I read a book this summer called What Alice Forgot. It’s about a woman who passes out at the gym. When she comes to, she thinks she is 29, soon to be 30, and pregnant with her first baby. In reality she is 39, soon to be 40, has three kids and is in the process of a divorce. It’s a light read and got me to really thinking about who I was 10 years ago and what the me of 10 years ago would think of the me today.
First of all, I would not wake up on the gym floor. I would more likely wake up on Caren’s kitchen floor, having slipped on a dish towel or something. Ten years ago I was a new mom to a 4 month old and lived in Dallas, TX. What a surprise it would be to wake up in a stranger’s home in Colorado!
The Me Of 10 Years Ago would be shocked to find that the Me Of Today was living in Colorado. She would love our children, our home and our pets. She would be taken with how Man just got better with age. Cuter, wiser and more patient. She would not be surprised to learn that he is a succesful business man. She would be quite pleased with my figure. I’m sure my readers are shocked to hear that!
I specifically recall a time when I was first married. I was headed out to shop. I studied my reflection in the mirror, concerned with my weight, as always. I remember telling myself that for a 22-year-old there was much room for improvement.
But if this is how I look after I have kids and am in my 30’s….that would be great!
I actually think my figure is better now than it was then. I’m pretty much the same weight but everything is distributed differently. The Me Of 10 Years Ago would be very pleased with this figure.
I remember as a new mom that more seasoned mothers would tell me to be sure and take time out for myself. They warned that you could “lose your identity” being at home all day with a little one. I had no problem taking time out for myself and for time with my Man but this loss of identity thing…I found the whole notion pathetic, to be honest. I was quite secure in my identity. I was a Stay At Home Mom! What could be more precious? What could be more important than that? I had been mothering people since I was a child and now I was a legitimate mother and finally fulfilling my purpose.
The Me Of 10 Years Ago would be disappointed to learn that the Me Of Today is now one of those sad moms who would caution a new mom to not “lose” her identity.
I used to be proud to write “Stay At Home Mom” in the line that asked my occupation on doctors forms and such. Now I feel…embarassed? At Man’s office parties, I meet new people and they ask, “And what do you do?” After answering they always make some sort of pat and PC response like, “That’s great! No more important job.” But then the subject is changed. There are no further questions asked. Well…that’s not true. Sometimes they may ask how old my kids are and how many I have. Sometimes they ask, “What do you do with all of your time?” imagining me sitting on a couch watching soap operas and eating bon bons.
I read another book this summer where a woman with a college degree, became a SAHM. She took a cooking class to “find herself” again. There was a particularly tricky step in a recipe and she says to herself, “You can do this. You have a college degree!”
I have a friend who is a SAHM and she always encourages me to love what I do and to value its importance. She has a teaching degree. She taught before becoming a mom and now she has no desire to go back into the classroom, however, she is sure to keep her teaching certificate up to date. Something happened last year and she was not able to get something in on time. With tears in her eyes and panic in her voice she said, “I am currently an uncertified teacher!” She was still a SAHM just like the day before but with out that certificate in her back pocket she felt like she had less to offer the world. With that certificate there was more to her. With out it she felt like….me.
One year Man took out a life insurance policy on me.
“Oh yeah? So what am I worth?” I asked.
He told me. I was shocked. It was not much, I must say.
“Well, at least I know you aren’t going to try and ‘off’ me. How did they come to that number?” I asked.
“They figure the cost of child care and the cost of a house keeper.”
There it is. Though, people say SAHM’s have the most important job in the world, society sees us as day care providers and house keepers. Those are honest jobs but to quantify what I do to that…. And I’ve bought into it. Somewhere along the way I have bought into this notion that what I do is a menial service.
I have a friend who runs an in-home day care service. She is more than a day care provider. She has a background in teaching and she implements all of that into the kids day. She has lessons for them and helps them progress developmentally. She also snuggles and plays with the kids. This is not a menial service. She is shaping these children and filling in for their parents when they can’t be there. She is giving them love in a safe place and she’s giving parents peace of mind.
Even though she and I do basically the same thing, due to her having credentials and because she can say “I have my own business” it becomes a career and more valuable. Because she is doing something for others maybe?
Women do not become SAHMs because they are lazy, untalented, uneducated or unskilled. We are not SAHMs because we are selfish and can’t share our kids. We are privileged, I’ll give you that. Not everyone who wants to be home can be, but we are not brats. We are busting our butts as soon as the alarm goes off and often before. There is no “getting ready for work” and there is no “unwind” on the way home either. There are no weekends off. Family vacations are not vacations for SAHMs. It’s a business trip.
A friend of mine text me while his wife was out-of-town.
F: Having to get the kids to school by myself. Something my wife has done for years and I never appreciated how much work it is.
Me: Tip: make their lunches and pick out clothes the night before.
F: I did all that.
Even with all the prep it is still hard. You have to constantly redirect the kids to keep them on track to get ready. You are keeping up with what they are doing while doing all that you have to do as well.
I gave my friend another tip: Tell your wife what you just told me. She needs to hear that.
This is not actually the blog that I had sat down to write. I was going to write about the other ways that I am dealing with my anxiety. I was going to write about this trend I am seeing where men used to be the cads leaving their spouses but now it’s the women. Ladies Home Journal even had an article about it. Women are leaving to “find” themselves. I guess I got off on the SAHM tangent to sort of explain why women feel that they need more in their lives than just being The Help.
For me, leaving is not an option. Thankfully, I am not so far gone to not recognize that I am unhappy because of me and not because of my family. Though I love them, running away is a true temptation. However, I know first hand and I am seeing it in others lives, that leaving on a quest to “find yourself” and to make yourself happy is destructive. Now instead of just one unhappy person there is a whole family of lost and destroyed lives. Friends too are affected by such an action and all so that YOU can go and find your happiness? Pfft. What a load of crap.
Re-reading this post, it sounds like I want a degree. I can honestly tell you that I most certainly do not. I went to school for 5 years and hated it. That was one of the most stressful and most unhappy times of my life. Not worth a piece of paper that I’m not going to use. So school is about as big an option for me as leaving. Not happening.
Another option is to get a job or start a career. I have a job, thank you very much. My family is my career. I don’t want a fancy new name for Stay At Home Mom either. None of that Domestic Engineer crap. It’s actually kind of condescending. I’m a Mom and that is a weighty enough title.
I think that the source of all of this angst is actually spiritual. I believe in Jesus and the power of prayer. I believe He can heal and I know that He has heard my prayers. This tells me that He is not lifting this for a reason. He has made me uncomfortable to force me to change. I am right in that I should be doing more than just being a SAHM. Not because my job is unimportant and certainly not because it’s done but because He has more for me to do.
To be continued….