Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Working mom or staying at home mom? - Mamma in carriera o casalinga?

Most famous working woman illustration in America

Working mom or staying at home mom? Have you decided if you are going to sit at home and wish you worked, or if you are going to work and feel bad about babysitting or day care? Are you one of those who leave the kids with the grandparents and talks about not having time for yourself? May I ask you what you would do if your parents were not around? This is what I do.

William getting changed while having fun

I have decided to take care of my child. I spend my week cooking, feeding him, cleaning mess (poop included), singing silly songs, making noises, saying things that don't always make sense just to make him laugh, finding ways of entertaining him without him breaking into pieces against chairs or doors, without him making use of my lipstick to color the wall and without me gluing him onto the TV screen. Last but not least, figuring out ways to keep sane. Taking care of a toddler is tiring, constant, mostly physical and it never stops. I mean, it does stop sometimes but this is what happens when it stops.

When I see him in bed with his Muslin blanket covering half of his nose, the pacifier moving under the blanket like a ghost and his eyes half closed, I know that my free time has started. The clock is ticking. And these are the words that come to my mind: "Go go go! You are on break!".

I used to hear these same words at school as a child, when I could leave the classroom and go run in the back courtyard. That feeling of freedom was as exciting as the feeling of being free at home as a little girl when my mom and dad were going to nap. I could go out with friends I was not supposed to see, I could drink soda, later I could smoke on the balcony without being seen. Unfortunately, all that freedom would almost always end in disappointment. As a teenager, how can you feel happy at the end of a break if all you have managed to do during the break is browsing through the pages of your mom's favorite magazine called People (Gente)? At least that was better than the break I was getting in 1996 in England. In 15 minutes all I could do was smoking a cigarette or drinking a cup of coffee outside. Not that exciting.

What happens with my breaks now is not that different. As soon after I have put the boy to nap, I get all excited about working on the cool website I was thinking of when I was in the shower, about writing the posting on food I was meant to write a year ago but never started, about creating a new event for kids at my club and I am confident I will reply to that friend who has emailed me 4 times without me replying. Then what?

Then my eyes are caught by a duck in the floor, by a truck stuck in between the chairs of the dining room, by bits of zucchini and mandarino under the high chair. Then I see a piece of tomato, oh, it's one of William's toys! So I start trying to reach for toys scattered all over the floor, one by one, under the table, under the coach, under the arm chairs and almost always I end up with pieces that don't belong to anything. I use to go crazy to find the missing pieces. I now put the orphan pieces with other orphan pieces in a bucket, fix the broken ones if I can and put them away. Nice, I can now walk into the living room without having to climb mountains. I can go to my computer to design the website.

Nope! Food needs putting back in the fridge, I haven't eaten my lunch, the laundry needs doing. Oops, the boy is widely awake in his room with his sweet voice reaching for my heart: "mamma? mamma?" mamma?". And the more I make him wait, the more I feel bad so I have to go and pick him up. The hour break is over and what have I accomplished?

I have installed Photoshop for the third time.

I have always loved the beginning of a break but hey, how disappointing is the end! The best ones were perhaps the intervalli, the breaks I was getting at the classic lyceum (classic high school). Back then I was praying for the magic bell to ring so that I could get away from an oral examination on Latin or Ancient Greek just started. It was 12:00 pm (if I remember well) and the teacher had already finished asking me the long question I knew nothing about. I was first looking at the clock - it was 5 to 12 - and then at the teacher (she didn't have a stick but you could imagine her holding it), hoping for the magic bell to ring. Then... Driiiiiiiin! "Run run run, as fast as you can!", I was thinking. Nothing could possibly make that break disappointing. The closest breaks to that now are when friends call me and William has just gone to sleep. Awesome breaks!

