Monday, June 23, 2014

This Is What I Do

Recently two separate people questioned me about my main occupation.  Because most people know I am a stay at home mom, I haven’t been asked this in a while.  When the subject came up, all the times I’ve been validated for my choice to work solely for my family seemed to dissipate and my words came out in a jumble.  And my mind screamed at me to get it together.

“I don’t work.” WHAT ARE YOU SAYING, you don’t work?  Are you SERIOUS?  “Well, I mean, I’m just a mom.” JUST?  Get with it, stupid!  All those articles you’ve read, all those other moms you’ve counseled over coffee at playdates, all the times you lifted up others –  you just undid it all!

I made excuses. “Well, my husband’s job is very demanding and I have to be completely flexible to be there for the kids because his job makes him unreliable.” Wow – way to throw him under the bus like that.  “I used to work, but it was too hard to keep up with everything, so I quit, and I didn’t like it well enough to go back to it when the kids were in school.” You are a wimp and a spoiled brat. “I went to school to become a psychology professor, but I’d have to go back and get my PhD, and that’s not going to happen.” Lazy.




Maybe I froze because I don’t get asked that question anymore.  Maybe it’s because I haven’t been feeling well and my guard was down.  Or maybe I had a weak moment and for unknown reasons, wanted to avoid the truth.

But nothing I said was a lie.  My husband’s job is demanding.  I didn’t like my old job that much. I have no connection to academia anymore.  It’s true, I’m spoiled - some days I do more bonbon eating than anything else.  In addition, appropriating a “mom” job like public school aide, lunch lady, even substitute teacher holds no interest for me.  Spending my days teaching other people’s children?  Not for me.  Selling jewelry, purses, or beauty products – jobs made for moms by moms – also is not really my thing.

The truth is – I don’t want another job.  This one is enough.  It’s unpaid, thankless, and humble, but this is what I do.  I have no plans to do anything else.  My kids are still at home, and therefore, so I will be.  I could do any number of other things, but my life was constructed for this very thing. 



Am I worried that I’ve been “unemployed” for so long?  Not really.  I might tell people that I am because it’s probably the right thing to say, that I’m aware I might be hindering my chances at later real contribution to society, but secretly, I don’t care. 

I don’t care that I haven’t had a real job in almost ten years and that I don’t earn a steady paycheck, not even that I rely on my unreliable husband for food, clothing, and shelter.  Turns out he is more reliable than I claim.

I care that my kids are home with me in the summer, that I can go to the grocery store every day at ten o’clock if I want to, that I can waste a day reading or internetting or napping or watching TV and there are no repercussions more severe than the dust collects on all the furniture for yet another day.



I care that my family depends on me to hold them all together.  Sure, I could do that even if I was paid to do something else.

But I don’t do anything else.  This is it.

And for me, it’s enough.  I guess I just need more practice saying it.

One day in first grade, my son's teacher gave each child 
the choice of one book to bring home and keep.
This was his selection.



  *******



36 comments:

  1. This is perfect and it is exactly what I needed to read this morning. My younger son starts full time school this fall, and in my mind, I've been telling myself that now I NEED a job (not for financial reasons, but because it's just sort of expected) but the truth is I don't WANT a job. I want to be here every day to get my kids ready for school and to be here every day when they get off the bus. I want weekends and school breaks to hang with them. It makes me feel lazy to want those things, but it really is what I want.

    Thanks for writing this today.

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    1. I'm so glad this spoke to you today, MJ!

      The pressure is real to get out there, isn't it? I suppose it's the case with any job - it is expected to want more, to be more, to do more. We need to remind ourselves that being home when they get off the bus and getting them ready in the mornings and hanging out with them in the summer are actual tasks that this particular job demands.

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  2. All I can think as I read this is, "God do I wish you lived closer so that we could go out to lunch together and let our dust bunnies collect for a little longer!"
    Seriously. I deeply know Every. Single. Word. And, I, too, needed to read it this morning.

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    1. You are so sweet to say that, and I'm glad you can relate, Shannon! It would be awesome to get together and commiserate about how misunderstood we are. And to avoid housecleaning.

