When I was pregnant with my first child, both my husband and I worked full-time. Before we could figure out what to do about child care, my grandmother (who lived with us) volunteered to quit her job and watch our son for us. After my second child was born, I worked part-time. Between my husband, grandmother and me, we got the job done and needed no outside help.
When my husband lost his job, we sold our home and moved. My grandmother moved in with my mother, who lived in the same neighborhood as our previous home. The school my children attended was the best elementary school in the city. In order for them to continue to attend, they had to use my mother’s address.
Often, it was more convenient to allow our children to stay at my mom’s during the school week. Even so, I was there every morning and evening to get them on and off the bus. I also helped them with homework and school projects.
Because I was not working, I was able to pick my children up immediately any time they were sick. They never had to spend time in the school clinic. And I did not have to rush from a job when school opened late or closed early. When we needed money, I worked double shifts on weekends and was still available during the week.
After the birth of our third child, fiances were really an issue. We only had one car at the time, and I had to drive my husband to and from work. This meant taking the baby with me. We would then head to my grandmother’s where I got my older children ready for school. In the evening, the pattern repeated.
I felt cheated as if I were not a true stay-at-home mom. I had envisioned standing in the door watching my children catch the bus and waiting for them to walk through the door each evening. My children got a quality education and made friendships with children whom they never would have met had they gone to our neighborhood school.
I felt guilty because of the lack of money, one car, and leaving them at grandma’s. I was not working, yet running myself ragged, and missing quality time with my children. Still none of my children ever had a babysitter other than a family member, and I was there for them.
When it rained, the neighborhood kids would get in my car and I would drive them all to the bus stop. Some of them began showing up at my grandmother’s home in the morning to wait for the bus. At times, other parents were not home in the evening, and I would have to stay at my grandmother’s home until these children could get in their own houses.
I felt taken advantage of, and not one parent ever thanked me. One dad told me one day he wished his wife was as attentive to their children as I was to mine. That helped me feel a little better. Still, I was not seeing the forest for the trees, because I was wrapped up in running between two neighborhoods. My children seemed okay with the arrangement.
When my daughter began kindergarten, a neighbor of mine asked if her daughter could walk to the bus with my daughter. I advised her that my child would be going to school from my old address. This woman assumed our children would be attending school together.
She had no plan, and no one to watch her child, so she left her daughter out of school for an entire year. All of this was overwhelming, and I wonder would it have been a little easier had I worked and paid a babysitter. I don’t think so.