Most days, like today, my son and I started out our morning reading the paper. Me with a cup of tea and the Living section, him with cheerios and the comics. Shortly after, I took him to story time at our local library. God help me, despite being a school teacher for four years, the act of group sing-song rhymes and hokey-pokey bores me to tears. Still, he enjoys it, and this is why we go. We headed to the park after but the heat was blazing and the shade trees sparse so we opted for Target where, in the toy section, we ran into two uniformed police officers wearing batman masks and speaking to each other in a deep baritone.
Entertaining, though somewhat awkward for all parties.
Today, in addition to meeting batman cops, I had another surprising moment when I realized: I’m a minority. At least in these parts. Not in the racial sense [though, yes, that too], but in the staying-at-home-mom sense. At story time, I was the only mother. Everyone else, a nanny. Same at the park. Even at Target, while I saw a handful of other mothers, I saw mostly nannies lugging babies in car seats and checking their lists.
When it happens in the sheer numbers it did today, I begin doubting myself. When I ask the lady next to me by the swings how old is she? And she pauses, crinkling her eyes, and scratching her head to remember the child’s age– its disconcerting; as if I’m the only one doing this. As though I’m strange to be home when a nanny could just as well shuttle him to story time and the park and apparently, even Target. I felt prehistoric.
The questions come with increasing frequency now. What day care is he in? What do you mean, he’s not? You’re still home with him? You’re not back to work yet? He’s not two months old, he’s two. And this arrangement we have, apparently strikes some as strange. It’s odd I guess to go to college, grad school, law school and choose to stay home folding laundry, planning dinners, and changing diapers.
I know I shouldn’t let other people’s values or opinions influence my own, and on most days they don’t, but sometimes like today when you’re the only mother in a sea of nannies you start questioning your choices. A nanny could read stories to him, play blocks with him, prepare egg and toast for breakfast. Does he need me at home when a really good nanny would achieve the same end?
Except the problem is, I love it. I feel lucky I can be home with him. I love watching him stomp about in his father’s shoes and building towers of legos to topple moments later. I guess the thing is, maybe he would be just as adjusted and happy and exactly who he is if he was with a nanny all day while I worked. But then, I would miss being around for it. So really, ultimately, my decision to be home is truly about me, some could even say selfish. Because who else would I trade cheerios for cherries with over leisurely morning breakfasts?