Friday, March 5, 2010

Thinking Out Loud

Decisions, decisions.  I finally realize how adaptive it is that it takes a whole 9 months to birth a baby.  You NEED that time.  Preparing for an actual baby is so different from preparing for a theoretical baby.  My wife and I have been preparing for a theoretical baby since around the time we decided to get married.  Talking and thinking and imagining what our family life would be like.  Now that our little Bean is almost here, the range of decisions and planning feels overwhelming.  We are currently struggling with decisions about daycare.  Here is some relevant background information:

  • We will be moving to a new city this summer.  My wife will be finishing her Fellowship in June and will begin her first academic medical job in August.  Yup, you heard that right.  She will arrive for work in August and she's due on the 2nd of September.  How's that for timing?

  • I will be leaving my 2nd tenure-track job in May.  I'm a total academic flight risk.

  • As a new faculty member, she gets only 6 weeks of paid maternity leave.  She can take an additional 10 weeks without pay.  This is not a particularly attractive option as we plan to rent for the first 6-12 months in order to save $$ for a downpayment.  No pay doesn't sound so good.

  • We are working on getting an additional 2 weeks (to get a full 2 months) tacked on of vacation days.  IF this works out, my wife would be able to stay home until November.

  • I have been accepted into a Masters program that I am excited about in our new city.  It runs on an evening and occasional weekend schedule.

  • It is likely that we will have to shell out some portion of tuition.  From what I understand, the best situation I could get with assistantships would cover 2/3 of the cost.

  • Classes start in late August.  Actually the first day is the week prior to our due date.

  • We will need to use full-time daycare in order for me to be in this program bc classes run four days a week.  Due to the evening schedule of classes, my wife will need to pick up the baby after work and be Lead Babywatch until bedtime.

  • I will get home in the neighborhood of 8 o'clock each evening after my wife has worked a full day (in a new job) and been single parent for 3-4 hours.

  • I already have a Ph.D. in psychology.

Does anyone see where I'm going with this?  I'm wondering, I'm thinking, I'm trying to figure out what is best for all three of us.  Here are some of the fears that top the list:

  • Am I grasping at another graduate degree only bc I'm afraid of losing my identity?  My identity is certainly important, but does it make sense  for my family to pay (literally and figuratively) for what might be nothing more than a hobby?

  • Am I being dramatic by thinking of how everyone will pay for this decision?  Well, there will be actual cost (tuition, books and daycare) and emotional/life cost (increased time pressure for all three of us), so that is something.

  • Will I become boring to myself and my wife if I become a stay at home Mom?

Ahhhh!!!  It's a lot to think about, I know that for sure.  The good news is that we've got time to consider all of this.  I don't have to reply to the University until April 15th.  For now though, the pros and cons just tumble through my mind 24/7.

How are all of you wrestling with the babycare decisions?  I would love to hear how you are making/have made your own decisions.


For us, and I'm not saying everyone needs to do this or it's what's best for you, but for us, we thought to ourselves "Baby is coming, everything stops for a while." In particular, my wife lives and breathes theatre, but is on hiatus. She knows that evenings and weekends with our son are too important for her to give up right now. She can always go back to theatre later. Where I work, I can easily take an evening class, but I just can't stand the thought of not being there to help out, even if it's only 2 nights a week. We still do things for ourselves, and give each other "nights off" to go out alone or with friends, but we decided to hold off on everything else so we can focus fully on our son. And this may only last until he's 3 or 4, or maybe longer. Some days it's hard, but I don't think I will ever regret putting things on hold to focus on my family. And I like knowing that my wife can depend on me to be there (and I can depend on her as well). Having been at this for 10 months, I can easily say there are days, especially when dealing with illnesses, when we couldn't have handled it alone.

So, that's my personal view of things, and I don't judge you for doing otherwise.

As to being a stay at home mom, I don't think either of us is built for it. So we're both happy to be working and to have him in daycare now. Originally the plan was for the grandmas to watch him, but that fell through. I was nervous about daycare at first, but it helped that he was older when we started (8 months) and he does really well with it, constantly learning and interacting with other children.

And finally...your identity. It will continue to change in so many ways. Seeing that you are already a Doctor (I majored in was only undergrad, but!) you already have a very strong identity. And then you will add 'mother' on top of everything that you already are, and continue to change and diversify in so many ways. You may be nervous about losing yourself now, but I think since you are focused on NOT losing yourself, you won't let that happen. Maybe come up with a list of your priorities and see where things fall...

