After finding out that I am a stay at home mom, a working mama recently asked my husband, what does your wife do all day?When Danny told me about the question it made me laugh. The question was loaded with an isn’t-she-bored, why-are-you-putting-her-in-slave-labor, doesn’t-she-have-a-brain undertone. It’s funny because sometimes I’m bored and sometimes I feel like a slave and sometimes I’m not sure I have a brain but my decision to stay home is just as calculated as another mama’s decision to go to work.
The question has been sticking in my brain, and I admit, making me question my validity (she obviously touched a nerve), thus making me perturbed that for some reason I feel like I need to defend my validity. You can imagine the conversation that has been going on in my head and I would love to bring it out of my head so please join in! I know this is not a typical topic for this blog but it is relevant to me today.
In a family, in a marriage, I think there is this list of needs and it-would-be-nices. Those lists are extremely different depending on the family dynamics. How much money can you live on, how many kids do you have, what are the specific needs of those kids, is anyone dealing with health problems, what city do you live in, what are the resources available, etc. The two adults (in an ideal world, I know many do it on their own) then make a game plan, weighing each others strengths and weakness, wants and desires, on how to take care of the needs and make the it-would-be-nices happen within that family. I see it as an equation, you have a, b, and c and somehow you need to turn them into x and the two of you need to figure out how to make that happen. If you have kids, the list is significantly more complex. Does mom stay home or does dad? Does grandma live with you and you both work? Do you hire a nanny or do day care and both work? Do the two of you work at different times so one is always with the kids? Do you work from home until your kids are old enough to go to school? Danny and I attack our equation as a team, both making different sacrifices and enjoying different hard and easy moments of the day to make it happen, to accomplish our family goals. The way that your family chooses to solve your equation is probably different than how Danny and I tackle our equation. Since my equation is so different than yours it seems pea-brained for me to judge your decisions based on my equation, yet, many of us still do that.
Up until 3 months ago I was a working mama myself. It is what the survival of my family required. I know many women do it and I’m glad they do. A lot of moms with little kids work around their husband’s schedule, do weird creative things to make money, swap for childcare, work at horrible hours so their kids won’t feel it, pay exorbitant amounts for childcare to provide a nice environment for their kid, become coupon goddesses to live on very little, etc. Can we just say it, women as a whole have done crazy things to take care of their family.
Flashback: Thanksgiving 2012, 8.75 months pregnant. Saving for maternity leave I worked a 10 hour shift as a video relay operator (interpreting between Deaf and Hearing telephone calls) because I needed the time and a half so bad. I left that shift with swollen elephant legs, ready to collapse from exhaustion but smiling because I made almost $500 to pay for post-baby groceries.
When I see accomplished women making a real impact in their field I am inspired. When I see a mama fight the urge to scream and somehow muster up that patient consistent voice I am inspired. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive though, you can be a good mama and a good professional. I think to do both well, though, requires A LOT of energy and probably way less sleep than I am currently getting. And for me, carrying the financial burden of my family and being a good mama pulled me so significantly I thought that I was going to lose it. It wasn’t a good solution to our equation for very long.
Flashback: January 2013, newborn baby 6 weeks old. Sitting in front of a university classroom in my new postpartum body interpreting for a lecture I looked down and milk was seeping through my shirt. Gross.
I have been the primary breadwinner with no kids, I have been the primary breadwinner with a kid, and now I am a stay at home mom. I will tell you with no hesitation, that the second one, being the primary breadwinner and having a child was the most taxing, pulling, impossible, tear inducing, creative scheduling time of my life. Now, at the time I was doing it I didn’t have the luxury of saying, working and being a mom is hard so I am going to stop working. We weren’t there, we needed my income, so too bad Betsy, if you like buying groceries you better get to work. I was consciously sacrificing some of my well being to get my family to a better place. I don’t say that as a martyr, I say that as a nod to the moms who feel pulled and pushed and have creative scheduled up the wazoo and it feels hard. Good job mama, I’ve been there. My life has eased up just a little and I feel it.
Flashback: April 2014, 1.5 year old child. Again, sitting in a university class interpreting. My student motioned to me to look at my purse where a line of ants were marching to and from. The go-to snacks that live in all mother’s bags, crunched up and half eaten, had attracted some little friends who were excited to gather lunch. Again, gross.
Anyway, what do I do all day? Really, my house should be cleaner, there should be significantly more hilarious blog posts going on here, there should be way more delicious dinners happening, I should be skinnier, and my kid should be reading by now with the time I have to dedicate to him. That’s not my reality though. I have a 2 year old and I spend the day chasing him and trying to provide enough stimulation to get him through the day. Just to feed and clothe the boy and keep him safe literally takes my whole day. The details are boring but it is my life. Writing makes me happy and I try to make that a priority as much as I can. Is that just me? Should I be fitting more in? I don’t know or really care right now.
Flashback: Last week, 2 year old son. I came out of the bathroom to find blue sharpie all over my leather couch, rug, tv stand, side table, pillows, etc. I spent the next 8 hours researching, scrubbing, soaking, and venting to anyone who would listen.
In order to be in a place where I can be a stay at home mom took us some major sacrificing and a fair amount of good fortune. I spent the last 5 years supporting my husband so he could get enough education and experience to have an income good enough to support us on its own. I waited until I was 30 years old to have my first kid and then have waited to have our second, it was pretty clear right away that I couldn’t do more than one kid and work and stay sane. It is not an accident I am here, it was an intentional path we have been working toward for quite some time.
Working moms, I salute you. It is not easy to leave your littles in the care of someone else and to be pulled in two directions. Stay at home moms, I salute you. Good job not strangling your child and good job taking a shower.
I really don’t prescribe to one perfect scenario for each mama but I do wish we were less judgy of each other. For me, choosing to stay at home is not because I’m not capable of doing anything else, it is not because we couldn’t use some more money, and it’s not because my husband is a chauvinist who likes the idea that I’m locked up at home for whenever he might want some homemade bread. It is because this is the way that works for us, it is the way we have chosen to get all of our family’s needs met. If we needed to, we could get creative and do it a different way I have no doubt. If you are doing it a different way than us that is okay by me.
I think I just need to stick up for moms for a minute. Stay at home moms and working moms and everyone in between. The majority are doing the best they can with the circumstance they are in. Let’s just function on the assumption that stay at home moms have a brain and that working moms love their babies fiercely, mmmmmk?
It is important to me that the paths that I walk everyday bring light and life to those around me. It is important to me that my child sees me being respectful and kind to people and about people. It is important to me that I dedicate my limited free time intentionally. I hope that somehow between the syrup stuck to my kitchen floor and the sharpie incident that I am accomplishing some semblance of the bigger picture.
Now, a message from our local sponsor on how cool moms are: