Tag Archives: stay at home moms

I’m wearing these yoga pants ironically

It’s no secret that when you become a mom, you go through a bit of an identity crisis. It can be hard to remember who you were when it feels like who you are now is someone who spends all of her time cleaning up mystery stains. Is that poop or chocolate? Apple juice or pee? I used to be on a first name basis with the mayor and win journalism awards. Cottage cheese or vomit?

Which is why these days I always dread the moment when someone asks me “so, what do you do?”

And they always ask it. Always. Because we are Americans and as Americans we need to immediately know what you do with your life so we can then determine how harshly to judge you.

God bless the U.S.A.

I didn’t always hate this quirk of American society. I proudly declared “journalist” for a long time. I worked hard to become a journalist. I loved being a journalist. It was a badge I wore with honor.

But the waters muddied a bit when my husband and I moved to Boston. Unable to get a full-time job in my field, I started working from home, writing a regular column for a handful of different newspapers and websites. I’d also occasionally take on a freelance writing project. So, I told people I was a “freelance writer.” But since that wasn’t as clear-cut as “journalist,” I’d have to describe what that entailed and watch as people’s eyes slowly glassed over because they were just being polite and oh, is that Susan over there? I should go say hello. Nice talking to you, Amy, was it?

And then we had kids and the waters got downright murky. Because now my main job was keeping those two suicidal lunatics alive while trying to squeeze in some writing time on the weekends.

“But I’m still a writer!” I’d practically scream at people, less they be confused as to my real identity. Sure, “technically” I stayed home and “raised” my children, but that didn’t make me, you know, a “mom.” It’s more like a hobby, really. I’m wearing these yoga pants ironically!

It took me awhile, but I finally realized why this stressed me out so much. The current language we have for women without a clear-cut “job” is awful. Take the word “housewife.” I hate that word. I didn’t marry my house. I mean, that thing is filthy. Even if it proposed, I’d politely decline and then hand it a broom and whisper “I think you know why.” (And “homemaker” is even worse. Especially if you have kids. Because when you have kids, you aren’t “making” a “home” so much as you are trying to prevent said kids from burning it down to the ground).

I also loathe the term “stay-at-home mom.” I don’t stay at home. No mom does. We’re constantly lugging those adorable damn kids everywhere. And yet, no one refers to us as Playground-Library-Gas Station-Coffeeshop-Liquor Store moms.

Alas, these are the terms we are stuck with if we are the ones primarily taking care of the domestic side of life (and fellas, I haven’t forgotten about you; “househusband” and “stay-at-home dad,” even when used tongue-in-cheek, is equally inaccurate and ridiculous).

Can you imagine if we referred to everyone by their most common location and their role in the family? Oh hey, let me introduce you to my other half, Ryan. He’s an office husband.

Or, hey, nice to see you, Sheryl, I’d like you to meet my bar grandpa.

This is Lila, my stay-at-the-yoga-studio sister-in-law.

My crackhouse cousin had a rough upbringing, what with being raised by my prison uncle and my motel aunt.

Why yes, I have two teenagers, a couch son and a Burger King parking lot daughter.

You get the picture.

Why do we still use these terms? Even “working mom” is a bit of a misnomer. No one calls my husband a “working dad.” He’s a graphic designer. Who happens to have kids.

And I wouldn’t even care about how inaccurate the current words are that we use to describe women who deal in the domestic arts, except for the fact that they have a faint whiff of negativity surrounding them. Housewives are considered vapid or desperate or gold diggers. Stay-at-home moms are boring or unambitious or lazy. Homemakers are busy wearing gingham dresses and churning butter in the corner of the kitchen.

So, it’s time we start changing these outdated and, quite frankly, unfair titles. I haven’t come up with the new terms just yet (what with spending all my time sniffing mystery stains and all) but maybe something like “I parent full-time” or “I’m a professional mom” or “I’m my toddler’s juice bitch.”

Or maybe all of us ladies can take a page from the Tyrion Lannister playbook and when people ask us what we do, we coolly respond “I drink, and I know things.”

Because that one is 100 percent accurate.

 

Advertisements

But where’s my gold star?

The one thing I probably hear the most since having children? (Besides “whoa, you look tired”).

“You are so lucky you get to stay home with your kids.”

There are different versions of this, of course. All with fun varying degrees of passive-aggressiveness.

