Motherhood: A Real Job


It’s been eight years since I’ve gotten a paycheck. Like, a real steady one. Not just a here-and-there check for some written article or published piece. Though I would like more of those, they are fleeting and rare, like the money I used to get as a kid for sweeping the porch of an elderly aunt.

When I say this out loud, that I haven’t been paid in years, I wonder if it makes me sound bad. But I already know the answer. The real truth. Outwardly, the world likes to tell me to be proud of my station in life. As a stay-at-home mom, the platitudes say, I am doing the most important job that a person could ever do. But, the thing is, I do it every day without pay. So, to a large portion of the populous, it makes what I do seem less real than the sorts of jobs that my working friends hold.

This leads me to a sort of existential meltdown sometimes and the questions come pouring out of my brain like a leaky faucet. In these terrible moments, I wonder, should I be ashamed of what I’m doing with my life? Should I feel bad about my useless degree? Is there a purpose to this seemingly pointless routine? Are my passions wasted on tiny people who may never appreciate my efforts? These are all my angry ponderings as I clean up Lego blocks from under the couch or sweep sandbox grit off of my newly mopped floor.

Yes, I lead a life of minutia. Truly. All full-time moms do. We don’t debug computers or build amphitheaters. Our days will never be thought of with the same level of respect as a Supreme Court Justice. And the problems we solve will rarely amount to life or death in the same way that it will to a neurosurgeon. But the struggles we face, as women who have chosen parenthood as our career, is very real. And, for that matter, so is our job.

In the beginning, when my daughter was a newborn, she had a battery of issues which made her a challenge – colic and reflux and a cry so loud even her screams could be heard from space! As a result, I was a mess. And so was my house. I didn’t get more than a fifteen minute interval of sleep for the first six months after her birth. And, though the washing machine was always on, it seemed like we never had any clean clothes. Everything was a disorienting blur. Without any help or time away from my home, I waded through the trenches of her early life like a beaten down doughboy in the Great War.

I had contemplated going back to work, especially in my weakest moments when I ached for adult conversation. However, financially and logistically, the idea of putting her in daycare, just so I could make a few extra dimes, didn’t make any sense. And, since my daughter was breastfeeding almost constantly, it seemed like the best path for me was to stay home. So I did. From that time forward.

During those early years, the struggles of my job as full-time mom weren’t evident to the world. All they saw was a young family, now complete, with a sweet baby in arms. Because I was cloistered away in the convent of motherhood, and no one saw my pains, they weren’t deemed real. Nor was my new vocation. People who visited us would always remark on how lucky I was to be home with the baby. How wonderful it was that I got to relax and luxuriate at home. How amazing it must be to live in pajamas and be able to dash off to the park or store whenever I got the urge. But really, this was simply never the case.

I remember thinking how lucky, indeed, I was to be able to hear the day-long cries of my wailing child whom I was thoroughly unable to console. How luxurious, in fact, it was to get the opportunity to milk scream feed repeat. All. Day. Long. And how amazing it was to wear pajamas – never mind the caked on spit-up of a rancid milk burp that even lingered after washing. Yes. Good times!

Now, flashing forward to our current life, with my daughter close to the double digits and my son somewhere in the quagmire of yucky boy youth, my days are equally busy. And my job is just as real. My fatigue level is about the same. The children’s screams aren’t as constant, though the fighting can sometimes make it seem otherwise. Relaxation amounts to being able to finish scrubbing all two bathtubs in the house before someone needs my help – with homework or missing action figures. And I still live in pajamas that, thankfully, smell better than their predecessors, though they do manage to get stained just as often.

I could go through the trite scenario of charting out my duties, with the intent to form a resume, so I can say to the world “Hey, look what I can do!” But I won’t. I may never change the minds of those who think my life has amounted to nothing more than diapering babies and baking cookies. Lord knows I certainly won’t impress many would-be employers with my “wearing many hats” routine. To my knowledge, melting crayons for art projects and getting silly putty out of bed sheets has never ranked highly as a skill set for those who are hiring.

But, to those who know me, or any other stay-at-home mom, I urge you to understand one very important thing: Motherhood IS a full-time job. A very REAL one, in fact. Just as real as the next fireman or accountant or plumber or attorney. It’s an occupation to be respected along with the rest! Sure, our paychecks aren’t traditional – they often come in the form of stick figure drawings or freshly plucked wildflowers. And, after years of service, there won’t be a large 401K fund for one’s efforts – but, with any luck, there will be some well-adjusted human beings who were actually grateful for their mom’s time and troubles.

So, to everyone at a party who has asked me when I’m going to “go back to work” (like I don’t already have a job at hand) or to every working friend who has mentioned their “real” job in passing (as though mine is any less trying or laborious), I want to shout it loud and proud: Motherhood IS my job! My day job. My night job. My full-time job. My real job. And if anyone thinks differently, I would love to hire them for a day and see how well they fare.

