I’m cheating again. Posting something previously published. But I’ve been inspired by a post from a mom defending her choice to stay home -“I Was a Stay-at-Home Mom – and My Marriage Survived” by Empty-Nest, Full Mind blogger Sharon Greenthal.
It was a terrific piece, and even though I wasn’t a stay-at-home mom for most of my momming years, who am I to argue? Your experience is your experience and that’s all anyone has to go on. So I thought I’d publish this rebuttal…though it’s not really a rebuttal.
After my essay was published in Metro Parent magazine last year, the editor published a letter the following month from a reader who thought I was making fun of moms who stayed home. I really wasn’t. I was just reporting on my experience.
Essay starts here…as if you couldn’t figure that out. Well, maybe you couldn’t. Heh-heh. Heh. I’m joking, I’m jok…eh, forget it.
For most of my parenting years, I was a mom who worked away from home, with co-workers, performance reviews and my very own cubicle. As working moms often do, however, I wondered what it would be like to stay home, especially when I ran errands on my lunch hour and watched other moms push strollers carrying infants, toddlers and diaper bags.
Like a sorority for stay-at-home mothers, they were chatty, relaxed and presumably in no hurry to get back to the office for a meeting or voicemails. It looked like a pleasant thing to do in the middle of the day.
As our children got older, I continued to fantasize about staying home, particularly on days when I had to leave work early to pick up a kid who wasn’t feeling well, or haul ‘em both to the orthodontist. If only I could stay home and take care of this stuff! Logistically, it had to be easier, right?
At the time, it was also hard to escape the influence of Oprah “I-always-knew-I-was-destined-for-greatness” Winfrey. Especially when she was quoted saying, over and over, “The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.”
I wondered if my destiny lacked greatness. Did it? I liked my job, but I wasn’t in love with it. What were my dreams, anyway? I’d always liked to write, and I had been published in a few magazines and newspapers. But it was always on the side, as a hobby. Was that my path to greatness? To write full-time? Without the distractions of a real job?
It wasn’t as though I was treated like a criminal at work. Rather, I was treated quite well. As a provider of work/life balance programs, my employer at various times let me job-share, work part-time, and full-time with telecommuting privileges. It wasn’t like my fellow employees were creepy, either. They were educated, fancy-with-the-spreadsheet types who could speak in front of 25 people and conduct a Power Point presentation at the same time. The structure kept me on track. At work, I worked, and at home, I folded laundry while my husband scrubbed toilets and mowed the lawn.
Nevertheless, when a corporate reorganization eliminated my job a few summers ago, I was ready to fulfill my destiny. Working at home while raising teenagers, here I come!
At first, every day was like a pretty Monet painting. My employers were kind enough to lay me off in the summer, so the sun shone and the birds sang while I made leisurely trips to Target for toothpaste, toilet paper and liquid laundry detergent. Finally, I could drive our kids to summer activities without slinking out of the office early, hoping no one would notice. When the kids returned to school, I didn’t shower while others were still sleeping, and some days, I worked out to Regis and Kelly just because I felt like it.
Take that, old, semi-traditional work schedule.
Eventually, I started to write. And I got published: here, there, a little bit everywhere. But the field of freelance writing is so vast it took me a long time to wrap my brain around all the possibilities. Plus, I am a slow writer. It was hard to fire off finished pieces without a lot of thought. I wanted to be thorough! Accurate! Reliable! Trustworthy!
Then entire days flew by without feeling like I accomplished anything, especially when the laundry buzzer went off every two seconds while I wasted time on Facebook. Sometimes I had just as much trouble getting dinner on the table as I did when I was working, and our kids seemed to think all I did was pet the dog.
That’s okay, though – I’ve given up on greatness. I’ll never rocket-ship to the top. For me, life has been best lived in phases where priorities competed for my attention like glittery costumes on Dancing with the Stars. Like they should, I suppose. Maybe a good life is the sum of all that. Though I didn’t always know it, the best phase, perhaps, was the one I was in.
Tell me your experience.