I've been rolling the idea of this post around in my head for a long time. I'm not sure how successfull I'll be but I'll try my best to convey to you why we've made some of the decisions we've made in how we operate our family. As always I'm open to comments and even friendly debate. I'm not saying you should do the same thing I'm just explaining how we do things and why.
My love and I have made decisions and sacrifices in our lives to have what we call a stay at home family. There are a lot of families with a stay at home mom. There are even a lot of families where that stay at home mom home schools the kids so they're stay at home kids too. But how many families do you know have all members home most of the time? This is what we've created in our life. A stay at home family.
I'm a nurse in a hospital so I do 12 hour shifts three nights a week from 7 pm to 7 am. Well actually in a three week rotating schedule I work three nights, three nights and two nights. That averages out to be 11-12 shifts a month. Since I work nights I'm only gone for about 2 hours of the kids' waking hours on nights I work too so it's really like I'm not ever gone. The only time I'm really "absent" is when I'm sleeping while they're awake but even then I'm not gone. Just asleep. According to the kids it's like I don't work at all anymore now that I work nights. This is compared to when I worked days and I'd leave for work before they got up and get home right before they went to sleep. They didn't like that at all and neither did I.
Working night shift is not always easy but it is so worth it in the end. Working nights has also afforded me the ability to work less since I got an automatic 15% per hour raise. When I worked days I was working 3-4 shifts a week. Now I work 2-3 and still make more money. How awesome is that?! You add that benefit to being home more and it was really a no brainer.
So because of my love staying home with the kids, the kids being home schooled and me working nights we are all together most of the time. This is the opposite of most families in America where the kids go to day care or school and both parents work. In that model the family is apart for about 10 hours a day five days a week and the time they do have together in the evening is chaotic with dinner and baths and homework and bedtime. Because of this they try to cram as much family time in on the weekend as possible to make up for the lost time during the week. Our family is very different.
We don't really differentiate between weekday and weekend because it doesn't matter. All that matters is if it's a mom work night or not. We can do what we choose whenever we choose to because we have set our lives up this way. We have slowed the pace and the clock down a bit in order to really spend time together as a family. I remember in the 80's when I was growing up it as all about quality over quantity. I would argue to say that they both matter. Yes, it is important to spend time with your kids really engaging with them but there is also something to be said for your children always knowing that you're there.
I'm not sure if it is the life we live or the home schooling but our children are still children in a world where 8 year olds are walking around talking on cell phones and wearing make up with a slogan for victoria s.ecret on their rump. My oldest girls are 9 and 14 and they are still very much children. As they should be. My 9 year old has no desire for a cell phone or an email address and my 14 year old isn't interested in dating or make up and I couldn't be prouder. I know that I did that. I intended to let them stay kids and they have.
In this country there is so much emphasis placed on growing up that most 14 year old girls are already dating and some have even already had sex. Then there is also a prolonged adolescence that lasts beyond college. There is something very wrong with all of that. What happened to raising responsible children who would grow up to be self-sufficient adults? Are we so worried about getting our quality time in that we are letting these kids run the house instead of being the kids?
If your 9 year old asks for a cell phone that doesn't mean you have to get them one. Even if all their friends have one. If your 15 year old asks to spend the night at their boyfriend's house are you going to allow that too? It's okay to tell your kids no. It's okay to be the bad guy. It's okay to set limits and expect them to be obeyed. We are parents! It's our job to make sure they turn out okay. It's not our job to make sure they like everything we do or say. My kids do not have to like me but they do have to respect me. That's how life is. Their boss isn't going to care if they like them but they will care if they tell them to shut up because they don't like how things are going. Life is full of limits and restrictions and rules and boundaries. It's our job as parents to show them how to live within that and still be able to be themselves. That's a very tricky thing to do but no one ever said this job was easy.
In our home we run a pretty tight ship. We have had several people comment about how strict we are with our girls. I know it's different to see in the society we live in but I would venture to say that just because it's unusual does not make it wrong. If you were to ask our girls privately how they feel about how they're being raised I am positive that they would say that they wouldn't change it. Sure they get upset when they are punished or reprimanded but because we are always together they also know how much they're loved. There is a balance. We have rules to follow and schedules to adhere to but we also have spa nights and junk food picnics. Being home allows us that. If we just had 2 hours 5 days a week and then 2 days on the weekend to spend with our kids that balance would be harder to find. That is part of the reason we've chosen this life.
I also know in my heart and soul that my kids are people that other people like to know. I have had it said to me on numerous occasions how wonderful my kids are. They're polite and intelligent and well behaved. They're also compassionate and empathetic. My girls are not angry or rude. I have a teenage daughter who has moments of being hormonal and angst ridden but overall is delightful and kind. How common is that? I am immensely proud of my kids and I know that I had a heavy hand in who they are. I became a mom at 20 years old but ever since I did I have always parented with intention. I think about all the choices I make and I make sacrifices to do what is best for them. I always have and I always will. From the time I remember I have wanted to be a mother and since my eldest was in my belly I have done my best to be the best one I could. Good kids are not created by accident. They're made that way on purpose.