I realised with a start, between three and four am, on a random morning earlier this week, that the reality I call my ‘job’ which stresses and exhausts, (and delights and surprises and enriches) me, is what my husband comes home to at the end of a long day at the office, and considers a ‘time out.’
I know that his job is a little more cerebral and that his stresses are a little more fiscal and have wider impact than our family of four, but I have been feeling like a bit of a prisoner lately – wishing for a chance to escape for a few hours a day and wondering if it is not time to start looking for a part-time job of some kind. Purely for my own sanity and pocket money. But then this realisation dawned and I was quite flabbergasted. This is what he considers a break from the stress of a day.
It changed my perspective exponentially.
Here’s an interesting fact: the concept of a stay-at-home-mom is a relatively modern one. I know it seems old fashioned, but in reality, when we consider that we are a species of hunter/gatherers, the women were the gatherers. They would gather away, child on back or hip, and contribute to the home’s income and provision. They would gather away, looking at the tubas and legumes and fruit and perhaps observing changes of seasons and developing better gathering techniques or harvesting plans. Women of old were equal players in the homesteads of ancient times and we are really turning things on their heads by trying to justify staying at home and playing with kids while spending their spouse’s money as a profession. It simply isn’t the case.
And if you are a mother with half a brain, it is also quite a frustrating living at times. You can only talk gaga-googoo for so long before it becomes a bane.
Friends and family who are back at work with little children look on at the life of the stay-at-home-Mom and wish they could do the same. Stay-at-home-mom’s are, in fact, very often the envy of their working counterparts. But let me assure you, Working Moms, we often envy you. Admittedly NOT on the mornings when we have had a few meagre hours of broken sleep and feel frazzled to the max and could not face getting dressed, let alone functioning at any work-worthy capacity. And also not on the days when we have something fun planned for the day with the kids. Nor for the times when the kids aren’t well and they really need a mom. Or for the times when they wake up, after a good night’s sleep, and are in fun, happy moods and the day feels like an unopened gift. No, none of those times.
It’s for the day when the kids wake up a little whiney and want to be outside but the weather is inclement and they nag and they nag and they nag. Or the days when we wake up miserable for our own reasons and wish we could just sit and stare at a computer screen and simply formulate tables or insert data or proofread a document or whatever, but instead baby feels clingy and is not letting you use your arms. Or for the times we do escape to dinner parties or semi-corporate functions and the portly businessman comes and chats to your husband about some important business thingamagig and then asks you what you do for a living… that’s when we would like to be employed by someone other than the toddler at home with a sitter. Because you get that look or that comment.
So we can't all have it all. I know. But I have honest friends who will admit that being at work a few hours a day makes them better moms. I also have friends who will admit that they wished they had someone they trusted enough to leave their child with so that they could just make some time for themselves. I just wish I had more to my job description than “Mom,” at the moment; because even I want to give myself thatlook or that comment from time to time.
Here, working friends, are the things I miss most:
- · a glass of wine, or a cup of coffee, without being forced to fend off little hands or mouths
- · peeing/showering/brushing teeth alone and at length
- · a long, hot bath. I have had a few luke warm baths that last a while, but these have had children swimming in them too. Not quite the same therapeutic effect.
- · putting on hand-cream, make up, deodorant or stretch-mark formula, lip balm etc etc without a little hand popping up and asking for some
- · strong medicine for headaches, fever blisters or flu (still breastfeeding…)
- · long phone calls
- · short phone calls
- · professional phone calls
- · my iPad since it has now become toddler’s iPad and is filled with games where there used to be books and cooking apps
- · changing rooms – these days you buy what looks like it will fit, hope that it does, and take it before toddler/baby wakes or whines in the shop
- · super spicy foods, since its not fair to burn toddler’s fragile taste buds
- · romantic dinners with my husband, out or at home
- · complete conversations with friends
- · complete intellectual conversations that stimulate grey matter
- · un-animated television
- · reading in silence
I sound downright selfish, don’t I?
Got to put things in perspective here.
So choir, I am preaching to you now. And self, I am talking to you too. The fact that you have a husband slogging away dealing with a regular, full-time job all day and then still coming home and doing his bit with the kids makes you/me a lucky one. There are husbands out there who refuse to change diapers. And husbands out there who sleep through crying children.
Self, you need to, HAVE TO, appreciate what a precious time this is. And when you realise that, you will also realise that there are moments here you will never get again. Moments when you may want to throttle little necks, but also moments when your older child holds your little one and says, like you have said so many times to her, “Love you, hey.” And you are lucky enough to be there to witness it.
There are also times when friends who work look at their bosses and think, there is no amount of money in the world worth the shit you are giving me now. I remember what it was like to be at a job all day that felt just like an asylum. There are times when even my husband wishes he could run away from the stresses of his eight-to-six and hide from the world for a few days. No jobs are always happy or easy.
The good news for us stay-at-home Moms is, each phase passes. Children get cuter, bigger, easier. They go to school and give us mornings off. They become independent and eventually, if we did our jobs right, need us less and less. Our little spawn may eventually sleep through. Gosh, I hope so. And possibly even, if you’re lucky, stop asking for the Disney channel and start enjoying Glee.
Bosses don’t change character. Stresses don’t go away. Non-animated television is also overrated. And money will never say, “Love you, hey.”