In the last few weeks I feel as though I’ve turned to a new chapter in the book of my life. Our life. My family’s. I guess once you have kids, nothing is really your own anymore. I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s more of a joint-emotional way. If the four-year-old gets hurt, I am hurt. If the husband has a bad day, I have a bad day. And so on, and so forth. The measure of which you feel and ache is stretched so much further than yourself, and when I switched over from stay at home mom to part time working mom, I had to find a way to remain full time mommy at the same time. And everyone had to adjust right along with me.
Now, I am suddenly full time working mom, and I’m still trying to be full time mommy. There aren’t enough hours in the day, most days, and on my first day off in seven days, I have spent it doing chores and grocery shopping and making doctor’s appointments at weird hours that complement our strange and wacked out schedule.
This isn’t a bad thing. Not at all. Lots of people work. Very few people get the luxury of staying at home with their kids, and for me, as terrible as it sounds, I didn’t really love being a stay at home mom. To me, it wasn’t a luxury at all. I like people. That’s a giggle-worthy statement for those who know me, because a lot of times I claim to hate people. Just the other night I had seventeen people walk through the door at once, and I whined to a regular-turned-friend, “Why do they keep coming in? I don’t even like people!” And at that moment, I was serious because I was exhausted and cranky, but mostly, I do like people. I like the conversation and friendship and camaraderie of getting to know people and establishing inside jokes. I like to make people laugh. There’s something special about a loaded eye roll. A sly smile. It’s what makes life good, in my eyes, and as a stay at home mother I felt trapped by the walls of our home. Isolated. Lonely. And people like me shouldn’t be made to feel lonely because, even as a self-proclaimed loner, I crave togetherness like I crave my heated blanket cranked up to high heat.
I didn’t think, though, that there would be so much criticism. Don’t get me wrong, I accept criticism like I accept a poisoned apple, with a gracious smile only to be tossed down a garbage disposal, but still, it’s surprising. There seems to be no pleasing the world, or perhaps the world just seems to know everything about everything. I completely forgot that everybody seems to know my life better than me, says the catty, defensive voice inside of me. As a stay at homer, there’s all the snarky haters claiming laziness and moocher status. If you aren’t making eight course meals and teaching your kids six languages, then you’re failing, apparently. I can’t tell you the number of times someone stressed that my kid should have been potty-trained at nine months and speaking in full sentences at six (months).
Apparently, I am a defectively terrible mother. I’m sorry, but there is no helping me. I’m a lost cause. Someone please save my children before I ruin them completely by neglecting their lessons in Chinese.
I thought that this would cease once I started working. I really did. Shame on me for assuming the best in people. You know what they say when you assume.
Now, I am being a terrible mother by working too much. It’s laughable, really, and I’m not writing this to stake claim in Parenting magazine or some other ludicrous reason, but because millions of people have to work. So what, I work. My husband works. How is this wrong?
I bet your kids miss you. Is the one that actually struck a chord in my apparently hollow and icy heart. From someone I respect, no less, so, yeah, that one hit me hard.
There’s no other way to say this, so I’m just going to say it flat out. My children have something I never had growing up, and that is quality time with their father. We haven’t used daycare, not because it’s some evil thing, but because it’s expensive and we’ve been lucky enough to work our schedule around it. When I am working, they get to spend time with their dad, and when he is working, they get to spend time with me.
It’s the best of both worlds. It’s beautiful, really. They are learning things I was never exposed to. They are seeing a hard-working, loving father who makes time for them. They are seeing a woman who can hold her own while still taking care of her family. Their father is the kind of man I hope they will be, and without sounding too narcissistic, when they’re older and have graduated college, I hope they find a woman that is kind of like me.
I say all of this without bashing any person, because I have the utmost respect for the women and men who are capable of being stay at home parents. It is really, really hard. There is no break, no freedom, no outside world, or so it sometimes seems. And as I said before, it can be extremely isolating. I flat out couldn’t handle it. I did it for three years and flew into the work world running.
There is no inherently right way. This is me saying that, point blank. There is no “rightful place” for any parent, and I’m hoping to put that stereotype to rest right here and now. The only thing that is absolutely imperative is, at the end of the day, do your children know they are loved? Because that’s what they will remember. That’s what shapes the world, not whether or not their sandwiches were cut into adorable little shapes every day. It’s making the most of the time you share together. So, everyone else can just close their mouths and stop browbeating each other. It’s time to start lifting each other up for the things that they are doing. Life is too hard and too long, and sometimes way too short to treat each other so poorly, so harshly.
Life is about love, not cruelty, and our “advice-giving” oftentimes comes off as blatantly cruel. So, knock it off. Have a drink. Hug a tree. Or, better yet, hug your children and stop acting like your way is the only way. That kind of advice is not welcome here. ❤