Monday, November 5, 2012
The Happy Homemaker
Recently I had to sign some tax forms and below my name it said, "Homemaker" so I giggled like I do every year because that sounds like such a 1950's term. Since I giggle every time, Kenny offers to have it changed every time and I re-explain that homemaker is exactly what I am and I don't mind at all. My laugh is over the outdated term. I have a lot of friends who are also considered "stay at homes" or "housewives" and we all manage to juggle the many jobs that being that involves.
I saw an article - probably you saw it too - that in a tongue-in-cheek way tried to explain that we ought to be making over 100k a year for the services we provide as drivers, short order cooks, housekeepers, laundresses, nurses, tutors. They're not wrong - it's a ton of work to do in a year. As a stay at home, you get to be the catch-all person for all the stuff nobody else has time for as well, so I think the experts probably added in a category for all the unspeakable parts of parenthood called "janitorial staff". OH, and they left out therapist, spiritual advisor, and bodyguard, nutritionist and trainer.
Because Olivia and Christopher are not little I can say that my day is no longer consumed with some of these roles really and I'm happy for that. The moms I see who are trying to juggle those responsibilities with very young children look about as crazy eyed and miserable as you would think a person who is wiping snot with their own sleeve in a tan minivan with "Itsy Bitsy Spider" playing on repeat can look.
The most mind boggling part about being a stay at home is that you're supposed to do all these truly awful jobs AND somehow promote a picture of complete gratitude that you GET to stay home and do it. Let that sink in for a second. I know LOTS of women who actually feel guilty for not being able to say that they fully enjoy staying home and dealing with all the drama and mess of raising children. WE ACTUALLY FEEL GUILTY FOR NOT ENJOYING WIPING ASSES AND LISTENING TO WHINING ALL DAY LONG. And when I say all day I mean 24 hours because it's not like you clock out at 5pm. God no, you've got to make sure you've prepared a meal consistent with the ever changing dietary guidelines Dr. Oz shouts at you in passing because you've been home all day and surely had enough time to roast your completely organic, free range chicken. Did I mention you need to shave your legs? Because you are also an escort for your spouse and sweatpants don't cut it, sister. All the parenting magazines say that your marriage needs to be top priority or your spawn will make you pay FOREVER with their eventual demise as strippers, drug dealers and thieves. And there are plenty of talk shows for them to go on and blame you. So there's just a little pressure. And let's don't forget all the weird dynamics that it brings up to be financially dependent.
To be honest, I've not seen many happy looking bus drivers and short order cooks. I know for a fact that I've never seen a happy laundress. Trying to drag your children through whatever method of math is current and charter the trail for them of new vegetables and quinoa ALL WITH PEARLS AND A JUNE CLEAVER SMILE ON YOUR FACE because you're so damn lucky to have this opportunity is really just a ridiculous expectation. This is how you crack, girls.
Perhaps I sound resentful. I assure you, that's old news. I've moved through that phase to a less hectic life, but I want to talk about it anyway. There are lot of things to enjoy about being a stay at home mom. As the first on the scene parent, you are also privy to many great moments that other folks don't get to witness. The investment in being a primary caregiver is a worthy one and I think it pays off in precious, precious ways. I'm just asking you to acknowledge that not all of the process is an envious one. Or even very much fun. I am terribly, unbelievably grateful for the time I had staying home with my child. I'm grateful for the latitude I am afforded in choosing what I'd like to do with my day now that Olivia is occupied during the school day, but boy do I remember thinking that my college degree was wasted since there's absolutely no preparing for the job of Chief Vomit Cleaner (best advice: invest in a ShopVac).
If you are a young parent who stays home, I am going to break a rule and just give you instruction on this one: Quit feeling guilty if you don't love this part. If you were hired to do a job cleaning up crap, people would expect you to have days when you didn't like it very much and they'd all listen and smile over a martini and let you be grumpy or critical or not very grateful. You can do that with this job too. You should absolutely have days when you ask for help or call in sick or order take-out dinners and you can have friends who hate their horrible screaming boss monsters too today and don't think less of you for it. REST up for the job and whatever happens, you must try to make a little room for yourself like you would if you DID clock out at 5. Before you know it you will need to start getting your resume together for when your little employer tells you that you are now a frumpy embarrassment in your mom jeans and your services are no longer required.