Three years ago I longed for more time with my son, so I started working part time as I described here. Three years later I have two kids in daycare for the same 50 hours a week that made me so depressed back then, and it mostly doesn't bother me. And that bothers me.
When I started working part time and spending two days at home with my son (in addition to weekends) it was great. We played. We read books. We took a Wiggleworms class. I took a lot of photos. He took a lot of naps. I think that last part was key. I got breaks from having to think up mom activities and could write or watch TV or take a nap myself.
After a year of my part time schedule I was pregnant with my girl-to-be. To address increasing pressures at work and to add some more financial cushion in preparation for a second child, I increased my work hours. I was still officially part time, but I went from a 60% schedule to an 80% schedule. I still spent time with the boy on Wiggleworms day, but dropped him at daycare immediately after class. By the time that Wiggleworms session ended I was in my third trimester of pregnancy, which made wrangling an almost 2 year old increasingly exhausting. We didn't re-enroll in Wiggleworms. The boy returned to daycare full time for the remaining 2 months before his sister was born.
When I was on maternity leave with the girl, we kept the boy in daycare. We thought this would be easier for me and easier for him since his routine wouldn't change and he could still see his friends. When my maternity leave ended the girl started daycare too, but I returned to work at my pre-maternity leave 80% schedule. That is, I still had one day off.
In the final two months of my pregnancy I used my extra time off for running errands and doing stuff around the house. (Okay, I sometimes napped.) When I returned from leave I used the day in the same way for errands and chores, but also for things I rarely do on hectic evenings or busy weekends: writing and, far too infrequently, yoga. Sometimes my day off is very productive. Sometimes it is not. The kids are rarely there unless there is a doctor's appointment or daycare holiday.
My initial reason for putting the kids in daycare full time even though I'm working part time was that I didn't think that I could handle a 2 year old and a newborn on my own. Now they are 3-and-a-half and 18 months, and solo parenting for long periods of time only seems harder.
Daycare was closed on Monday, so I was a stay at home mom for the day. It was a lot of fun. We went on a long walk, checked out potential dance classes, went to a playground and took a scooter and trike around the block. We stopped by McDonald's and the kids had their first Happy Meals. (Okay, I'm a little ashamed of that one. At least I take comfort in the a fact that my kids don't know Sponge Bob and think the toys are cheese men.) We made cookies. (Looking back, nutrition really suffered on my SAHM day.) Screen time was fairly minimal, although not as minimal as our pediatrician would recommend. Other than the nutrition issue, it was a pretty successful day.
At daycare they don't watch TV at all. The kids sing songs, read books, do crafts and go outside. That's what I'd like my kids to be doing all day, but I don't think I can do that all day. Particularly the craft thing. It's all I can do to open a box of crayons. Perhaps I'm just trying to assuage my guilt, but I think daycare is good for them.
And I think my day off is good for them too. Everything I do on my day off is something that I don't need to do on an evening or weekend, which means I can spend that time with my kids (with the additional wrangling and activity-facilitating support of my husband).
My boss would probably approve a 60% schedule for me again if I asked. If I took the kids out of daycare two days a week we would qualify for part time tuition which would offset the paycut I'd be taking. I could be a part-time stay at home mom if I wanted to, but I don't. I feel selfish that I don't. I feel guilty that I don't. But that doesn't change the fact that I don't. At least not right now. Perhaps I'll feel differently in another three years.