Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Confessions of a Homemaker

Can women really have it all?
I'm talking Motherhood + Work.
Yahoo's new CEO, Melissa Mayer, claims you can.
As I prepare to re-enter the workforce,
I am struggling with this notion more than I ever thought possible.
Let me break it down for y'all...

Since finishing grad school and giving birth to my first son,
I have been a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) / housewife.
I used to be on the working woman's side of "wow, it must be nice to be able to stay at home, workout, watch T.V., go shopping all day, doing whatever you please."
Then, I actually became a SAHM / housewife.
(And quickly realized that general self-care and hobbies fly out the window.)

I, as you may gather, am not a fan of Presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
But his wife recently underwent scrutiny for "never working a day in her life."
Never worked a day in her life?!
She raise FIVE boys!
Nannies or not, that is a major accomplishment.

Boys are energetic.
Boys are fun.
Boys are messy.
Boys eat you out of house and home.
Boys are involved in LOTS of activities and sports.
Boys get into trouble and fights.
Boys accidentally break things...bones and housewares alike.
Boys become men, and it is your job, to make sure they become gentlemen.
Thus, raising 5 boys "right" is no walk in the park.
(Neither is raising just 1 child, for that matter.)

You see, people who are not moms do not realize,
that being one is a 24/7, 365, for-the-rest-of-your-life kind of gig.
And not only the kind of gig you really want to excel at, but also
the kind of "job" that matters more than anything you could ever  do for yourself.

The media better be damn thankful they didn't say something like that to me.
And I only have one son, so far, and a moderately sized home to look after.
But I will  have respect.
Just ask my husband!
He will come home from his 8-hour day at work and ask,
"What did you do today?"
It's an innocent question, I guess.
He's most likely generally interested and/or being polite.
But for some reason, maybe because I know he is anxious for me to get back to work,
this question immediately puts me on the defensive.
And I occasionally snap.
"What do you mean  'what did I do?'
Do you think I've been sitting around all day with my feet up?"
I've been busy.
Like, so busy I-could-fall-asleep-in-2-seconds-and-sleep-for-five-years-straight.
And then, even though I know I've been run ragged all day
(especially considering the broken nights of sleep since my first trimester),
I begin to question myself,
my overall worth as a person and wife.
What did  I do all day?
I  know I've been busy, but what proof do I have to account for all of my time?

So what's an ambitious perfectionist to do?  Make a list.
So that's exactly what I did one day - I logged all of my activities.

Here, honey. Here's what I did today...

Played with baby on activity mat, including lots of rolling and tummy time.
"Talked" about what we were prepping for dinner as he sat in his Bumbo.
We read two board books.
We watched Classical Baby on T.V. and an e-book on SqoolTube.
I fed him 7 times.
I changed his diaper 6.

While he napped throughout the day, I watered the plants, deep-cleaned the master bath, blogged and ate lunch, clipped and organized coupons, got/went through the mail, took out the garbage, updated my LinkedIn profile, checked my emails, pumped my breasts so he'd have future food to eat, read and took notes from my "How to Raise a Brighter Child" book, and brainstormed questions to ask potential nannies.
We went for a short walk outside.
While he played in the crib with his blocks and musical mobile, I cleaned and filled his humidifier, put away his clean laundry, and filed away too-small NB/0-3 month clothes in a storage bin.
While he was in his swing, listening to classical music, I did a shit ton of dishes, baked blueberry muffin bread for tomorrow's breakfast, cleaned the microwave and fridge, threw in a load of laundry, and made homemade shower scrub.
While he bounced in my lap and I sang him songs, I mentally planned the rest of my to-do list (assembling scrapbooks, working out, etc.) and when he fell asleep, I worked on another job application.

Then, all of a sudden, it was 5 o'clock.
I guess I will shower when dad gets home?
And I guess I didn't really need that nap.
And hopefully I will squeeze in that workout tomorrow.

You see, expectations are higher when you're a SAHM.
When you're a full-time homemaker,
just being a mom and running your household isn't enough anymore -
there's all this other stuff your husband, your child's school, your community, your working friends, your parents, and in-laws expect you to do.
Can you pick up the dry cleaning?  Deposit this check?  Mail this package?  Go to lunch?  And how haven't you shed those last 8-ish pregnancy pounds yet?
You've got the time, remember?  You're not working, right?

If you're not running on all cylinders -
raising the happiest, friendliest, most accomplished, and well-behaved kids,
feeding them the healthiest, most delicious, home-cooked food,
and providing the husband a blissful, immaculately clean oasis to come home to -
then you're a failure.
(At least, I feel that way.)
I mean, after all, it's your  job.