“I’d love to spend all day in my pajamas doing nothing.”

“I hope you appreciate it. I die a little inside when I drop my children off at daycare.”

“It must be nice not working a real job and having all that extra time for your little writing hobby.”

But what it all eventually boils down to is “you, lady, have it made and are not allowed to complain.”

It doesn’t seem to matter that it’s not actually luck. It’s a decision we made based on our economic reality. We are right in that not-so-sweet spot of middle class where my income would have been pretty much the exact price tag of a semi-reputable daycare facility (and trust me, we looked at all of them, including JoJo’s Discount Kid Farm).

And it doesn’t matter that it is actually just like a “real” job (albeit with a much less strict dress code). If it wasn’t a job, we wouldn’t pay other people to watch our kids when we can’t.

And it doesn’t seem to matter that in this country we treat stay-at-home moms with the same level of respect we treat line jumpers and broccoli pizza. Because Americans love nothing more than demanding a woman do something and then treating her with disdain when she does it.

Everyone still feels the need to inform me that I have somehow hit the life jackpot.

None of that really bothers me though. I spent many years as a journalist, which just did a terrific job of stomping my give-a-crap meter to death. Plus, I really do love that I’m able to stay home with my littles. They’re great fun to be around and super chill about when the microwave is dirty.

Still, there is one thing about my stay-at-home status that I do struggle with, one thing I can’t quite get over. Because the hard part is also the best part. I have no boss. No higher-ups. No co-workers or peers. No one to play witness to my day.

Which means I can be Super Mom all day. Racing cars on the floor, reading books over and over, handling potential meltdowns like a seasoned hostage negotiator. I’m goofy. I’m delightful. I’m gentle yet firm, like a white, female Morgan Freeman.

But then, about 20 minutes before my husband gets home, all hell breaks loose. Only this time, it’s the 17th time its broken loose. And…

I.

JUST.

CAN’T.

ANYMORE.

So I lose my temper. Which makes everything one thousand times worse. Meaning when he walks in the door, 4 out of 5 times, I am losing my mind and both kids are crying and the stupid dog won’t stop barking. (And that fifth time, everything is on fire and I’m calmly sitting on the living room floor drinking wine straight from the bottle).

And that’s his most common image of me. Screaming, yelling, crying, cursing, laughing manically, with macaroni in my hair and baby poop on my pants. But did he see the 147 times I didn’t go insane when it was completely warranted?

No.

No one did.

Because it’s not just with him. In public, when my toddler is walking with the speed of a sloth high on oxy, do I yell at him to hurry up? No. Even though he is slowly killing my soul because, seriously, how is it humanly possible to move this slow? No. Even though it’s 8 degrees out and my back is screaming because I’m carrying his sister, who is the world’s heaviest 15 pounds? No.

And when he asks me 33 times in a row if he can have a cookie when we’re done shopping, do I explode that 34th time? No. Or when he spills my expensive coffee even though I told him explicitly to knock it off before he spills my expensive coffee? No.

No one sees these things. What they do see, however, is when I finally do explode because he purposely hit his baby sister because I wouldn’t buy him some dumb toy he doesn’t even really want anyway. And all they see is the horrible mother holding a screaming baby and yelling at the adorable toddler who has perfected the giant crocodile tear.

It’s not fair, you guys.

No one sees the good stuff. No one sees Super Mom.

And yeah, yeah, even though no one saw it, I know it still counts and my kids will grow up to be great humans because I am a great mom when no one is looking and blah, blah, bibbity-blah. But this is 2017. If you go somewhere and don’t take a selfie, did you really go? If you walk somewhere and aren’t wearing a Fitbit, did it really count? If you prick me, do I not bleed? I do, but only because I tweeted about the random cray-cray who stabbed me. #anyonegotabandaid

I want credit, dammit. A gold star. Where are my stickers and lollipops for not biting my kid back when he bites me for the fourth time that day?

Sigh. Guess I’ll just have to settle for more wine and…ugh…an intrinsic sense of self-worth at a job (mostly) well done.

Is motherhood really the toughest job?

I’ll never forget the moment I became a mother.

Unlike many women, it wasn’t when I realized I was pregnant; in fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have one single maternal feeling during my entire pregnancy. I hated being pregnant.

Sure, it had its perks. Eating cheeseburgers in bed, for example. Or eating fried chicken in bed, for another. Or just having my husband bring the entire contents of our fridge into bed, laid out buffet-style.

