My husband asked me a question awhile ago that sparked an ongoing inner dialog I just couldn’t shake. I stewed on it, I started a blog post about it, I left the post in my drafts folder for about 14 months, but it keeps nagging at me as something worth discussing. It came up again last night in conversation, and now here we are…
On the surface, at a glance, I’m not what you’d consider a “deep” individual. On further inspection, one could even assume I’m a little dense, ditzy…a real hot mess. I’m left-handed and right-brained: my strengths lie in words and creativity, not so much in analytical, cerebral thought. That is, until something strikes my emotional thought and sparks an intellectual response. But this doesn’t happen often friends, so when it does, it seems it might be worth sharing.
The question he asked me came after a great deal of thought on his part as well. Not in the question, per se, but in the way he approached me with it. Poor guy was desperately concerned about offending me in the way he assembled the words to seek my insight. He wanted to know… what it’s like to not have to wake up and report to a 9-5 job every day. He clarified in the way he phrased the question that he was not insinuating that I don’t work; he knows what I do takes more time and attention and energy than a full-time job. On the other hand, he’s worked with a lot of women who have homes and children and the same responsibilities I do, in addition to a full-time office position. He was looking, I think, for my input on how different our life would look if I was busy with a full-time job: how that would change his role in our family, how different my role would be, how our schedule would differ.
Once upon a time, three little boys ago, I did work outside of our home full-time. I worked in some capacity from the time I was almost 15 until right before we started our family, through both high school and college and after. I worked different jobs, juggling work and school, then juggling work, school, and managing our first home together. Through all of that, while my roles and schedules changed, his have stayed far more consistent; when I was in college, I worked as a waitress, an interior design intern, and a classroom aid while he worked at his first professional after-college gig. After I finished college, I took a retail position selling furniture, hoping to work my way into the design/buying department. The schedule with that position wasn’t much better than waiting tables; I worked until late in the evenings and on weekends. We didn’t see much of each other in those days. And while my schedule was often hectic and unpredictable, his changed very little (with the exception of occasional overnight installs and updates).
When we decided I would stay home to raise our family, I worried I’d be bored. I worried I wouldn’t be content to stay home and “do nothing,” as I’d once assumed was the role of a stay-at-home mom. So when our first son was born, I adapted to my newest job as one would any new position. I looked at my roles and responsibilities and set a schedule to keep myself on task both with household jobs and with spending quality and educational time with our child. I structured our days around maintaining cleanliness and order in our home, while keeping our son’s needs at the top of my priority list. I really thought I had it all figured out then. And then we had twins, and all of my carefully planned order and structure went out the window in favor of keeping three children under age three alive and relatively content. My priorities had to shift again, and my capacity for perfection lowered because, y’all, twins ain’t no joke. Also, three boys are not for the faint of heart. The job I do for my family is one I take very seriously. Raising three boys who will grow up to be good men- men like their daddy- has to be done right.
These days, the boys are all big enough that I have some free time again. But this circles back to his question about not having work outside of our home. Who determines how I use my time? And this is the beauty of it: I DO. I get to decide my schedule, my plans, my goals for the days and weeks. If I want to work, I get out my computer and write a little something or start laying out floor plans or color schemes for myself, for friends or family, or just for fun. If I’m in the middle of a good book and want to spend the day on the couch reading while the boys play in their PJ’s…I have the freedom to do that. If I want to volunteer at the boys’ school, I can make sure I’m there….when that becomes a possibility again.
People in my age group have been branded in a way that doesn’t always seem overly positive, and I don’t think it’s completely accurate or fair. So many women my age pursued higher education, earned a degree, and got a kick in the pants from a failing economy. As a generation who were denied jobs because we had no experience for the jobs that were available, we’ve had to be creative in how we mesh our professional life with a family life. Daycare isn’t cheap, and working for only enough of a paycheck to pay someone else to stay with our kids isn’t always worth it. Obviously there are exceptions. Many women are the majority or only wage earners in their families, many have to work if for no benefit other than health insurance, most single moms have no choice…there are so many different scenarios, no two are alike, but it all comes back to this one idea: in my experience, our generation of women is pretty damn amazing. We may depend on the internet more than we probably should, but it’s a tool that allows us to wear more hats than just “stay at home mom” OR “working mom.” We can be both. We can be boss babes, mom- trepreneurs… We can invent our destiny, steer our future in whatever direction works best for us, our families, our lives, without being penalized by a higher up for taking too much time away from the office.
The bottom line is, I get how incredibly privileged I am to have the opportunity I do, to be at home with my boys while they grow, to be available for all of their school events and activities. I don’t have to miss any of it, and I have my amazing husband to thank for all of it, because he encouraged me to seriously consider staying home rather than trying to return to work. It’s thanks to him that I can be at home right now, juggling momm-ing and wife-ing; blogging and freelance writing; and accepting as many design jobs as I want to. He gave me a gift that far exceeds any price tag, even though it took me awhile to see it that way.
I missed Mother’s Day by a couple of days, but this post really is a shoutout to all of the moms who do all of the things. It’s a shoutout to the moms who have found creative ways to pursue passions while keeping the ship afloat. It’s a shoutout to the moms who are doing what needs to be done to keep things moving along.