Thanks for taking the time to comment Strawberry! It is such a personal choice, but it's helpful to hear how others handle the decisions. And to know that you guys are 10 months in is helpful too. We all find our way I guess. I am SO glad that your little guy is doing well with daycare. I was reading when the grandmother idea wasn't working out and I know that decision had to be hard one. It seems like you guys have a very happy little (cute!) person at your house. :)

Oh wow. That is a lot going on all at once. I mean, a lot.
Now, I have two babies, so of course my viewpoint is a little different, but I know that if one of us were trying to go to school right after our babies were born, that person would have dropped out of school by now!
All I keep hearing is how hard it is even with one baby and let me tell you, it's more work than you can imagine.
My wife took off more time from work even at the risk of not getting her full raise and possibly sidelining her promotion because in the end--you can get that stuff later, but you can never buy back time with your baby.
That's just my opinion, FWIW.
Not everyone wants to be a SAHM, but I'm really looking forward to it.

wow! It's a wonder you can even put those thoughts in order at all there's so much going on. I'm always an advocate for one change at a time. Our experience: although we weren't pregnant at the time, I picked up a second masters and left a career meaning my wife and I had to find new jobs and pick up and move to a new city. We wanted to buy a house at the same time, but in the end handled the change in stages. I found a job, we rented a house, I moved to the new city, she found a job, joined me. A year later we bought a house. Six months later, we were pregnant. We wanted to do all those things at once (in the past we've always charged headlong into everything) but graduating the phases with only a couple of months between each - against our will ;) - really made the difference. It gave us time to adjust our needs and expectations and make better decisions since we had experience with each major event. As for the babycare question, no mutual insurance means we both have to work and Vegas will go to daycare. We're choosing to believe it builds character.

I'll bet you take a huge deep breath after everything stops spinning!

Yeah. It is a lot. A whole lot. Although I know that we don't have twins, reading your blog is one of the reasons that I've been thinking about this as much as I have. It is REALLY helpful that you have shared so much of what you are dealing with. Thank you for taking the time and sharing your experiences. I know that everyone's experience is different, but getting real details (as opposed to "you have no idea about how much your life will change" general platitudes) helps me try to envision what life might be like.

Also, I'm not sure it was clear in my post but I am trying to decide btw being a SAHM and pursuing this graduate degree. I wouldn't have a FT day job and be in school at night. Reading back what I wrote, I'm not sure how clear that was. Pursuing the program would likely mean teaching a class or two during the day though to offset expenses. I am really conflicted about the SAHM thing. There is a part of me that REALLY wants to do it and another part that is just as scared of it. I have always been very career oriented and so this would be a pretty tremendous shift for me.

Yeah. One change at a time. That sounds like a REALLY good idea ;). As it stands I feel like a whirling dervish and I'm not sure when the whirling will stop.

IT's a lot of change. I'm wondering if you can postpone your graduate degree for a year? That way it would still be available to you but you wouldn't have to make such a huge decision at this point. For us we didn't have a choice - we both have to work. Holland is in daycare and we're all doing fine (except for him getting SOOOOOOOO sick). But we're both happy working as it is part of our identities and we need to get out of the house and do our things.

1.) Correct me if I'm wrong but, if your goal was to provide direct services to people, you can become an LPC without a Master's in counseling. You can have a Master's in anything -- you just have to earn the clinical hours. Right?

2.) You seem like a very self-motivated person -- the perfect kind of stay-at-home mom. You would definitely be able to take care of the baby and engage in plans, projects, papers and places that enrich you. What a great opportunity to explore the aspects of yourself that you usually cant explore because youre too busy exploring the aspects of yourself that people will actually pay for.

3.) It seems like you should jump into a new place, a new job and a new baby with as much time and money in the reserves as possible. If youre spending as much as time and money as you have from day one, it doesn't leave a lot of room for anything to go wrong.

Technically, I think you're right, but I have NO training in counseling. Not even one class. Although my degree was in Psych, the focus was on research and psych measurement. So....

Your point about the reserve is a really good one. A useful way to think about it. It might not be smart to set us up from the beginning with no wiggle room.

It's all so much to think about and for some reason I feel like I've got to decide right.this.second. That's not really true though. Thanks for the self-motivated comment. I think I could the SAHM thing work, it's just such a HUGE shift in how I see myself.

Yeah, I think I could defer for a year. I'm going to check into that next week. Even that feels scary though, bc what if I don't go back, etc.

Hoping Holland has a good long healthy spell soon ;)

Wow that is a ton going on. My wife lost her job in May so we had to decide what the next plan was going to be. She is home this year with Ella and is liking it a whole lot more than she thought she would. Once the spring comes she I think she will really love it (we are in rsv lock down). She will be starting a masters ptogram in the fall and it is going to be a challenge but we are willing to do it for the 2 years so that my wife can have a job that she loves. E will be 1 year old which will be easier and I am a teacher so she will only be in daycare from 8-3 every day which will help. Good luck and every family is different so I am sure that you will figure it all out.

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