I am a stay at home mom, belonging to a group that remembers its heyday in the 1950s and 60s, when women were expected to stay home and take care of housework and the family’s needs, watch soap operas and bake fresh cookies every day. Dresses with crinolines were optional, as was the heavy use of tranquilizers to get through the maddening dullness of everyday life. Smoking cigarettes was required.
Life has changed since then for the stay at home mom, although the tasks have stayed the same. Babies cry and need to be bathed and fed. Kids make messes that need to be cleaned up, grocery shopping needs to be done, as do laundry and cleaning. Car pools need to be arranged. The mundane is still mundane.
These days it is no longer implied that a mother will stay home to take care of the children. For many families this just isn’t possible. Lifestyles demand a dual income. When people find out that they are going to be parents, the smart ones sit down and map out a plan. They shop for daycare, figure out time off from work and save money for college. My husband and I were pretty young and less established when we found out we were going to be a family. We made one decision: I would be a stay-at-home mom.
This decision was easy to make. I didn’t have a career; had just started working, in fact. And my employer was gracious enough to let me to work from home, which was unusual at that time and the best of both worlds. Six years later I was no longer working for an income. Two months into full-time stay at home status and I was spending my days leisurely looking around for tranquilizers.
Eventually I got into a groove, and today I own this job.
My husband has an unusual work schedule, so his time at home varies. This suits me fine, since I am a loner who doesn’t require constant human interaction. I like the simplicity of aloneness. I like quiet. I like not sharing. And it’s nice to have one less person’s underwear to fold or plate to rinse off at the end of the day.
That’s not to say living without him is preferable, although sometimes it seems that way.
The problem with being alone so much is exactly the thing that draws me to it – I love it. When he returns home, there I am, finger waving at him: Pick up your shoes! Put those papers away! Stop yelling at the kids! Did you drop sauerkraut on the floor? He returns home, only to disturb my well-run machine, and his parts don’t fit. The machine has to be re-calibrated, and for what? A day where he works from home, say that again? I was planning to vacuum the floors. I don’t come to your workplace and mess up your system.
It’s not fair. I am not a 50s housewife, deferring and yes, dear-ing and fetching slippers and applying lipstick before he comes home (okay, I’ve done that – I love lipstick). I am SAHM, the CEO of this biz. So, you started a new company within your company today? Well, I got ninety-six gallons of laundry detergent for five bucks using two coupons. Now everyone has clean socks for another month. BOOM.
He doesn’t always appreciate my love of being alone. It’s an okay quality to have, but not when I’ve normalized his empty seat at the table. I’ve alienated him more than once. It’s something that I struggle with, something that our marriage struggles with.
But we make it work. We committed to it, and we take it seriously. The love is there. The family we’ve made, the life we’ve decided on – it’s hard, like anything in life. Plus, my love of being alone isn’t my biggest love. Once upon a time, it was him.
And it still is.
Happy 14th, Keith.
Um, this is your gift.