There are days I feel really good because I manage to get things done and feel proud of it and really enjoy spending time with William, making jokes, watching him giggle, making the cars go up and down his garage ramps (his favorite thing). There are days I feel really crap. I find myself still in PJ at 2 pm, reading non sense on Facebook (e.g. today I am going to lift my soul... what a shitty day!, loads of bullocks, I am sick of the snow, I dislike women in short skirts, I am playing with my new Ipad, caught big fish while scuba diving in Florida) or I am browsing the pages of amazon, looking for I don't know what. The boy is sleeping but I am exhausted and I am no longer able to enjoy my free time. On those days I remind myself that:
  1. I don't want to ask someone else to raise my child
  2. "What? You don't want the scaloppine? I will try giving you this instead. Sorry, not the bread. You've had enough of that. I can't give you that. Eat the spinach! Here, I spoon feed you. No? No? Sorry, I still do. William, you either eat this or you jump off the window! Choose!" Do you think they would make all this effort at daycare?
    No, instead they would train him to eat Cheerios all day long. Sorry moms, but not even I could eat those things for lunch. They taste of cardboard! Nor I would like him to eat peanut butter and jelly - who the hell decided to give the most disgusting possible thing to small children? - and pieces of raw food or cold turkey. Please! And I wouldn't want him to drink tons of milk to make up for the lunch that he hasn't had. I wouldn't want him to snack all day long and, as a result, to miss his dinner, to miss his poop time and the good night sleep that follows.
  3. I wouldn't want my child to have to take sleep aids so that he falls asleep exactly when the other kids fall sleep in the daycare center
  4. I wouldn't want him to sleep with snacks or bottles of milk attached to him under a thin blanket barely covering his feet
  5. I don't want to have to beg him and praise him ("Good job William!") for pooping when he is 4 years old!
  6. I want to still hear my boy say "ma'mma! - pause - ma'mma! - pause - ma'mma!" the way he says it now and not "mommy, mommy, mommy!". And I want him to ask for "pa'ppa! pa'ppa! pa'ppa! or merenda", Italian word which makes me think of us sat at the table and not "snack", American word which makes me think of me throwing a packet of chips at him
  7. I hope that by the time William goes to school, he will know that "latte" is not a coffee drink for hipsters but that it simply means "milk" in Italian, that in life there are not always happy endings (the wolf does eat Little Red Riding Hood and her grandma - you'll better watch out for him!), that the Guidos are an American thing and that our world is not confined by the country where we live but by other things, most of which can be found in our roots.

    William and mamma coming out of the zoo
Most important of all, I am used to spending my days holding my boy, hugging him, enjoying the sweet smell in his neck when I kiss him, making him laugh, hearing his AWAa's kiss sounds, hearing his long speeches made of words like ashiba', klaim klaim and fashibi' , pushing him on the swing and hearing him giggle really loud, taking his little hand and let him run in stores, in the street and in restaurants, seducing hundreds of people - he can't help it! and sharing the things I love with him. Now tell me, should I pay someone else to do this?


  1. I'm so glad you're enjoying staying home with your son! I've been staying home with my kids since my daughter was born almost 5 years ago. We've had to be creative with finances but it's totally worth it. I found a great guide that gives tips and information about oral care for your children. It's called the Mom's Guide for Caring for Little Teeth. Here's the link:http://www.1dental.com/moms-guide/
    Hope it's helpful for you as well!

  2. I am happy to see that I am not alone. I have given up work to stay at home with my children and I feel happier. Not because I have more time for myself. No, that doesn't happen. If you are at home with your kids, without neither grandmas, neither babysitters, you spend all your day with your kids. Full stop. And you take shower while you are playing peekaboo with your children. You work 24 hours a day, regardless whether you are at home or outside. I have heard from working moms that they feel that in the office they can get some rest and I have friends who say the same thing. No, when you stay at home you don't get any rest. However, it does help with the guilt.
    I know there are working moms who say that kids should better spend more time with other kids than at home with their mother while she is cooking but this is black and white thinking. In my opinion they are better off having a parent looking after them plus other kids around to play with. I grew up with a working mom and I remember well that I was jumping on her when she was coming home late in the evening, after waiting for her so impatiently. I would have very much preferred that she would have stayed with me, despite I had been taken care by the loveliest of all grandmas. The guilt sense comes from the children first. Mainly because children resent the daily absence of their parents and, as a result, they grow strongly detached from them. A working friend of mine constantly complains and often despairs about the beautiful afternoons she spent at home with her mom preparing cake for her and for her friends at home, and because she is not able to give the same thing to her children... Hold on a minute, I want to get this straight: women working full-time, in addition to the money you make and your selfish reasons for having to prove to yourself that you are good at doing something different than "being a mom", what benefits do you get from paying someone else to raise your children? And, above all, what benefits do your children get from it?

  3. Thanks for your comments. It makes me happy to know that other moms are reading my blog and that I am not alone in going through the experiences I describe in the blog.

    @Samantha: thanks for your teeth care related link. I didn't know that you have to wash the tongue and floss the teeth of your toddler!

    @Anonymous: as a stay at home mom, I understand where your comments are coming from. At the same time, I think every mother has to make choices they feel are right for their own situation, at the time they make them to then evaluate them at a later stage.