So, I can't help but sometimes feel that this new division of labor
means that I've suddenly somehow become my husband's assistant.
"You've really got to get this cluttered mess in order."  (Okay, that's fair.)
"You really need to clean these _______."  (Well, you could help.)
"The baby needs to get to bed earlier."  (Again, could use some help here.)
"You've really got to put all these dishes away!" (I know! Shut up!)
And believe it or not,
"You really need to do something about those toenails."
He probably means, "Pamper yourself for an hour.  You deserve it."
But what I hear is, "You really ought to make yourself more attractive."
(Maybe then he'll run away with his secretary - oh wait, that's me!)

I know that my husband wants / expects me to go back to work.
And I often sometimes miss working with adults.
I mean, I went to school and earned 3 degrees,
logging long hours and years  of hard work to become a nurse practitioner.
I need to work (and should want to).

(And, let's face it,
while I'm beyond thrilled to be able to spend time with my son,
cleaning and errand-running are boring, soul-sucking tasks.)

But, it's not that simple.  Or easy.
I hope my husband - and everyone else - knows that you can't be
a domestic goddess and Mother of the Year while working full-time.
I don't care what kind of Superwoman you think you are.
It's truly impossible.
You'll inevitably end up doing your "day" job and "mommy" job each half-assed.
I'm beginning to see that.
I wish someone would have told me that.
Or, maybe someone did.

So, what gives?
Do you work full-time nights & stay at home during the day,
never stopping for sleep?  Unrealistic.
Do you sacrifice being Super Mom in order to be able to live a more extravagant lifestyle - being able to travel, eat out, live in your big dream house, send your kids to a fancy private school, etc. - by working Monday-Friday, 8a-5p?
Only to have half of your paycheck go to employing a nanny / housekeeper
to raise your children and maintain your home?
(Jobs you certainly would rather do and could, arguably, do much better yourself.)
People do it.  Every. Single. Day.
Or, do you go back to work part-time?
And try to do your 2 jobs slightly-better-than half-assed?

And, perhaps most importantly,
who wants to receive a text message from their nanny,
saying that your child said their first word or took their first wobbly step?
Who even wants to miss the little daily things,
like feeding your baby and rocking him to sleep?

What mother wants to miss any  of that?
I imagine not one.
Certainly, not me.

But it's usually not a choice for women.
LOTS of women must  go back to work full-time to make ends meet.
And they make it work.
They raise healthy, happy families.
Maybe their house isn't spotless.
Maybe they have to cook dinner out of a Kraft box sometimes.
But all in all, they (and their families) usually come out unscathed.

Besides, I really do want  my children to see me working.
I want them to know that hard work pays off, that NOTHING comes for free.
I want to role model successful, hard-working behaviors.

But that doesn't come guilt-free.
No matter how much you "love" your 9-5,
(or just clock the hours to pay the bills),
 you have to always be missing what's at home.  Terribly.

Being a mother is hard!
I know that probably makes me sound like a drama queen and a huge whiner.
I can hear you, readers, saying "Get over yourself!  You can't possibly be spending every minute of your day shopping and cleaning and trying to better your child.  Make time to do something else!  Get a hobby!  Cripes, take a shower!  Find a part-time job!  Help out a charity!  Blog!
And I'm trying to do all of that.  I'm getting there.  Slowly.
All I am saying, is that the transition
of being a full-time SAHM to re-entering the workforce
is a HUGE adjustment.
I cry every single day thinking about leaving my baby in someone else's hands.
(I can't even fathom going out to dinner and leaving him in a stranger's care!)
Maybe it gets easier.  (It must, right??)
Maybe when he's old enough to benefit from and enjoy being around other children, it will be easier to leave him and go to work.  But right now, every time I submit a job application, it pains my heart.

I'm no stranger to hard work.  It's not that aspect.
Nor do I doubt that I'm the type of mother / person,
who despite being exhausted after putting in an 8am to 5pm workday,
will come home with a second-wind of energy,
to smother my baby in hugs and kisses,
give him a bath,
read him stories,
and sing him to sleep,
all after a home-cooked meal.
I worked full-time as an RN while simultaneously putting myself through graduate school.  I'm used to being busy and working long hours.
I come from a family of hard workers.
You do what you have to do.
And a dear, working "mom friend" assures me that there's nothing like "coming home to a little boy who's clearly missed his mama."

I know that going back to work probably needs to be done.
And sooner than later.
But I almost feel like, before becoming a SAHM,
I never really worked a day in my life.
And I certainly never had a career more rewarding.

So kudos to all mommies out there,
both of the stay-at-home and working varieties.
I know it is not easy, no matter what category you fall into.
And I know that we're all just trying to do what's best for our children!

I know I'm praying that the timing will be right,
and that a perfect part-time NP job will fall my way...
(all the while mentally preparing myself
for the very real likelihood of going back full-time.)

I'd love to hear how you  make it work for you and your family.
mama b

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