Raising Mary: Undivided Attention


Tracy Cooper admits she’s sacrificed her career to be a stay-at-home mom, but the benefit is the full-time hours she gets to devote to parenting.

Mary is closing in on five years old, and I’m still at home, now with two girls. It’s always been demanding, but it’s harder lately. Maybe it’s the ages; they talk about the terrible twos, but we mustn’t forget the freakin’ fours. And I’m in the thick of both stages. (Insert cry for help here.) Still, staying home has turned out to be the right choice for us. I’ve freely chosen to devote my
energies to my daughters while they’re in these delicate, formative years. My reasons are both
selfless and selfish.
My decision has been a sacrifice on some levels. I’ve (hopefully only temporarily) given up my career. Family finances are significantly different than if I was still working at a paid job. And as
much as I enjoy most of the abundant time spent together, this 24-hour job can be draining. If I’m not making someone’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, I’m running a bath, wiping someone’s tears, nose or butt, setting someone up for an activity, praising someone’s drawing, putting on someone’s sunscreen (or snowsuit), spending ‘quality time’ playing a board game, going to the park or reading a book. Was that a run-on sentence? It should be! By now, it sounds like I’m complaining. But I’m not. Here comes the good stuff.
I have always liked young children. I love their open hearts, their wide-eyed optimism, their
wonder and excitement, the funny things they say. Watching this in my own flesh and blood is a daily thrill. I like the simplicity. I can concentrate fully on my kids because I’m not stuck in a car commuting, or preoccupied by a big meeting the next day at work. Life is fast, but I can savour many moments in slow motion, like being with the girls at the park today, quietly watching them play together, with no pressing matter other than getting them home for lunch when they get hungry.

I am detail- and project-oriented. Being home, I have control over the girls’ circumstances and
development. If I was at work full-time when my kids were in their earliest years, I have a hunch
I’d be thinking too much about what’s going on with my kids. I think I’d be Grumpy Tracy Mommy full-time, and nobody likes that broad. (We know because she makes occasional appearances.) It’s great not to miss anything – like Adelaide, who just figured out how to jump off the ground with her two feet and is hopping all over the house, or Mary, who is full of deep questions beyond her years and is trying to learn how to whistle. I like being the one to drop Mary off at school, volunteer occasionally in her classroom, wait at the gate until the bell rings, and watch who she plays with and how she behaves. I like giving my kids the structure and safety of knowing their mommy’s only job right now is caring for them. But that’s just me. I know this isn’t the right choice for everyone.
It’s been a long time since Mary was a baby and a friend of a friend was appalled to learn I wasn’t going back to work. I can still see her mouth dropping open. “You’re just going to stay home? And do what?” To those women, I declare I’m not wasting my brain or university degree. I have plenty of time to role-model the working mom – after my daughters are in school full-time. That’s my choice, and I own it.

Published in October 2010.

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