But even when I felt my baby kick for the first time, or saw him on the ultrasound, I still didn’t feel like a mom. I didn’t know this kid. We may have been sharing the same body, but he was more like the weird roommate I never saw but knew hadn’t moved out yet because of the mess he left behind in our “apartment.” Our bloated, sweaty, gigantic “apartment” that was permanently carpeted in sweatpants and my husband’s old T-shirts.

It also wasn’t, like it is for many women, the first time I held him. By that point, I had already been a mom for a good hour. So finally getting to gaze upon his beautiful (and very red and angry) face didn’t magically transform me into some sort of Earth Mother Goddess. It just transformed me into a manically laughing/sobbing madwoman for the next 20 minutes.

No, the moment I became a mother was when the doctor left it up to me how to proceed after 33 hours of labor. Putting it plainly and without getting too deep into my lady-part details, the doctor explained that I had to decide either to keep going with labor even though I was still barely dilated (better for me but more dangerous for the baby, since his heart rate was beginning to drop), or to have a C-section (better for him but more dangerous for me since I’d be ripped open from my pelvis to my boobs while they poked at my intestines with sharp sticks…or whatever they do during a C-section…I don’t know, I’m not a doctor).

I told them I wanted to discuss it with my husband first but I already knew my answer. Or course I knew. If you’re a mom, you already know too.

“Let’s go with the C-section. I’d rather be the one in any kind of danger.”

And that’s when the nurse confirmed it.

“Spoken like a true mother.”

That’s when I became a mom.

Now, let me be clear, I don’t write this to try and make myself sound like some kind of selfless hero over here. My decision, in the halls of the maternity ward, was common, if not downright mundane. I was only ever in danger theoretically. Like, in worst case scenario terms. I mean, come on. “Woman Chooses To Have C-Section. Film at 11.” It was something the medical staff did not only every day, but multiple times every day, safely and efficiently.

(Not to mention, my other choice was to push a giant watermelon out of my hooha, so…yeah. No big damn heroes here, sir).

And it was the same decision millions of other moms have made given similar circumstances.

And that’s the point.

Being a mom, at least in my limited experience so far, means that it’s no longer about you. It means that every decision you will make from here on out will answer the question “what is best for my child?” And it means that from here on out you will make those decisions a thousand times a day without even noticing it because it becomes second nature to put their needs first.

So while everyone on the Internet is currently debating whether motherhood is the toughest job there is (a debate ignited by the video posted below that went viral), I can easily end it by definitively saying no, being a mom is not the toughest job there is.

And that’s because the question is wrong.

Being a mom isn’t a job. It’s who you are. And who you will always be.

It can’t be quantified.

So, sure, you can list all the things moms do on a daily basis and how much a mom would get paid if she collected wages for being a chef, a chauffeur, a coach, a teacher, an accountant, a boo-boo kisser, etc, etc.

But being a mom isn’t about keeping score.

It’s about being willing to have your body ripped open and all your insides exposed to the outside world, both literally and figuratively.

So to all my fellow moms out there, and especially to my own mom, Happy Mother’s Day.

P.S. Your heart is showing.

Stay-At-Home Moms vs Working Moms

For those of you in the betting pool who picked that I would fail as a mother within a month, bad news: Riker is still alive. Not even maimed yet. Or as far as I can tell, permanently psychologically damaged (granted, that might change once he finally learns to reads and goes through all my old pregnancy blog posts…”Really, mom? My nickname in utero was Demon Wizard? Really?”).

However, now that we have made it to the one month mark fairly unscathed, the real test of parenthood is beginning. All the visitors have left. My husband has gone back to work. And I am now solely responsible for the lil’ Nipple Slayer (“Really, mom? Really?”) for most hours of the day.

Now, I was never one of those people who thought that stay-at-home moms had it easy. Nor did I think working moms were walking on down Easy Street in their pantsuits. And this is because (…brief pause while I dust off this here old soapbox…) I believe myself a true feminist who recognizes that women should not be judged for their life choices just because it isn’t the same as your life choice (…steps down and gently places soapbox back in its hiding place in the closet, right beside seven year’s worth of BUST magazine…).

But now that I am a few days into this new visitor-free, husband-less child care routine, while simultaneously still working from home writing my (WARNING! WARNING! Shameless self-promotion ahead!) award-winning newspaper column, I feel I can fully empathize with both sides.

