Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ah, The Shame.

So I'm not in the practice of reposting comments to my blog entries (though if I were, I would repost and give a huge thank you to "Anonymom," who sent me such a lovely Mother's Day greeting that the warm fuzzies are still rattling around in my brain, I don't know you but I love you), but today I have to make one exception.

Yesterday I posted about how this SAHM thing is making me feel like I'm cracking up. That the sound of crying and whining and general toddlerhood is giving me a permanent headache. That I need to figure out a new outlook on life, and quick.

I received the following comment, from Anonymous, in reply:

"based on your last few posts, it does sound to me like you are reconsidering your choice to be a SAHM. worth thinking about more... there are lots of interesting things you might do (apart from law) that would still allow you to be a great mom."

And for the rest of the day, I was absolutely gutted.

Now, lest Anonymous feel put on the spot and never comment again, let me say that I WORSHIP the people who leave comments on my blog... your wisdom *inspires* me (again, I'm talking to you, Anonymous who took her kid's pacifiers away and "feels like an asshole every day since")... and your heartfelt encouragement *moves* me (Anonymom, Al, hk, ASL, etc., etc., etc.). I hope that my responding to your comment, Anonymous, in no way discourages you from expressing your opinions here in the future. Because without you guys, I am just talking to a keyboard.

But yes, I heard that comment replaying in my head for hours. "Based on your last few posts... does sound to me... reconsidering your choice to be a SAHM..." Now you ask-- why, exactly, did this comment throw me for such a loop? Well, I think it's because:

(1) I was horrified by the notion that my last few posts have come across as so blatantly negative. I mean, yes, I wrote about how I sometimes feel like an idiot... and that I'm wasting my education... and that I have no life outside of the kids and that the kids are making me mental. (Wow, other than "negative" there's really no other way to spin those sentiments, is there.) But to me... those posts were nothing more than benign venting against what I thought was the obvious backdrop of I LOVE BEING A STAY AT HOME MOM. (Again, upon reflection I can see how that message was lost to my readers.) I love being a SAHM *not* because of what *I* get out of it (headaches, aggravation, self-doubt, you know the rest), but because of what I *hope* my children are getting out of it. I love it because I love them, DESPERATELY, and because-- just as with breastfeeding-- whether it ultimately turns out to be "the best" thing for my children, it certainly can't hurt them. I think.

(2) The comment made me feel like a huge SAHM failure. As in-- what if "Anonymous" is a perfectly happy SAHM? Someone who doesn't get frazzled by the sound of 3 small children trying to out-shout each other, someone who takes legitimate pride in the cleanliness of her house, someone who feels content and fulfilled by the SAHM experience and never second-guesses the choices she's made? For her-- this mythical SAHM heroine I've imagined-- to tell me, "Hmmm, sounds like this gig isn't for you anymore"... well, I felt incredible shame. Like, why can she do the SAHM thing with such ease, while I am over here doing it with immense struggle?

(3) Even if Anonymous is right... and it *is* time for me to abandon ship (see how I look at it as a matter of abandoning my post? my CHILDREN?) and go back to work... I have no idea how that would work, logistically. In fact, every day as I pull up to the school for 2:30 pickup and observe a flood of parents coming through the doors to collect their children, I think to myself, "Don't any of these people have jobs? And who would collect their children if they did?"

The general structure of my weekday, currently, looks like this:

8:30 - drive the two small children to school.

9 - noon - ERRANDS, GROCERY STORE, etc.

12:15 - pick up youngest child from school.

1:30 - pick up middle child from school.

2:30 - pick up eldest child from school.

3 - 5 - drive various children to various after school activities (i.e., ballet, swimming, theater, gymnastics).

So my question is, if both my husband and I were working, WHO WOULD DO ALL THIS MOM TAXI STUFF? Seriously. I'm asking. How do working moms do it? Is the idea to hire a nanny who could do all this driving for me? (And on that note, do you know how nervous I get at the prospect of letting someone else drive my children in a car? CAR ACCIDENTS, people! I worry about them!)

and finally

(4) I hardly have a handle on my life as it is... and this is WITHOUT a job. The list of Things I Should Be Doing Right Now Instead of Blogging includes, but is certainly not limited to:

- sew up the hole in eldest daughter's school uniform (got caught on a nail or something)
- wrap gift for child's birthday party we are attending this afternoon
- register new cat's microchip
- call grandmother
- send MANY, MANY overdue wedding and baby presents
- schedule children's dentist appointments
- fill prescription to remedy my month-long cough
- wash hair

Notice how the personal hygiene doesn't even *occur* to me until item #8? Do I sound to you like a person who is ready to reenter the workforce??

You see, then, how Anonymous's comment got me a little worked up. Not because she said anything wrong or offensive in *any* imaginable way... but because she called me out on my own bullsh*t.

Therefore, thanks to Anonymous's clear insight, I've decided it's time to put up or shut up. Either I need to make peace with my SAHM status or I need to give it up. Either I need to recapture the joy of this job or I need to look for joy in another job. Because life is short... and because a miserable mom can't be better for the kids than a cheerful nanny. (*Not* that I'm miserable!)

You know, until yesterday I think I never appreciated how truly fraught with emotion the decision to go back to work must be.

Moms who have already done it: I salute you.


