Today I feel like I need to write an apology. Even though no one was hurt by my thoughts or feelings, I've had some misconceptions that others may need to read. This is a formal apology to the stay-at-home mom (SAHM). Maybe seeing someone else having their eyes opened will either validate and encourage you as a SAHM, or open your eyes as well if you are not one.
And now I'm back writing this a day later... because being a SAHM means that basically everything you do will most likely be interrupted.
So I saw a mom with a double jogging stroller, in her typical nike shorts and baseball cap, running her heart out. And I stopped for a second as I had a paradigm shift. "Wow, look at her! Way to go! " Why on earth would I have viewed her so very differently a few years ago? Why would deep down in the messy -- but honest -- part of me would I have thought, "Oh look, a Homewood-mom. Just having a day with nothing to do but take the kids to the park and have a workout in her coordinated workout outfit."
WAS I EVEN SERIOUS ABOUT LIFE? GAH. I want to clock my past-self in the head.
Probably she was too tired to workout but decided to do it anyway. Probably getting both of those kids strapped in that stroller was harder than wrangling two squirrels into doll's dresses. Probably she has nice workout clothes because 1. that's what makes sense when you're going to WORK OUT, duh. and 2. It's nice to not have to look like a complete hobo when you probably haven't showered or brushed your hair (hence the cap).
And then I picked up my son, and he pulled the ponytail holder off my attempt-at-having-fixed-hair braid. Maybe a hat is a good decision for me today, too. *sigh*
I would like to give a fist-bump to the double-stroller running mom, an ode to the yoga pants, and put a spotlight on some DIY masters.
Apology 1: I apologize for knocking the workout clothes.
Okay, at least I wasn't extremely delusional in this area. I grew up dancing, and am personally not bothered by people being in the grocery store with yoga pants or sweat pants even thrown over a leotard! Heck, when you're at the beach, people actually just wear their cover-up into the store... so who really cares!
But the day-in, day-out "mom uniform" was not anything I aspired to wear. I wanted to still have my jeans and mascara everyday. And while that is all fine and dandy, let me just bring down the expectations of wardrobe for you pre-moms out there... It. is. really. hard.
Some days your baby naps for two hours and you get time to take a full shower, shave your legs, and try out outfit options to incorporate your pre-baby clothes back into rotation.
Other days, your hair never sees a brush, you never even get out of your pajama shorts, and you end up holding your baby in a rocking chair to get them to nap while eating a handful of nuts so you don't die. That survival-mode ain't pretty, people. And do you think you care or even want to SEE jeans on those days? No.
So, dear yoga pants, THANK YOU for your service. I don't know how I would be clothed some days without you.
Even as I write this I'm staring at Ro flop around in his crib on the monitor while I whisper, "Please no. please. no. keep napping. pleeeease. Oh gosh... better re-braid my hair in a flash!"
Apology 2: I apologize for how I viewed you.
I read all of those "I couldn't afford to pay my wife" and "the highest-paid position should be being a mom"... but boy, does that really not resonate with the non-parent culture. Heck, I was even a nanny in college! It's good preparation, but nothing can preparing you for how parenting feels first-hand.
What no one is really thinking: Wow, a mom just walked in here and is managing four kids in the grocery store. What a super star! Look at all those coupons! She must be saving so much money! Wow, I wish I could be more like her!
What you are probably thinking: Why did that woman have to bring all those loud kids in here? Oh no, why did I get behind her with her 325 coupons in the check-out line? I'm not even going to have kids... or maybe just one... one who is really behaved and will play violin by the time they hit kindergarten. Yeah, that sounds good.
Now I will say that I valued the SAHM who worked from home, or worked part-time, or stayed at home when her kids were newborns only to quickly return to her "real career."
But now it is time for my most difficult confession... I do not value the job of "just" a mother.
Before you start thinking I'm an evil feminist robot, this is nothing that I even knew about myself. I have always wanted kids and have basically had them named for decades. However, while I was busting my tail in school and hearing "be all you can be" speeches everywhere I turned, my brain was being hard-wired for productivity, achievement, and recognition. (And even all of the mission trips, or service days that helped you dip your toe into selflessness still leave you with a sense of accomplishment that you did something really cool and tangible. But in reality they are so short-lived, it barely should count on the servanthood spectrum at all.)
Parenthood is non-stop selflessness with very slow productivity and zero perfectionism. And until your kid is getting that college scholarship or thanking you on TV after they've won the football championship, there isn't loads of recognition.
So let me get to the friggin' point before the napping kid wakes up again!...
I am sorry that the label of SAHM sounds like something shameful to tell people like if I was just to say "I'm an unemployed lazy bafoon." I am sorry that when someone says they are a SAHM, I think, "Oh, I wonder if she does anything else."
Some of you may think this realization isn't terrible... that it is good to have a personal passion for yourself beyond raising your kids. That is actually my stance, and I'm still standing by it. What I don't want to stand by is demeaning this time of my life when I'm doing really valuable work. It may seem brainless and mundane at times, but it isn't. It takes so much multitasking, awareness, care, and knowledge... which brings me to my last apology.
Apology #3: I apologize for not seeing you as a DIY master.
Basically what being a SAHM is, is saying "I do it myself". In a culture where we really value art, pinterest, and every darn DIY project under the sun, this really clicked for me.
In life, we can pay landscapers or grow your own flowerbed, buy our deodorant at the store or make it ourselves, order a new dress or sew one ourselves, head to the bakery or bake our own bread,... all of which (even when the DIY projects are out of necessity) are super impressive to people. Wow, you made that?! (Insert proud expression) Oh yeah, it was nothing!
Hiring a nanny or signing up for daycare should not be demonized, but let's just give a big ol' " WOW! THAT'S IMPRESSIVE!", to the stay-at-home parents! You do it yourself! Even with a little help, you still deal with your kid for the most hours, while trying to do your own cleaning, building educational moments, putting our fires and cleaning everything AGAIN, being a nurse/a behavior management aid/a chef, and sometimes being bored out of your flipping mind while your kid sleeps on you (dealing with boring, mundane moments is a TASK, people!).
I hope that someone else out there benefits from this peek into what it's like to cross over to the other side. It's no easy transition, let me tell you.
I also hope that the mom part of me hears all of these apologies to myself and starts to value this job. I know it's a good one, so now I want to believe it.
*Also, disclaimer: I would've said SAHP(parent) to include stay at home dads, but unfortunately I feel that we live in a culture where men who stay with their kids is highly unexpected and pretty appreciated, while for women it is expected and unimpressive. But that's another blog for another day! So even though I was focusing on the moms, stay at home dads, just know that this includes you, too!