I am in a weird limbo place between heaven and hell (both of which I believe we create right here on earth). I am a Stay At Home Mom. A lot of people proclaim this makes me “lucky.” Actually, it was a planned occupation, and a lot of sacrifices were made to achieve said occupation. What’s funny though, is that for most of my life, the life I live now was what I considered to be a living hell. Constant responsibility for a small child and pregnant with a second, the vast majority of my time is spent cooking, doing dishes, laundry, changing diapers, wiping a little tiny snotty nose and poopy butt, brushing little tiny teeth, changing little tiny clothes, feeding and caring for a dog and cat, repeatedly reading the same cycle of 20 children’s books with animation and enthusiasm, exerting multitudes of patience during teething and growth spurts and power struggles and the near-constant spills and bumps and falls that happen when dealing with a person whose efforts at coordination and speech resemble a tiny little drunk person.
Whenever there is the smallest gap of time in these duties, I am able to cram some much-needed exercise in there for me or a shower. Forays out of the house more likely than anything involve walking to the park for some playground action or going grocery shopping for my little bottomless pit and the two adults in the house.
None of it really takes any intellectual thought or talent. I am discovering now that that was probably the biggest sacrifice I made in giving up my day job. I suppose the argument could be made that it requires creativity, especially where cooking is concerned, but even that hobby I once reveled in has taken on a rote feeling. What is odd though is how little time I have now compared to before. I was always a very efficient worker with a strong work ethic. For those legal secretaries of you out there, the last desk I worked on before leaving the business was five-on-one. And they were a prolific five in Intellectual Property. This, in a firm where two-on-one was the norm. I still got everything done every single day that was put before me, had time to sit down to a decent lunch, spend time with friends, check e-mail, view every dumb video on YouTube and read every stupid chain letter sent me. Those days are gone. And though my tasks are menial, I still feel like a slacker if the vacuuming doesn’t get done or I didn’t run that errand I was supposed to do today, or haven’t checked my e-mail in four days. How could I not have time for these things? It's a whole other universe of time management skills.
But what bothers me more is that what I now do for a living is, by nature, a lot of the time, intensely boring. I suppose that’s what happens when you slow life down to accommodate a life starting out – the lack of stimulation can be incredibly crushing when you are used to a controlled fast pace. There is also the isolated nature of the job – it is not a group endeavor. The bulk of my time is spent with someone not yet skilled in conversation, and two mute animals. I am not alone, yet still feel intensely lonely a lot of the time. This, from a person who used to treasure and crave alone time on a daily basis!
So why on earth, you may ask, would a person choose this life when it is clearly not the Sleeping-In-Going-To-Yoga- Eating-Bon-Bons-On-The-Couch-Mommy-And-Me-Bliss that a lot of people imagine it is? The answer is simple: Even before my son was born, I simply could not imagine it any other way. Once I had finally found my Mr. Right and we decided we wanted to have kids, I knew that myself and my husband were going to be the only caretakers of those kids, with occasional babysitting here and there. And I knew that certain sacrifices would have to be made in order to achieve such a goal, not the least of which was financial.
Though my income as a legal secretary was pretty outstanding, it’s not like I had any degree of career satisfaction, and so it was relatively easy for me to leave the job behind. Not bringing home the paycheck, however, was really going to hurt, and we have had to learn to go without certain things in our lifestyle that we used to take for granted. But it’s like my dear friend Tommie told me long ago when she told me about when her daughter Shannon was born: This incredible creature came into her life, and she was in love, and she turned to her husband and said there was no way she was going back to work. He said “We’ll be poor!” and she replied, “Then I guess we’ll have to be poor.” And that was exactly how I felt, and still feel. There simply was no other choice to be had, and it’s not like we’re indigent or anything. We’re fine.
This is not to say I condemn or judge in any way those moms who do return to work – FAR from it. This job is not for everybody, and I think it is a very wise woman who recognizes that she will be a better mother if she does focus on her career rather than stay at home and go insane. Even some of my single mom friends, who HAVE to work to survive, have confided that even if they could stay at home, they just don’t see how they could do it from a psychological perspective. Also in going to work, she is setting a great example of the work ethic for her kids, which is something I really admire.
It is a highly personal choice (like whether or not to breast-feed) with a lot of factors going into the decision, but whatever path a woman decides, I would hope it is not with the intention of “doing it all”. Nobody, man or woman, can give 100% to motherhood and 100% to a career, and to expect to be able to do so, I believe, is delusional, and setting oneself up for failure. I think it’s a load of crap that women put on themselves a lot of the time to believe that they can handle the full-time job of motherhood along with the full-time job of a full-time job, live on three hours of sleep per night, no social life, no time for hobbies or fun or taking care of herself. I just don’t think that is living, and sooner or later, you’re going to burn yourself out completely or have a psychotic break. Neither is good for you or your kid.
So why do I stay at home when it obviously doesn’t really suit my personality? Because I need to. I never miss a second involving my son’s growing up, and it would break my heart beyond repair if I did. The times he falls and needs a hug, I am there to give it to him. The times he takes his first steps, I am there to see it and applaud him. Every bite of food or sip of liquid he takes, I know exactly what it is because I bought it and prepared it for his specific needs and taught him how to eat it. The times his mental engines are firing and he needs the stimulation of all those books (or Legos or coloring or play group or whatever), I am there to read the books again and explain things to him with all the time in the world. After all, the dishes can wait, but a demanding boss or nine-to-five or actual career cannot. This is why, in spite of the hardship of a lot of my job, I still love it and am beyond grateful to have it.
Now I have to get back to that poopy butt I mentioned earlier. Otherwise known in our house as an “assex” (short for ass explosion). Peace and love and joy to all my sister mamas out there, stay-at-home or otherwise. I have much love for you amazing women.