To say that I have mixed feelings about being a stay-at-home-mom might just be the understatement of the century.
When I went out on maternity leave after Augie’s birth, I started toying with the idea of quitting my job to stay home with the kids. And then when I was laid off from my job the decision was made for me. I’m not going to get into all the hows and whys of my lay-off, but I will say that there were several logical reasons why I was chosen to be the person in my department who was let go. But try as I might to not take it personally, it’s pretty hard to be laid off from a job and not take it personally. Unless entire divisions get the axe, there is always someone choosing who will or won’t get to keep their jobs and if you’re one of the ones who’s chosen to be let go you can’t help but think now and then, “I’m less valuable.” So, I’m just going to put it out there and say that this mindset is what set the tone for the start of my career as a stay at home mom.
I never thought that being a stay at home parent would be easy. I’ve had two maternity leaves and I watched the challenges that Zach faced every day in his three and a half years staying home with Wyatt, so I had a pretty good idea what to expect. But even so I had all these idyllic visions in my head about how it was going to be. I would take serene trips to the library with the kids and we’d all cuddle up on the couch afterward reading books together. Augie and I would enroll in Mommy and Me classes and when we picked Wyatt up from school we would all play together in the back yard until it was time to go inside and eat a nutritious dinner with Zach. And the house! The house would be so clean and neat!
You see — I was going to be different from all the stay at home parents who struggle with the job. I am very organized and efficient and I’ve kicked ass at every single job I’ve ever had. I can get all the hard stuff done while the baby naps.
Wait a minute.
Maybe I’m not so different from all those other parents.
Let’s start with the house-cleaning. The fact is, I’m not a very good housekeeper and I really don’t enjoy it at all. I enjoy having a clean house, of course, but somehow my house is messier now than it was when I was working full time. Our house is always a total disaster. There are toys everywhere. There are piles of books and magazines and mail on every flat surface. There is never a time — ever — when some room in our house does not desperately need to be picked up. I’m going to be very brave here and show you a picture of what our living room looked like today, March 3, at 2:07 p.m.:
I will never summon the courage to take a similar picture of our office. It is way, way more embarrassing than this photo.
And the laundry. Oh, dear God — the laundry! It is just out of control. I fantasize about donating all our clothes to the Goodwill so I don’t have to do another stinking load of wash.
I do OK on dinner, I guess. Mostly. And I’m super good at lunches (if I may toot my own horn).
But most days when I walk into the house, I want to immediately walk out again to find someplace — any place — else to be so that I don’t have to engage in the endless cycle of loading the dishwasher, picking up toys, starting the laundry, and on and on ad nauseum.
I also didn’t anticipate how different the boys’ schedules would be. Between Wyatt’s school drop-off and pick-up, Augie’s naps and the necessity of feeding everyone, there really isn’t much time for fun family activities in a day.
And then there’s the boredom. I love spending time with Augie, but at 18 months, he’s not much of a conversationalist. And the five year old is an excellent communicator, but all he wants to talk about is Batman. It would be nice if he could read the latest book of Sedaris essays so we could discuss it over chai, but it’s just not happening. It’s been really hard to move from a challenging job that required my full brain capacity, sophisticated problem-solving skills, and constant interaction with lots of different people to a job that requires that I wash dishes, change diapers and point to objects and say what color they are in a clear and deliberate voice. Let’s face it – the work of a stay at home mom, isn’t exactly scintillating. It’s very important and it’s challenging in its own way, but a whole heck of a lot of it is boring, repetitive drudgery.
There are incredible sweet spots of course. I missed much of Wyatt’s first year because I was working full time, so I have treasured being there for all of August’s milestones. When I’m feeling down, I can almost always coax a giggle or two out of my kids to cheer me up. And I love being there to pick Wyatt up from school every day. I love how his face lights up when he spots me among the parents milling around outside the Kindergarten door.
Then there are other benefits that I never would have anticipated. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a little girl and now, for the first time since I graduated from college I have a little bit of time to actually do it. And there’s this crazy bento thing in my life that I never would have seen coming in a million years. And I actually manage to do some crafting now and then which is also pretty satisfying.
So yeah – it’s a mixed bag. Some days I love it. Some days I don’t. But right now, it’s who I am and what I do.