  1. have you considered hiring a personal assistant? or could your housekeeper help with the errands/repairs/etc so you can have some time to wash your hair/trim your nails/see a doctor/get a massage (imagine?!?!)/get your head straight?
    i have a friend (no kids) who doesn't work and has a cleaning woman and 2 assistants. this, as you can imagine, is infuriating and completely beyond my comprehension. but you're in a different position! she found her assistants on craigslist. you can hire someone to free you up for 3-4 hours just a few days a week. apparently there are many retired/unemployed women who don't have to work but would like to make a little money on the side. maybe something to consider! and if you rely on her when the kids are at school, you don't have to worry as much about screening for someone kid-friendly (you know what i mean).
    thanks for the shout-out; happy it lifted your spirits as much as your posts lift mine! as a first-time mom, i can relate to (and love) my fellow sisters-in-motherhood in a truly open, loving, sincere way. your posts are a great outlet for you, thought-provoking and entertaining for your followers, and are in no way judged by those of us who haven't figured any of this out any better than you! anonymom

  2. I had to comment to say a) I love you and b) I love reading a post from you two days in a row.

  3. I just want to let you know, as someone who has known and worked for many SAHM and working moms, that the things that get you going also get all the other moms going. Especially for the SAHM It is perfectly normal to crave adult conversation (other than that of your spouse/father/housekeeper) and also to feel like you want to scream sometimes.

    Some people find a part time job a good medium to just be 'you' for a few hour a day. The old 'you', the pre children 'you'. Yes you are now a mother but you are also 'you'. It doesn't have to be a job, you could volunteer somewhere.. and have your housekeeper, or as anonymom suggested PA, do the errands while you focus on who you are.

    hugs xoxo

  4. Totally agree with anonymous #2. The one thing I found so hard about being a SAHM (even though it was only for a 20 week maternity leave) was the extinction of *me*. Rightly or wrongly, as much as I loved being a mom and loved spending every day with my little guy, I felt like I was defined by him. When my husband asked me about my day, I responded about the little boy's day. Anyhoo, the grass is always greener -- as the lawyer-working-too-many-hours mom, I love reading your blog, not only because you're hilarious, but because the blog is a dose of SAHM-reality, which so many women don't share.

    Thanks for two posts in a row. Woohoo!! xo

  5. So... I was tempted not to post again because I certainly did not intend to get under your skin. Just wanted to offer some food for thought based on all you've shared. You are a wonderful mom to your girls I'm certain, but it is also important for you to think about what you need to do to stay fulfilled... and sane.

    The logistical challenges you point out are real, but certainly surmountable (e.g., get a job based in the States that would allow you to work from home and do the pick-ups, extend the school day for one of your girls to limit the number of trips per day). The real issue here is figuring what is the right balance between being there for your girls and being there for yourself.

    Okay, don't want to stand on a soapbox offering anymore unsolicited advice. You are a smart, talented girl... I'm sure you can figure it out.

  6. I'm a wee bit hormonal currently, so please be warned that this will be bossy (it was either admit that up front or not comment at all, and I feel I've abandoned you as of late, so...).

    I completely disagree that you need to "put up or shut up". I'm almost alarmed that you would even say such a thing! Your venting and musings ARE your outlet to stay balanced and sane. Not acknowledging the sometimes Groundhog Day-esque nature of your job (which you're clearly GREAT at) would mean that you'd either shut down completely (and THAT would make you the miserable mom...the very fact that you have the surging emotions and strong reactions only shows how involved and present you really are) or weren't that bright. Since you are *so* bright (and perhaps competitive by nature?), it's appropriate and expected that you obsess about how things might be different or if you're a SAHM failure (please) compared with other SAHMs who might be doing things differently (seriously, what are they doing? Should I be doing it too?? Are they somehow giving their child an edge that mine doesn't have?? AAHHH!!!).

    It would be much easier if there were some sort of governing body that awarded rankings and achievement levels to SAHMs, because, let's be honest, we're not all doing the same things and I think it would help my stress level immensely if I *knew* that I was delivering an objectively superior performance. Alas, there is not. And so we obsess. And sometimes feel as though we're totally losing it. And sometimes think we're doing such a sub-par/half-assed job that we might as well let a "professional" do it and at least bring home some income while we're at it. But that's all complete crap; you are a spectacular mother and the very, very best thing for your girls, even on your worst day. I would totally apply to do a mommy internship with you if I could.

    As someone who's only met you for 30 seconds (but I have! Suck on THAT, online-only stalkers of Mommy!), I can confidently say that you would be miserable if you weren't a SAHM. You are in your element! You already have joy in your job; you just also have a wicked sense of keep the "negative" blogs coming - we're here to support you, laugh with you, and cheer you on!

  7. I LOVE THE SAHM POSTS!! The are hilarious and entertaining. Please don't wash your hair, keep blogging. Who needs hygiene already have a husband (ha answer for everything since I don't).

    Seriously, I don't perceive anything here as a gripe - you love what you are doing, you are good at it, it's good for the kids - you just want to vent the same way we all do about the everyday frustrations we ALL experience. We're just the lucky audience who gets to laugh at all your sarcasm...but based on pics of the eldest kid's last bday I can say you are the BEST mom any kid could hope I get you completely here and never ever doubted that you should reconsider anything.