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  3. I think this is perfect, Andrea. We all need to follow our hearts a little more in life, I think, and stop forcing ourselves to be tied to ideas - or jobs, or whatever - that we know aren't right. I can't tell you how much I admire you.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa - I'm humbled by your comment. :) It's hard to be happy with what we have when the whole society tells us that we should want, and have, more of everything.

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  4. Yes, yes and yes!
    A couple of years ago, my brother actually remarked that he worried my brain would "go soft" from the lack of a job. Seriously? My mind has never been sharper. One has to be, with little kids, yes?

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    1. You said it! Some days, just keeping the calendar straight and the kids occupied exhausts me, and I don't even have to get up from my chair. I'm smarter and quicker now than I have ever been.

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  5. I love this. I have been in the position of stay at home mom, part-time mom/part-time employee and full time career girl. To be honest the most difficult one of all was the stay at home mom job. You take on so many roles that sometimes you can't remember who you are. But I have to say that, being the most difficult, it is also the most rewarding as you see your children grow into interesting and incredible adults. I have seen the fruits of your labor and I can attest you do your job more than 100%.

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    1. Thanks so much, Ellen! It's so nice to hear that from others - I really appreciate it!

      You're so right - you never know if you're doing a good job until you see who your kids turn out to be. I think that's the reason why we forget that we are "working" as moms - we don't get immediate and tangible rewards from our efforts.

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  6. It is really the most important job I have ever had. I'm grateful :-) I actually explained myself that way the other day...too much? probably

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    1. Not too much, because I feel it's true, but I think I get a few eyerolls when I say it, too. Like "Yeah, whatever you have to say to convince yourself, lady." :)

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  7. I always thought it would become less important to be home as they got older. Somehow, it seems more important (and mine aren't even that old!) But juggling schedules and helping with homework and just being around when they need to chat are all things I hadn't really anticipated when I decided to "stay home while they're little."

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    1. I thought it was less important, too. Everyone I know started returning to work when their kids went to first grade. But I didn't, and I was left wondering if I was doing something wrong. Now I see that my kids need me to be home for very different reasons now than when they are little.

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  8. I could really relate to this post. What if this is, really, what we WANT TO DO? That's how I felt when I was home w/ my kids and when I worked part-time. Yes.

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    1. Yes. It's time for me to admit ALL THE TIME that this is really what I want to be doing with my life. And not explain it away.

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  9. I love this post! You are working the most important job of your life! Creating, molding and shaping the worlds future society member! That is a huge responsibility! I had the career, made my own $$ and it sucked. I missed so much in my Little Dudes life. I'm so happy not working!

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    1. Thanks so much, Sarah! I love hearing from moms who went from professional to mom that say the latter is more fulfilling. It makes me feel validated for my choice. I'm happy that you're happy with your decision!

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  10. You articulated my thoughts exactly. When I think of a friend who has an honest to God actual job, I'm kind of amazed. That makes me sound so house wifey and little womany, but it is what it is. I quit my job because a) I was having twins, and b) they were so premature that by the time my FMLA was up, they were too fragile to put in a daycare anyway. But I'm not gonna lie - I mental checked out of my job the instant I saw 2 little beans on the sonogram.

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    1. Mentally checked out is how I would describe the feeling I had when I found I was pregnant, too - I remember asking my boss if I could work from home, knowing that if he had said "no" then I would have quit right there. Housewifey and womany - hee hee. Me too.

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  11. I quit my job 2 yrs ago when my youngest was born with every intention of going back right about now. But now that the time has come, I am dreading it and can't even fathom how I could. Life is too short to do something that makes you miserable. Now if only I could win the lottery.

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    1. Winning the lottery is always on the top of my wish list, too. We went without cable, eating out, eating MEAT, and countless other things when I first quit just so we could get used to one salary. Eventually we added all those things back, even though we did just fine without them.

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  12. The Princess Leia photo is FANTASTIC! (I did the same once)
    I had more of an office job before kids so I guess I thought I'd need to go back there. And I think I would die.
    I'm slightly different because my husband's job didn't allow for me not to work but the photography business is slow and getting steady and hopefully.. I'll never have to go back to an office. Ever.
    I think your story is fantastic and important and YOU.

