Dedicated to Mary Elizabeth Morey
I know I know, hate is such a strong word. In recent years it has turned into a curse word. It is so easy to use and has so much implied rage.
The opposite, love, or it’s cousin, like, are so over-used they just fall off our tongues without any resonance. Hate on the other hand, the black swan, the scapegoat, the hot headed neighbor, is my go to word that highlights my discontent for this long adored role.
I hate being a stay at home mom. Hate it.
First, it is not a role I imagined I would play. You know how we force our children to eat veggies and they grow up hating broccoli. Well, being a stay at home mom was that disgusting veggie. I cringe. I have always been appalled by the taste and have never imagined serving it to myself.
My mom had a great career working for the state of Michigan. She wore skirts from department stores she could afford to purchase without a sale tag. She wore high heels and had a drawer full of designer jewelry. She wore panty hose and had highlights and always drove a new car. She had her own office with a giant desk my younger siblings and I hid under on school half days. She was a boss too. She had her own staff that came to her for constructive criticism and were not afraid to admit to her when they made a mistake. She is educated, approachable, helpful, and straight to the point. For the latter of her career, she handled it all as a white widow with five bi-racial kids. Things were not perfect, but that was all I knew. It was all I aspired to be; a working mom.
As far as I am concerned working hard is in my blood, it is the main taste that drives my pallet. From what I remember of my father is he worked every day. Not so early in the morning but late at night. He was a manager at Arbor Drugs. It is what he did to make money. He had a high school diploma and other jobs under his belt, but he was a damn good manager. He had a store and a staff and responsibilities he had to meet. He passed away when I was 7 years old. I have few memories of when he was alive but what lives in me is his work ethic.
Second, it was not my choice. I was blessed to bring two boys into the world 15 months apart. And what that world taught me is regardless of how your personal life changes, your professional life must remain the same. My career was demanding. Over the course of 11 years, I worked my way from a community service worker to a member of executive staff at a well-known religious non-profit. Under amazing mentors, I found my passion for business, people, and Christ. I was lucky enough to gain expertise in the business of resale and find a love for philanthropy during the majority of my moldable 20’s. Some would say I set the standard.
Before I even got the chance to prove I was capable of handling “2 under 2” and maintaining my professional status, I was terminated. I was devastated. All I dreamt of has been to bring children into the world and show them how education and hard work and a love for people could fill their lives. I never imagined I would not have a chance to teach them that the way I always dreamt.
To be clear, I can find a job. And one day I will find or develop a new career. I will build myself back up and climb whatever ladder I must to help provide for my family and make the world a better place. However, the cost of childcare is not supported by entry level positions or a love to work. The cost of a reliable car and insurance to drive it, is not covered by the hours in traffic and the 50 hours a week I would have to work just to get that ladder in my sights.
I spent most of my former career making decisions based on analysis of profit and loss statements, donation counts, and sales by class. Finding a new job and spending a fortune on childcare did not balance out to be ‘good business’. I could not stomach putting my need to have a working mom status before starving my family’s bank account. The decision made itself. My husband provides the income, I do everything else.
If I had hills to run to, I would be nesting in them every day. What crazy advertisement or sitcom created this monstrosity of glamour the stay at home mom is perceived to be? Nothing about this job is glamourous. The reward is lacking and the gratitude is nonexistent. Plus the pay check sucks.
Doing everything as a stay at home mom, means just that, handling it all. Through the tantrums, the diaper blow outs, and the loads of laundry the house still needs cleaning and the geriatric dog needs his butt wiped. The mundane, the chaotic, the insane. Day in and day out. For the most part all alone.
The care, or management, of retail workers is similar to the care needed to provide for a child. Clear instruction, set goals, expectations, teamwork, constructive criticism, and praise. Transitioning those skills to home maker was not difficult. Prioritizing my time to cook and clean, manage meal budgets, nap times, creative play, academia and socialization, mostly came with ease. But, like any good human resource manager will tell you, talent, or in a toddler’s case, personality, is a revolving door.
No matter how hard I work on a solid routine a new milestone comes and rips it away. Finally sleeping through the night, then teething begins. One perfectly scheduled nap to no naps. Leaving the house for as long as a diaper will last, to never leaving the house because, well, potty training. For almost two years I could not win at this job.
It does not help that babies are needy and toddlers are defiant. Not the type of employees I have experience managing. And their intensity is to the max when you have more than one. The intense and constant filling of needs for littles every minute of the day creates a new level of exhaustion no other job can compare. I managed a group of people who managed an even larger group of people. This should be a cake walk. The biggest difference is it’s not my cake and I don’t get to choose when to walk.
Getting ready for the day as a career woman was blissful. I rose to a gentle alarm, dressed myself in the best designer fashions, kissed my husband and off into the world I went. My 25 minute drive in traffic was glorious. I sipped coffee, listened to the news or belted out my favorite tunes. I thoughtfully planned my purpose and actions for the work day. Once I arrived, I was always met with the warmest hello from the parking lot attendant, Leonard. We started each and every work day exchanging smiles, scripture, and an overall feeling of gratitude – blessed to be alive and well another day. Some days were grueling, others were super productive and creative. Some days I needed extra coffee, other days felt like an 8 hour lunch break with friends. Each day had its end. I drove home with it all behind me (most of the time), feeling full, accomplished, grateful and prepared for whatever was waiting for me at home.
Now, I wake up almost every day to the simultaneous whines of two minions. The day starts with a need or an expectation my body is incapable of meeting because I “slept” with two little feet in my side.
“Hold me, feed me!”
“Wait —- can I please go pee and find my glasses”, I think to myself, out loud, every morning.
Most days you wouldn’t be able to tell I get dressed, because pajamas and lounge wear are dress code. Just like you wouldn’t believe I ever cleaned, and damnit my house is clean. When I make time to brush my teeth or put in a load of laundry, someone ends up dying in the other room. Kisses from the hubby evaporate faster than the sweat that is constantly dripping from my brow. And I am always anxiously waiting, in every moment, for disaster to strike. There is no clear planning for the day without distraction. There’s no Leonard. Where is my Leonard?
He came in the form of Prozac and cognitive therapy.
I broke. I became so depressed over the loss of my job and my disgust over never feeling successful in this new role, I contemplated life.
The stay at home mom struggle is real. Over the past two years I have found ways to survive (11 Ways I Survive Being a Stay at Home Mom). With the clarity antidepressants have given me and the courage I’ve taken to talk it all out, I have come to realize, by the grace of God, it is going to be ok.
A wonderful book I purchased prior to losing my job recently came off the dusty shelf. God Is Always Hiring: 50 Lessons for Finding Fulfilling Work by Regina Brett, has giving me a remarkable inspiration not to “confuse your work with your worth” because “God contemplates your work”. I know I am in this position for a reason and I will use how I’ve been designed to fulfill God’s purpose for me. And it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
It has taken a long time to align myself with this testimony but with prayer, patience, and forgiveness I’ve learned to “create a pocket of greatness” right where I am. And “even when you feel invisible, your work isn’t”. My babies are a reflection of everything good He has put in me. It is a blessing to see it and feel it in the many different ways each day provides. Things don’t happen to you, they happen for you and for everything there is a season.