It’s good to be back from blog vacation. Two weeks of rest was just what I needed, and in case you’re wondering why I stepped away from blogging, you can read about it here. These past few weeks have been full of reading, cooking, exploring our city, visits with friends, and hours spent hanging with little Miss E. at the park.
Today’s post, rather than being a summary of what I did during my “time-off,” is inspired by an unfortunate comment I received from someone who questioned why I’m “wasting my talent and skills” (from my time as a teacher) to be a stay-at-home-mom. After the initial shock of the comment wore off, I continued thinking about the underlying question: why quit my job to stay at home?
While I am not going to address the “should a mother stay at home?” argument (this is a blog on bilingual parenting, after all), I do want to share with you why I have made the very personal decision to take a hiatus from teaching to stay at home with our daughter, what it has meant for our family, and what it has meant for E.’s – and my – language development in this early stage of parenting in more than one language.
1. Our family’s quality of life –
Our family’s daily rhythm is slower and more intentional in so many ways:
- D. no longer has a three-hour daily commute to work. He either carpools with a co-worker, or he bikes to work when the weather is warm.
- As a family, we eat breakfast and dinner together.
- E. spends an hour or so in the mornings reading and playing with her papá before he heads off to work. This equates to more direct input for her in Spanish with a native speaker on a daily basis.
- I am able to continue nursing E. at 16 months.
- E. is graciously teaching me how to be a mother. Because I truly believe that the day a baby is born is the day parents are born, too.
2. Professional Reflection –
For the first time in a long time I have been able to take a big step back from my career and look at the big picture. It has been a gift to have the mental energy and physical time to reflect on my teaching practice and philosophy, as well as my short-term and long-term professional goals. Additionally, it has been a gift to spend time reading and reflecting on my eight years in the classroom. I have watched as my opinions on certain topics have changed over the course of a year, in large part because of my birth as a mother. For this I’m thankful.
3. E’s language development –
One of the main reasons D. and I thought it best that I stay at home to be E.’s primary caregiver at this time was to enforce her language development in Spanish, our home language.
If I had continued at my former job, we would have had to send E. to an English-speaking childcare, which would not have aligned with our current short-term plan of maximum exposure to the minority language, Spanish. Our family’s language goal is to establish a strong early foundation for our daughter in the minority language, and we believe that the most effective way to do that right now is by my staying at home (this certainly could change down the road).
In addition to E. receiving input from me, she also benefits from interactions with other Spanish-speaking families we’ve met in our neighborhood and city. I have also been able to coordinate “Face Time” dates with our extended family in Spain and Mexico, something that would have been difficult – not impossible – had I been working full-time, given the time differences.
4. My language development –
Recently, my neighbor asked me, “Do you think your Spanish has improved now that you’re home all day with E.?” What an insightful question! I’ve written a lot on the blog about my need to improve my own input in Spanish, to learn more, to practice more, but until my neighbor posed that question to me, I had never stopped to think how my own language skills have, as a consequence of more input (reading, watching Spanish-speaking news, Spanish playdates, etc.), improved.
So, the answer to her question is ¡SÍ!! Yes! Thanks to all of the children’s books I spend reading with E., I’ve re-learned words like olfatear, liebre, brincos, bocina, and so many more. Going to the local aquarium each month, I’ve been forced to look up the Spanish equivalent for creep around, sting rays, and corral reef. And, taking care of a sick child has given me practice talking about vaccines, conjunctivitis and temper tantrums (yup, those have started!).
So, in summary, I would emphasize two points about my choice to stay at home with my daughter. First, it is a luxury and a gift, not to mention a personal choice (one that each family must make on their own). Second, it was what best supported our family’s current language goal. (Check out these two previous posts on family language goals.)
Thank you, faithful readers, for hanging around while I took a little break. I’m looking forward to blogging regularly again, but at a slower pace: you can now expect blog posts from Españolita on Tuesdays and Fridays each week.