We had Baby X’s one year birthday party this weekend. I invited some family that I am not close to and haven’t seen in a while. While I was doing the rounds, my uncle asks me what I do for work. Well… the bitchy inner teenager wanted to snap at him and launch into a tirade about how being a stay at home mom IS work, that it’s hard work, and it deserves his respect. The more socially adept inner adult won out and I said that I do some freelance editing. This is true. I do that. What caught my attention was my relief at being able to say this. This side job of mine is a recent addition to my life. In the past, I just shrugged the question off guiltily and muttered something about going back to work eventually.
When did raising your children yourself become so unacceptable? Why is being a stay at home mommy not enough? Women have long been the caregivers and it was only recently that we started to have careers and paychecks. Does feminism mean becoming a man? I think of it as embracing all the possibilities of being a woman. We have a brain and a uterus, is it so wrong to want to use both? Women have struggled to be accepted into the working world. We still struggle to make equal pay and hold equal positions. There is this sense that a woman should work her 8+ hour day and then come home and do her second shift as mom and wife. She should do this with a smile on her face, perfectly filed nails, and high heels.
Before I became a mother, I wondered what stay at home moms did all day. Was it just an endless cycle of soap operas and Starbucks? Wasn’t it boring? How could it possibly be fulfilling intellectually? I don’t know what I do all day. I can tell you how many times my son pooped and the exact consistency. I can tell you what he ate and how long he napped. The television only goes on after dark when hubby and I settle in to watch an episode in bed. Starbucks would require pants and thirty minutes of prep work to get myself and my child ready for the drive thru. I do sometimes get bored. I get tired of hearing his toys play the same songs. My most intellectual conversation today consisted of the words ‘yeah’ and ‘kitty cat’.
The most striking thing for me is the loneliness. I am never alone. Not when I sweep or sleep. Not grocery shopping or showering. Using the bathroom usually entails trying to keep my toddler from shoving his rubber ducky in the toilet behind my butt. Despite this, there is loneliness. There is going to the grocery store and hoping some other mom is there too. Then, maybe she will catch my eye and we will share an empathetic smile or a few quick words on whose baby is doing what. Being a stay at home mom means never being able to hold a phone conversation without your child trying to eat the phone and crying when you won’t let him. It means that everyone else is busy at work, talking and laughing. They get a chance to eat their food when it is warm (or at all). There aren’t cheerios in their cleavage or sticky fingers in their hair.
I am there for every cry, every word, every step. I don’t miss out of the minutia of his childhood. I know exactly what he eats and touches. I don’t have to worry about a stranger molesting him, hitting him, stealing him. I don’t have to pay a fortune for someone else to raise my kid. There is a sense, though, that since I “get” to stay home all day that I should be so grateful that I never complain or feel overwhelmed. What could be better than sitting around all day in my pajamas? I just have to ‘watch’ the kid, after all.
Even now, I feel like I should end this blog with a paragraph about how I know how lucky I am and how rewarding it is. That would alleviate some guilt over writing a blog about how hard it is to not work. I’m not going to do that. You can’t make me. You’re not my mom.