I've been a stay at home mom for a two and a half years now. The road to where I am has been long, and challenging, and different. Growing up, I never, ever would have expected that I would be a stay at home mother, and I certainly didn't grow up dreaming about becoming one. My station in life just, sort of, happened. Yes, I stay home and care for my boys all day. I cook. I clean. I do laundry. I decorate. I make sure the pantry is stocked, and I inquire about bills. I sift through stacks of mail, and have a filing system. I try to make my children and husband as comfortable as possible, and put their needs above my own. But no, I'm not Betty Draper, with my hired nanny, my perfect dresses, with nothing to do but smoke cigarettes all day and worry about my husband's needs. I raise my children, and run my home. That, all in itself is a job, and unless you've ever done it, you have no idea how difficult and overwhelming it can become. I am still my own person, not just a wife and mother. It's easy to forget that when you're swimming in a sea of baby bottles, pull ups and enfamil. Every now and then, I remind myself, I've still got it.
When Greyson was born, I had this idea that I would be able to raise him, work full time, go to school full time and still have pieces of myself left over for fun, and leisure. I'm laughing at my own naivety as I type this. It took me two months to leave my job, and while I finished up my program in school, I never used the education I received. I simply remained at home. I know many women who are supermoms and are able to do this, but I guess I'm just not. I couldn't do it. My need to be the perfect wife and mother encompassed anything else I had going on in my life. I know all you feminists out there, who are reading this are rolling your eyes and disowning me in your minds. Had I been reading this a few years ago, I would too, but this was MY choice. Something I wanted. In many ways, that first year I was obsessed with being perfect. I clipped recipes out of cookbooks, I scoured Pinterest for ways to make home made baby food, tips on how to clean every square inch of my home, and even looked into baby sign language for Christ's sake. I was worn out. Running here and there, trying to cook gourmet meals every night, trying to make sure my baby was being stimulated enough every day to be developmentally advanced. I was a woman possessed. What if I'm not doing a good enough job? The pressure, man, the pressure. Then I realized, what does good enough even mean? Are my children fed, clothed, loved? Yes. Does my husband look forward to coming home after work everyday? Yes. Am I happy with myself, the job I am doing, and how I'm raising my children? Yes.Well, then, I guess I AM doing just fine.
I think a lot of women, especially mother's feel the need to prove themselves more. I know I felt that way at first, as a stay at home mom. I was ashamed that I couldn't contribute financially to my household. I felt that I was holding my husband back, my children back, myself back. I failed to see the fact that, by staying home and caring for them myself, I was saving us thousands of dollars a year in child care fees. I also failed to see the happiness my babies would gain from being able to be with their mother every single day. I failed to see the level of anxiety that was avoided in having to send them to daycare. I failed to see how absolutely lucky and privileged I was to be able to love on them every single day, teach them myself, and be the complete over see-er of their growing up. I could make everyday magical, but I wasn't seeing that either. The only thing I could see was on paper. I wasn't making any money. My husband was left with all the financial responsibility, and I hated that.
When River came along, I considered myself a well seasoned pro, but let me just add, that nothing can prepare you for the task of handling two. I couldn't even fathom three, or above, and to those women who have multiples, kudos to you, because I have no clue how you do it. Again, I threw myself into perfection. I prepped for his arrival for months in advanced. I nested like a crazy person. I felt like a failure because I wasn't able to breast feed. Bringing him home, I quarantined him from the world, afraid he'd catch pertussis or something more sinister. I stayed up for 18 hours at a time, I mixed bottles that I couldn't remember mixing. I watched entire seasons of shows on Netflix at 4 and 5 in the morning because that was the only time I could get some silence. I was still obsessed with perfection. Even while I was suffering from severe anemia, on iron pills and deathly tired, I was cooking three meals a day, making sure Greyson was doing his alphabet flash cards, rotating River from back to belly every three hours, and managing to keep the floors mopped every week. Ugh. I can't believe I didn't worry myself into an early grave.
I understand that being a mother is hard in every aspect, whether you are a SAHM or a working mom. I've not written anything about being a working mom, because I've never been one. I usually only write from experience. Working mothers, don't condemn me yet, however. Just because I've never experienced being a working mom first hand, doesn't mean I don't understand how hard it would be. My Mother basically raised me in Robinson school. She worked every single day and still managed to be a very hands on mother. I couldn't imagine having a career on top of doing everything else in my life, and I can't honestly say that I could do it. I cant contribute much to "the great debate" other than what I have observed personally. SAHM's yearn for things that working mom's have, and working moms yearn for things that SAHM's have. I would love to work again. To have adult conversations, and a paycheck every friday. To do adult lunches, and wear nice, vomit free clothes again. I'm sure all working mother's would love to stay with their children all day, and only worry about house hold duties. I get it. I understand it. I empathize every situation. The grass is always greener. We are women, it's what we do. We want the opposite of what we have. If you're more of a Joan, than a Betty, there is nothing wrong with that. If it's the other way around, nothing wrong with that either! Why do we always pit them against the other? Both roles are beautiful.
If I can attest to anything, in my nearly three years of motherhood, it's that we are all in this game together. We all want the same things, essentially, for our children. To love, be loved, be successful, and be happy. Our children will grow up together. Our grandchildren will grow up together. Let's quit the Mom wars, the ideas of perfection, the worrying and comparing. It's unhealthy, and it's unfair. No one's lives are the same, everyone and everyone's story is different. One's idea of perfection may not be your idea of perfection, and that's what makes life so crazy and beautiful. We all have the freedom to be different, and this includes being a mother as well. I see the judging on Facebook, the supermarket sideways glances, the whispering in inner circles. Does it really do any good to compare being a stay at home mom to a working mom? Does it truly make a difference if she uses organic and she's a vegan, or she wouldn't be caught dead serving canned soup? What difference does that make? What matters is the common core we all share, the fact that we are mothers. Occupation, or no occupation, Motherhood is equally rewarding and equally challenging. Aren't things complicated enough without bringing in minute things that have no bearing other than symbol and status? Sometimes, it's exhilirating to slow down, and enjoy just being a mom, because it's a privilege that in denied to many. Slow ride.
With this being said, I'm guilty too. I've worried about gluten allergies, I've bought kale, I've thought of juicing. I've compared my Mothering skills to others. I've judged other women's methods of discipline. I've modeled my parenting after behavioral studies. I've looked into the best schools, weighed pros and cons of certain systems of learning. I've been a crazy woman, worrying about the present, trying to dictate my children's futures. It's no way to live, and no way to raise your children. I want my kids to remember me as fun loving and care free. Not simpering at the super market, telling them their juice has too much sugar. Regardless of the weight and responsibility of having little ones to raise, I think it's time that all of us "moms" need to slow down, relax, and despite occupation, money, ideas, and theories, just enjoy being blessed enough to have little people that call us Mom. I wouldn't want someone judging every move I make as a Mother, because, let's be honest, I mess up all the time. I make wrong choices. Most of the time, I feel like I'm searching for a lightswitch in the dark. That's what life is all about. Learning on your own, and not feeling pressured by what the media, or society says. Yes, I make my children beefaroni at least twice a week. Yes, Greyson rides a bike without a helmet sometimes. Yes, I'm weak when it comes to punishing them. Yes, I love them more than anything in the entire world. Any short comings I have, do not make me any less of a Mother. Sometimes, its better to stop, breathe, look at the bigger picture and realize, we are ALL doing fine.