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    1. I had an office job, too, and I can't go back, either. I admire you for cultivating a talent like photography, because that is something you can do for the rest of your life, something you will get better and better at doing. Thanks for the kind words!

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  13. Ah yes to all of the above - so much did i love that i could be there for my kids and hated sending them away .. .that we have now homeschooled, and traveled and done as we please for the last 6 years. Suddenly and most unexpectedly divorced, i am faced with a now what. Quite an awakening i might tell you ...

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    1. I'm so sorry that this happened in your life. We simply can't plan for these things, can we? Doing so implies that our relationships are not as solid as we want them to be, which of course, they never are.

      I guess this awakening you describe is always at a low rumble in the back of my head, too. I lament the fact that I have never supported myself, but I don't let that fact keep me from doing this. I *think* I could if I had to.

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  14. I have been at this job of being a wife,mother, homemaker, yard tender, pool maintainer, command central, etc., for 30 years and as my last of four graduates college, I still have no burning passion to be anything but what I am..Oh sure I have taken the road less traveled, and it was very lonely for me at times, and I felt all you are saying...still get an occasional sting from ignorant comments, but I sincerely have felt my passions and creativity live and flourish where I never felt in a part time or full time "outside" job. Call me the one who still is taking the road less traveled, but then, for my soul, it's been a prettier walk and one i have felt fortunate to travel on! I dont even have children as an "excuse" to live this lifestyle anymore, but the fact that i have two toddler grandchildren will now give me a second opportunity to experience yet again the charming opportunites of being home!

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    1. What a great perspective - thank you for sharing!

      I used to joke that I have been given these years to "find" myself - who else gets that luxury but a stay at home mom? The more time that goes by, the more I see it as a gift I have been given to develop my own passions and creativity as you have. I try not to squander it and have something to show for it, but I know that my kids will be my biggest achievement!

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  15. I am very similar to you, just a few years behind and with an extra kid. And you know what, I know it's cliche and been said a million times, but this IS a real job. And what you opened my eyes to? Yes, my hubby's job is very demanding too and he would not be able to do even half the shit I do on a daily/weekly basis. Girl, we work and we work hard and so yeah, we deserve a day of bon bons and internet every now and again... Preach it!

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    1. That's right! I don't feel guilty for my downtime, not even a little bit - sometimes. Until, of course, I look around and the same piles that were there four months ago are still there, and I think, holy crap, get your act together, woman!

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  16. YES! This!!!!!! Exactly this. It is so frustrating the volume of people asking me when I will be going back to work now that my youngest will be starting kindergarten. I just don't get it. Like I will just be sitting around sleeping for the 6+ hours a day my kids are in school. Not that I might be paying bills, running errands, cleaning floors, doing laundry, making meals, volunteering at school, cutting the grass, shoveling the driveway, grocery shopping, cleaning bathrooms, and God forbid, maybe doing something for myself like going for a run. Luxurious, I know. And why do I have to get a job to fill those 6 hours when I will then just have to quit (or PAY someone to watch my 4 kids) when summer rolls around? I don't want a job right now. My family, my home, is my job. And I am so lucky that I enjoy it.
    Will I go back to work someday? Of course. When I and my family are darn good and ready. The end.

    Perfect post! Thank you!

    Came here via Elaine. :)

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    1. You're absolutely right, Kat! All the people I know who went back to work when their kids went to school - I wondered, who on earth would you do that? Give yourself another job to do, on top of all the other stuff that your family now relies on you to do?

      Will I go back to work someday? I don't know. Will my husband be able to tackle half of the stuff that I do now? Because I don't think I could manage having two full time jobs.

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  17. Best. Job. Ever. - with no apologies. Love this. xo

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  18. Beautiful post! This spoke to me. I'll be home with my kids for the long run. We homeschool too, but I cannot see myself out there working while they are off in the summer. Thanks for this :-)

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    1. Thanks for commenting, and for sharing your experience! This summer (so far) has been really great at home with my kids. I think we have just hit our stride. And in five years they will be starting to leave our nest, so I am soaking up these years as much as I can. Recently I've gotten a little sentimental about them. Go figure. :)

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