Thoughts on skipping Pre-School in a Working Women's World
There were so many things I tried to prepare myself for when it came to moving overseas. Currency changes, food in grocery stores, not knowing the language immediately, missing my family, and more. To a large extent, I feel pretty successful in building my my expectations with it. I shared with a friend the other day, I tend to have the personality where I go to extremes (in many things, not just expectations) . I’ve realised I actually feel better if I choose to pre-consider most of what could go wrong, so that anything other than the worst case scenario is a bonus. It sounds terrible typed out, but part of the beauty of it is that now that I figured it out, I work with it, and it helps me manage my feelings when things are out of control. What I neglected to consider though, has totally surprised me.
We had planned before moving that I would be at home with Nomi. I mean, really, before Nomi was born, we had both planned for it. I stayed open to the idea that perhaps staying at home with him just “wouldn’t be for me”, and that I could want to return to work outside the home. Once he was born, it became pretty obvious that I would be staying home for multiple reasons.
Cooking real food is a major priority for us. Since Nomi was diagnosed with a Milk Soy Protein Intolerance (MSPI) as a baby, we had to get serious about cutting out processed foods, because you just can’t eat food from a box without soy. It was the kick in the pants we didn’t ask for, but sure as heck needed. The lack of sleep that accompanied his stomach pains contributed to my depression and anxiety, which I began researching how to work to resolve. I’m on anti depressants, but I’m super determined to get off of them one day if I can by treating my body holistically and rebalancing my hormones.
My mental health was not stable. Although now I feel much better at managing my mental health and anticipating days when it’s heading downhill, the idea of committing to working outside of the home was not attractive. It made me feel like I would be letting even more down, by needing to keep up with more, and it just wasn’t feasible.
I just couldn’t let go of the desire to be present with Nomi as he learned and experienced life. We had a very long and slow bonding period after he was born… as in, it took me months to feel anything close to what most mothers describe when they first look at their baby. But once it started to kick in, I really felt the need to stay close to Noam so I could up keep that relationship.
I knew I wouldn’t have an immediate work visa upon arrival overseas.
So, we started our own business! (‘Cause, you know, that’s low stress and time commitment.) It was good for us, because Roei was working part time, and I needed something to pour into outside of my time with Nomi. It ended up acting as an outlet for me to feel like I could contribute creatively, but more on my own time and schedule. And I really am passionate about making websites that work and look good.
The easy part was, when we made all these decisions, we lived in a little town that thought this was the BEST possible thing one could be doing for herself and her children. So that was that - it was fun to receive the accolades of others as they told me I was ‘making the best choice for our family’, and ‘we couldn’t get these years back’. What wasn’t easy was moving overseas and expecting the same reaction.
As soon as we arrived here, everyone began asking me why N. wasn’t in ‘Gan’. Gan is the Hebrew word for ‘garden’, so think of it as kindergarten.
“When are you registering him for gan?"
“Which gan will he go to?”
“He needs to be in gan. It’s important for him to socialise/learn/play.”
“He needs to be in gan. It’s important for you to have a break.”
I had no idea it was such a strong sentiment. Here we were, moving from the small town to the big city, where women are expected (and financially need) to follow their careers as soon as 3 months after their babies are born. So much so, that it is rare for me to see another woman my age on a weekday in the street with a baby older than 6 months. They are almost always with their grandmothers, or a nanny. I grocery shop with Noam and all of the elderly (of the city, it seems sometimes) during the day, but I am the only one my age out with a child. The parks are empty for us, and for our little extrovert, this is very hard. “But he should be in gan," they say, “He will play with the other children there!”
How did Stay-at-Home-Mom become a dirty word?
I suddenly feel as if I’ve been launched into a culture where my role has been entirely outsourced, and I’m not allowed to keep it. I frequently find myself thinking “Gan isn’t going to do my laundry for me, nor will it soak and cook the beans, wait for my child to wake up on his time, or have food (usually) ready for when Roei gets home.” When did this role become obsolete, unnecessary, and even frivolous? Especially since it keeps drawing me back to itself?
To be clear - I am not “in love” with the mundane that is housework and cleaning. Sure, my counter is clean right now, but that’s an anomaly, and the rest of my house is proof of it. There are days when I would much rather be out of the house, in the ‘greener grass’. But I refuse to believe that the role of staying home and holding down the fort is irrelevant and outdated.
Is this the only way? The woman must be home with arms full of screaming children and dirty pots, and sweat on her brow? Should women be shamed when they decide that their career can’t wait? NO! Especially when what I’m describing is a luxury so many parents wish they could afford, but can’t. But this is the tricky work, deciphering what is truly best for one’s family. Drowning out the white noise that forces you to conform to what’s best, and evaluating as you go. Over a long conversation, a good friend of mine told me before,
“Evaluate all of the activities assumed plans in each child’s life each year, and never assume that what worked before is what’s best for right now.”
In all honesty, Nomi likely will start gan in the future. I want him to have a strong start with his Hebrew, and I see his little personality longing to play with and observe other children. But in the meantime, we’ll keep pursuing what we see as what’s best for this month, week, day, and this family.
So, here we are, running away from our societal expectations of what we ‘should’ be doing as a family. Nomi is likely yelling “BYE BYE!” as he runs, which maybe I will adopt too.
We ‘should’ be stable, and raise our kids in one ‘normal‘ country. We ‘should’ move with them so they have a greater understanding of the world. I ‘should’ stay home with our son, I ‘should’ be out of the house working on my personal passions.
And we probably ‘shouldn’t’ listen to too much advice.
Take that for what it’s worth.