 

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Nothing Means Anything: Anarchy for the New Year


resolutions
The new year begins with resolutions, self-reflection and an endless cesspool of thoughts relating to the umpteen ways I did not measure up to last year’s goals. And with so many metaphorical bruises I have given to myself, it almost seems unfair to hope for change. After all, how can I even muster the strength to transform myself when I am obviously at an emotional disadvantage?! That’s why this year, a year like every other, when I have already started to nit-pick over a new set of failures, I decided to try this one anti-resolution instead: live life unchecked.

That’s right! Live life. Unchecked! In other words, fuck that little voice in my head that says “Don’t eat that piece of chocolate, you fat cow!” Fuck that shiny quarter who believes itself to be intended for the “swear jar” just because of a momentary fit of road rage. Fuck the PTA and HOA who constantly make me feel like I’m not being a good (enough) citizen. Fuck Dr. Oz, Deepak Chopra, “Hands Free Mama” and any other person who claims to have all of the answers (for a mere $24.99). Fuck pretentious friends and presumptuous people. Fuck the Joneses – fuck their manicured lawns, their shiny new cars, and their vacation pictures. Fuck Facebook and those who feel a constant need to post on it. Fuck Pinterest and all those crafty bitches who can’t stop making shit. Fuck scales and numbers, fads and fashion, comparison shopping and coupon clipping. Fuck everything. Why? Because I have come to realize that none of it means anything. That’s right. Nothing! As the Buddhists would concur, it’s all just an illusion.

Case in point, I have one friend who is Vegan. She chooses not to eat any animal products because of the ethical issues surrounding their treatment. And while that is all fine and good, she does love to peruse the world on her iPad – which, ironically, is one of the most cruel devices known to man. On the surface it wouldn’t seem so; but, taking a closer look, the poor laborers who assemble them make roughly 10 cents a week, live in a studio-apartment-sized dormitory with seven other people and have “suicide” nets surrounding their prison/office. Cruelty-free life?! Not quite. Oh, and another interesting note about this person: she likes to shoplift. A lot.

And then there is another person I know, one who presents her surface life as fictionally grand though in truth it is earnestly vacant. She is always busy doing endless crafts to adorn her home, making all of the other moms stand in shame because they didn’t think to make more of a celebration of Arbor Day or Independence Day, just like she did, by making children’s handprints into trees or cakes look like flags. Picture perfect to a tee. We all know this type. And yet her kids are total and complete assholes. Period. And while we shouldn’t judge a child any more than we should judge an unfinished painting….let’s just say, it’s clear that some forms of coddling and catering can’t be cured by time. They will be, without a doubt, people who have greatly inflated ideas of their own worth to the detriment of all others. CEO’s in the making!

Even further on the rungs of examples are the myriad of people I know in therapy. Paying people to “fix” their flaws, work through their “issues” and being charged hefty sums…for years…with no end in sight. And how much more sane or content are these folks? Probably less than the homeless guy on the corner! And he ate a day-old moldy burger out of the trash. Yeah.

So, then what are the answers?? Heck if I know. That’s not what this is about. But if I were to guess, I would say that no one knows. Not your sister, your pastor, your lawyer or your lover. We are all just groping in the dark. Without any answers. Without any guidance. People walk around in a state of belief that they are somehow different; but, no one is. We are all, unquestionably, failing in some way or another. And none of it means anything. It doesn’t make us any less important. Or special. It doesn’t mean we don’t deserve happiness or respect. It’s just the truth that we all try to ignore. Especially during the beginning of a new year.

With that in mind, one may wonder what it would mean to live a life unchecked. Does it mean there’s no conscience? No responsibilities? A free-for-all? Anarchy?! Ha! I wish. Simply, it means this year, for once, I will no longer compare myself to others. I will end the need to aim for other people’s unattainable goals. I will stop focusing on illusions and cease using the phrase “If they could do it, so can I.” I will close my Facebook account. And my Pinterest account. And will never, ever go to an Old Navy changing room again.

I will eat when I’m hungry, rest when I’m tired, work out when I’m motivated and do all of the things I need to do to sustain life, forsaking the rest unless desiring them in truth. In other words, I will do what makes me and my family happy. I will put my heart and soul into the things I care about. And I will be okay with the fact that I will sometimes fail. And the fact that sometimes those failures will make me sad or mad. But I will not let lofty dreams of unattainable quests (for self, for family, for creative or personal goals) set me up for upset. I will not buy into fantasies. I will live, not for tomorrow, but for right now. Today. The only thing I truly have of value. And I will not center my life around those holograms (of perfect weight, of perfect families, of perfect lives) that are meant to only torture souls.

This year my resolution is simple: I will live. And, I don’t know for sure, but I think that’s the whole point.