent for nearly 10 years now, I’ve gotten pretty good at the “Is it worth it?” game.
You know, the one that begins when you’re just deciding whether or not to become a parent.
Question: Is a sweet, bundle of joy worth nine months of nausea, exhaustion, being fat, getting stretch marks and the pain of childbirth?
Answer: My answer, quite obviously, was yes, three times over.
As parents we sometimes learn what is “worth it” and what isn’t over time.
Q: Is a night out with friends and several glasses of wine worth the screaming headache accompanied by a demanding infant the next morning?
A: With child number one: Sure, I can handle it. With child number two: Sometimes. With child number three: Are you crazy?!
Q: Is it worth it to spend $60 on this adorable outfit for his first Christmas when he’ll probably never wear it again?
A: With child number one: Of course! With child number two: Don’t I have a coupon somewhere? With child number three? Are you crazy?!
We parents continue to question ourselves throughout our children’s lives. We wonder if a private school education is worth the cost of tuition. We question if a night off from cooking dinner is worth the fat and calories in a fast food meal. We tell ourselves that bribing our kids with candy to put down their toys and put on their shoes is really worth getting where we need to go on time.
Since my first son was born, I’ve wrestled with the question: Is my job worth having someone else care for my children five days a week?
After my oldest was born I had a difficult time going back to work full-time, so I cut back a little on the hours. For nearly nine years, I thought I had the perfect balance between professional and home life.
But my kids are getting older. They’re involved in so much more than they used to be.
And my baby girl is no longer a baby. She only has one year left before heading off to all-day kindergarten.
So after several months of discussion, my husband and I decided I would quit being a reporter and help him with our business instead – and for the most part – be a stay-at-home mom.
In the weeks before my last day at work, I found myself counting down the days until I could spend afternoons playing in the backyard with my three kids, not having to squeeze doing laundry in on Saturdays when I want to be playing in the backyard with the kids. And never again have to tell my children “no” because I have to work.
But a few days before my last day as a reporter, I had one those days with my children.
I was working from home and my kids were awful from the moment they woke up to the moment they finally fell asleep on the family room couch. They argued, messed up the house, yelled, fought, answered my cell phone when I told them not to, rented a movie off of TV without permission, and on and on and on.
When my husband came home for dinner that night and took note of my irritation, he smirked at me and said, “Just think, soon this will be seven days a week.”
I felt like smacking him.
I know how hard being a working mom is, and I’m just discovering how difficult being a stay-at-home mom is.
But is it worth it?
Every time that question pops into my head lately, I think about my birthday last year.
I took the day off of work and volunteered at my daughter’s preschool for the morning. We went out to lunch and then I took her to get her ears pierced. It was a really special day.
And even though I know perfectly well that 99 percent of my “working” days ahead probably won’t be as good as that one, the days that are will definitely make it worth it.
• Mommy Talk is an online parenting blog by reporters at The Journal Times.