I wrote this two months ago and just found the draft today. I guess I am not just a total “spewer” since I did not publish it immediately.
First I have to apologize to all my fellow Stay-At-Home Moms out there (SAHM’s). I am spewing out thoughts that have been bouncing around my head for the past couple of weeks, and I know by letting them escape I am going to need to apologize to my sisters. Good writers write, review, draft, edit, and finally after a good amount of labor, publish…or wisely delete. I sit down, write, and publish all in the one hurried, blurred moment of release. It’s because I’m not a real “writer” but someone in need of therapy, and this blog is my therapist. How effective would therapy be if we reviewed, drafted, edited, and then spewed? I’d venture to say, not very.
Never in my 7 years of being home with the kids full-time have I regretted my difficult decision. Never have I missed work or had a strong urge to go back. Once in awhile, I’d have a fond memory of my days as a hospice social worker. Once in awhile, I’d tire of the impression I assumed society had of me. However, for the most part, I LOVED it and thanked my lucky stars that I was able to do it. I wondered if I’d ever go back even after the kids were in both in school full-time.
Until now. Why? Maybe because with Mike’s health issues this past year, I realized I should have kept my license active just in case we found ourselves without income. He has felt the pressure of being the sole provider. There’s guilt that I bring in no salary. Most things need a price tag attached to be deemed valuable. With money comes the association of worth and power. Where does that leave unpaid SAHM’s? SOL.
It makes me think about my Women’s Studies classes in college. It makes me feel like I’m betraying the Feminist cause. I’m not the only one. Take Elizabeth Wurtzel for example and her diatribe against us. I can read something like this and actually not get defensive. Even while I disagree, I actually understand what she is trying to say. In fact, I do feel the effects of being a “dependent” (though I still argue that I AM an adult). While working in hospice, I would come across an elderly woman who was so dependent on her husband for everything that she would be completely lost when he died. I remember thinking to myself that I would never be like that and that she was just a product of an outdated time.
Fast forward to now. I find myself gradually doing less and less and letting Mike handle more and more. Like the house purchasing. Like investments. Even my old duty of balancing the checkbook. Pretty soon, I’ll stop driving and have him chauffeur me around. Gone are the days of my independent woman and in her place I see someone lazily allowing my husband to take care of it.
Maybe it is because the kids are older now. They are more independent and do not need me for every little thing. THANK GOD I’M DONE WIPING BUTTS! (Well, almost.) Maybe it is because Connor’s preschool here lasts for a blessed 4 hours every day. That’s almost twice the time I had last year. I find myself with more free time on my hands and feeling less than adequate when my husband asks what I did today and I can’t say, “Cured cancer.”
During the weekday, I am able to run my errands, clean my house, exercise/torture myself, search for all the various products required for Connor to live out his dreams of being Little Critter for the school character parade, watch WGN news while eating lunch, AND read great books. I am able to blog too much and scroll through Facebook too often. While I don’t have a horse in the Olympics, I do recognize that I live a life of leisure and privilege. With privilege sometimes comes guilt.
In efforts to be more productive, I searched for volunteer opportunities. There are plenty and I believe I have found a great one. In the process of pursuing this, I realized another side effect of my last 7 years as a SAHM. My confidence in my ability to perform duties outside the Cult of Domesticity has withered down to a measly dusting. Technically, with a graduate degree and 7 years of field experience, I should be equipped to help this agency do a plethora of things but feel safest sticking to the menial tasks, which I know are vitally important to every organization. But you get my drift.
All of these things and more make me wish I had at least kept my license active and for the first time ever think maybe I should have stayed working at least part-time. Maybe it would have been good for the boys to have other caretakers in their lives and see the example of a working mother. Maybe I would have the best of both worlds like some friends seem to have. Yes, it’s never too late, and I can always go back. But it is a process not just practically but mentally. I have to figure out is this what I really want? Is this a mid-SAHM crisis?
I do think of my mother. I think of how much her life has already been so purposeful and meaningful and continues to be despite not having a paid occupation. I think of the last 7 years and all the times I have treasured being with my boys during their early formative years that have passed quicker than I’d like even with the less butt-wiping life I now lead. I don’t think every person getting paid for their work is being highly productive every minute of the day either. There has to be some leisure time for Facebook, fantasy football and debating politics with coworkers. There are jobs that give you a paycheck but that does not make them more valuable. I can always go back to work, but I can’t always have those years with my children back. In the end, there is enough guilt to cover the globe several times over but where does that get us? I want to appreciate the life I have, the lives of those NOT like mine, and free therapy.
But I can’t separate the fact that no salary feels like a severe demotion. I feel like the maid, the nanny, the personal assistant, the cook, the tutor, and the occasional butt-wiper. And all these things are not highly regarded. Just like most things deemed more as “women’s work.” We SAY we regard them highly, but we don’t put our money where our mouth is. It’s why women are still feeling the affect of the glass ceiling and articles abound about why they still can’t have it all.
Today, my “crisis” has mellowed out. I realize even having the ability of deciding what to do (or not do) professionally is a luxury. Being inspired while volunteering, missing the expendable income of the past, and recalling the calling I had decades ago, I have finally started the process of getting my New Mexico license. My hope is to have all the paperwork in by the new year and go from there. This is huge for me who once thought I would never really go back to work. Getting relicensed is something I’ve had on my “to do” list for months but allowed my procrastination to party itself out. I have enjoyed my SAHM life to the fullest. But I did truly enjoy my jobs, too. Who knows what the future holds? At the least, it holds a licensed social worker in New Mexico who may or may not still be a SAHM. Now that it is written in public forum, the licensing procrastination party has to end. Wish me luck. This party animal will need it.
Addendum: Yes, I’m getting my license. But for the record, were I to be in the same position 7 years ago, my luxurious choice despite all these thoughts would have still been to PARTY ON as a SAHM. I had found my valuable, priceless calling, and it’s been a privilege pouring my life into these two crazy goofballs.