Stay at home what?

Diptic

But honestly, how long would I really last as a stay at home mom? Would I actually be content with nothing but mothering? I use as evidence my maternity leave to convince myself that nothing would satisfy me more, I think about every long weekend or day of playing hooky from work, all of these times when I am filled with joy because I get to spend just a few extra moments with my daughter. But all of these experiences have occurred with the knowledge that I still get to fall back on my day job. It’s kind of like my experience with art school – I really enjoyed playing at being an artist for a while, but when it came down to it, I enjoyed stability and health insurance and a nice apartment even more. I finally had to admit to myself that deep down my existential balance tips more toward the materialistic middle manager than the angst-ridden artist (though I will say my MFA definitely taught me to middle-manage with a certain style and not often found in the beige hallways of university administrative offices).

Despite my suspicion that the reality of full-time child rearing would be far less satisfying than what I am imagining, I still do love to imagine. I day dream all the time about what I might be doing at any given moment if I were home with my child instead of sitting at my desk reading emails, sitting in a meeting trying to not let my face show how much I dislike a particular colleague, sitting with a staff member who needs nudging in their job performance. If I were to dedicate myself to abandoning my ambition and raising my daughter and my imagined child number two (if we ever get around to that one), here is what I have imagined so far I might do with my spare time:

  • Plant a vegetable garden
  • Fix my old sewing machine (that I’ve never actually used) and make clothes for the family
  • Start taking photos again
  • Practice my French
  • Practice my yoga
  • Send Christmas cards (with personal notes to everyone in my address book)
  • Cook everything (EVERYTHING) from scratch, from dried beans to veg stock
  • Keep up to date on current literature
  • Take my daughter to baby gym class and baby ballet lessons and meet other local moms
  • Fold and put away all of our laundry, all of the time

Sounds like a lovely life, does it not? Maybe that’s because I forgot to list GET DRUNK EVERY DAY IN A VAIN ATTEMPT TO SQASH ALL OF MY FORMER AMBITIONS.

But like I said, I have thought about this a lot, and I have taken my ambition into account. Hence the following additions to my list of tasks to bring me fulfillment:

  • Finish my minimalist experimental novel about expatriate social climbers in Greece during the financial collapse; get an agent and a big publisher; take the kids on my book tour
  • Get myself appointed to the local planning commission
  • Get myself appointed to the local school board
  • Get paid to go into a full-time PhD program
  • Train for a marathon (any marathon except for the LA marathon, because who wants to run downtown through downtown LA? Yuck.)

In the context of a more than full-time job, this all seems feasible. My math says I spend forty to sixty hours a week working, with the rest dedicated to childcare; take away those hours of work and there will be plenty of time for everything else I’m not now doing. Right? But take the job away and away goes the child care, away goes the equal footing with my husband, away goes the pride I feel as the drop-in mom pushing my daughter on her swing at the park, rather than the this-is-all-I-do-all-the-time moms who never look as happy as I imagine I might were I lucky enough to someday be in their shoes.

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10 thoughts on “Stay at home what?

  1. Ha! Those moms don’t look as happy as you imagine they should because until the kids are in school all day, they don’t have time to do all that stuff either. Once the kids are in school, though, then you might find time for a couple things on your list 😉

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  2. Both lists sound pretty good. You never know how much you’re going to like something until you do it. A lot of times I get exactly what I wish for and I don’t like it. For me, instead of adding “Get drunk every day in a vein [sic ;)] attempt to squash my former ambitions” to my list of things that I want to do every day, I’d have to add “End up sleeping late and deciding to put the list off until tomorrow.”

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  3. I am one of those moms who is always at the park. 🙂 I gave up a tenured teaching position to stay home with two children. I have no regrets. Honestly, once you have more than one child, there is NO time to do things on your list, unless you pay for part-time child care! The older one stops napping when the younger one is born. But the kicker is, it is all temporary. For me, it is just seven years of my life. Once they are both in school I will have time to think about me for longer than 5 seconds at a time.

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  4. Hi Anna.
    I am one of the this-is-all-I-do-all-the-time mom, but I am not unhappy. I have three baby boys; my oldest is 2 and my twins are 6 months). We have the same routine every day, and the only time we get out of the house is for our appointments. We stay home most of the time because we don’t have a car of our own, and it’s hard to travel with three young children… plus we don’t have a double or triple stroller, which means that I always need to have someone help me with my children whenever we do get out of the house. I enjoyed reading your post and I agree when you said, ” But take the job away and away goes the child care, away goes the equal footing with my husband.” I am used to being the one working and bringing in income for my family because I started working first than my boyfriend (he was still in high school and I had just graduated), but now that I am a SAHM I feel useless in that department. I know I take care of the children, but sometimes I find myself feeling useless and unproductive.

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  5. If I were home with three babies, I don’t think useless and unproductive is what I would be feeling – I think overwhelmed and in over my head would be more like it! I know how much work my daughter takes when I’m home with her, I can hardly imagine how you manage with three boys. As difficult as juggling my career and my child can be at times, I can pretty much guarantee you are working a lot harder than I am…

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    1. LOL. I do feel overwhelmed and sometimes in over my head. I am from a small island where everybody knows EVERYBODY, and they always ask me how do I manage. I mean I was an only child, and never experienced taking care of children, but I guess it’s just mother’s instincts. Thanks for your reply 🙂 It made me feel good.

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  6. When it comes to being on equal footing with your husband…. this is how I look at being a stay at home mom. He could not ever in his wildest dreams afford all the services I preovide for “free.” If I got paid for the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the childcare, the accounting, the taxi service-ing, and all the other things I do my husband might have to work three jobs just to pay my salary. =) Now that my four children are in school I have some time to work on projects that are just for me.

    I admire you for being able to do both things, but I hope you never feel that you wouldn’t be equal if your responsibilities change and are different that your husband’s. Marriage should make you equals not which job or responsibility you undertake in that marriage.

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