Which is harder - spending a long day at work, or at home with the kids?
My husband and I debate this often, and never come up with a solid answer. Sometimes one of us is the clear winner. A few weeks ago, we did the "potty training weekend," where you don't leave the house AT ALL and let your kid run around naked from the waste down, cleaning up after him as needbe. It was miserable for all involved (and not too successful). We only made it through with heavy use of the TV during the day and alcohol at night. That Sunday, after the fifth outfit change and a failed family huddle over the toilet, my husband looked at me and said, "Honey, I'm not going to lie. I can't f***ing wait to go back to work." Yes, it had gotten that bad. At that point, I admit that I also wished I had an office to escape to.
Other days, I have it easier. My oldest son, Braden, goes to school from 9-12, and I am home with Casey, who is almost 6 months old. Until recently, my mornings were zen-like. I could put Casey in the swing or bouncy seat, and he would drift in and out of sleep. I could sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, watch TV, and (shockingly) even catch another hour of sleep. It was mornings like this that really made me grateful for my new found unemployment and think, "Wow, what a great gig." In the afternoon, both kids would nap at different times. And if my husband got home by 6:30, it was a pretty easy day.
But my husband is rarely home by 6:30. Braden seems to be dropping his afternoon nap. And Casey is officially waking up from his infant slumber.
As of late, Casey has started giving me a run for my money - demanding constant attention and being quite vocal about his unhappiness. He's in that weird stage where he can't totally sit on his own and can't crawl. But he doesn't just want to lay in a swing either. I try and entertain him with toys, funny faces, brushing my teeth in his face.... He's not that amused. So I try harder and before I know it, it's time to pick Braden up, and I haven't finished my coffee or watched my DVRed episode of the Real Housewives of New York. I can see my relaxing mornings slipping away from me.
It's not until you have your second child that you realize how easy infants are. I'm not talking about the first few months. No, with sleep deprivation and sheer exhaustion, those months suck no matter how precious your baby is. I'm talking about months 3 through 6. Where they don't do much, don't cry much, and if you are lucky (and I have been), are finally sleeping through the night. In my experience, those months are pretty leisurely. And trust me, I have been relishing this leisure. Because I know it won't last.
With Casey getting older, my time at home will surely get harder and harder. This morning, my mind starting conjuring up images of Braden crawling. It was a daily exercise of preventing electrocution, abuse to our dog, and other modes of sudden death. Braden made it through fairly unscathed, save for a few chipped teeth he still displays with pride. And this time around, I'll have a 2 year old to run after as well. A 2 year old with an insane energy level who jumps, runs, screams, and throws. All the time. And the fact is, Casey is just a little Braden in the making. Soon there will be two. Me. Them. Outnumbered. HELP!
It's hard to compare this to the stress of a law firm job, but I suppose I am in a unique position to do so. There were definitely days during my career that I wanted to escape the stringent schedule of a court order, or the thousands of documents that were awaiting review. Every time a brief was filed I would be filled with anxiety, knowing that there was an opposing counsel somewhere who was getting ready to rip it to shreds. I would constantly second guess myself: Was there a case I missed? Did a privileged document make it through? This stress would keep me up at night. And then there were of course the sporadic work all nighters (which I only experienced in New York), where around 4am, still at your desk in the same clothes you put on the morning before, you start to get loopy and care less about the client's needs. All you want is sleep, bed, freedom. And ultimately, when the partner "releases" you, you get just that, for an afternoon at least.
Being a stay a home mom frees me from the burden of work related anxiety, but it certainly doesn't mean that I get a good night's sleep every night. Indeed, I have been up with Casey, rocking him to sleep, for nights on end uttering that same mantra from my New York law firm days: sleep, bed, freedom. And on the nights he is sleeping soundly, I still find my mind racing with stress related to my new job: How will I entertain the kids tomorrow? How do I keep Casey from catching Braden's cold? Is my supply tanking, and is Casey getting enough milk? Unlike my former job, there is no tech line to call (though my calls to the pediatrician have been numerous), no coworkers to cover for me, no treatises to consult, and no partner to tell me, "Okay, it's over. Go home and get some rest."
There is no doubt, my new job is a challenging one. The main difference though, is that I really love my current clients. They are demanding, but seem to be happy with my work. And at the end of the day, I think the question shouldn't be which job is harder, but which is more meaningful. And at least for me, on this one I come out the clear winner.