In fact, just for fun, let me take you through a typical day of mine.

It usually begins at 4 a.m. That is, if my son decides it starts at 4 a.m. He could also decide to start it at 2 a.m. Or 3:17 a.m. Or, if he’s in a really festive mood, we simply blend the previous day into the next day with no discernible break in between.

Still half (occasionally all) asleep, I attempt to change his diaper, which he has turned into a fun game I like to call “Let’s Poop And Pee As Much As We Can In The Tiny Window Of Time Between Removing One Diaper And Thrusting The Other One Underneath My Tushy.”

He usually wins.

He also almost always wins what I call the Bonus Round, which is when he manages to pee on me no matter where I’m standing at the changing table.

We then eat breakfast, and by we I mean him and by breakfast I mean he gnaws on my breast for 35 minutes like a starving, feral piranha. Repeat three times until mid-morning when I finally get 47 free seconds and use it to eat my own breakfast of a moldy blueberry muffin, daintily crammed into my mouth whole.

After that, I usually kjfjfjfjfffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff…

Oops, fell asleep on the keyboard. Sorry about that. What was I saying?

Well, anyway, at some point he finally falls asleep again, which is when I put him down in the crib for a nap, which is apparently the international baby sign for WAKE UP IMMEDIATELY AND START CRYING HYSTERICALLY! So I pick him back up and try to calm him while at the same time trying to clean my house at least a little bit considering I haven’t seen the dog in about three days and I suspect he’s stuck underneath the world’s largest pile of burp cloths.

Day in the life 2

At some point, I will actually get to go to the bathroom, which is when I notice I have run out of maxipads. And with necessity being the mother of invention and all, I make the executive decision to use one of Riker’s diapers until such time as I can get to the store (which I’m guessing will be in June).

By now, I’m lkkdkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk…

Oopsie. Fell asleep again. Um…where was I?

Well, it doesn’t matter. Let’s just say at this point I realize I have a looming deadline and need to finish (re: start) my column. So I put the baby in the magical vibrating bouncy chair I got at my baby shower and proceed to write exactly one sentence before I start to feel guilty because the baby is just sitting there, staring at me, doing nothing. And all the stupid baby books say you have to stimulate your baby CONSTANTLY or else he’ll end up as a drooling vegetable by the time he’s an adult. Or worse yet, an employee for the Department of Motor Vehicles.

So I then pick him up and try to write with him in my arms but this, as you can imagine, is less than sldddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddddd…

AH! Where am I!? Oh. Sorry. Happened again.

Well, at this point we’ve reached what is usually called “the witching hour,” which is when your baby decides to cry for three hours straight for no discernible reason. Although if I had to discern the reasons why he was crying, it would look something like this:

Day in the life 1

And now it’s the end of the day (the term “day” being subjective to my son’s whims, of course), I still haven’t showered, I have a tiny diaper shoved in my underwear and my column has exactly one sentence written and this helpful note below it:

“Something funny about soapboxes here.”

So, to all you mothers out there, I feel your pain. But let me share with you the one piece of advice I received that has truly saved my life and works whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or working hard at the office or doing both like me. And that advice is dffffgggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg…

It’s exhausting being a chick…

This past Sunday, my husband Ryan and I were out with some friends, having a couple beers, a couple of laughs. Naturally, I was being my usual charming, slightly buzzed, self-deprecating self.

But then…THEN I had to go and make a comment about how since I’ve been struggling to find work as a writer, at least it gives me plenty of time to clean the house. HA HA!

We then moved onto other topics (mostly farts and boobs, since it was all guys save for me) but for some reason (beer, and possibly the fact I own a uterus), I got irrationally angry at my husband for not jumping into the earlier conversation and defending me.

Which is ridiculous. Defending me from what? Even my baffled husband, when confronted with my irrational anger, said “I thought you were just doing a schtick.” Technically all he was guilty of was sitting at the bar and having a good time.

And then, because I couldn’t just leave well enough alone, my husband soon after bought me the bracelet and necklace I’d been admiring from a street vendor, to which I also responded with irrational anger.

But what the poor guy didn’t realize, through no fault of his own (since he’s not a nut job crazy 30-year-old woman), is that for months I’ve been dealing with conflicting feelings on going from a full-time, hard-working journalist to being a struggling freelance writer financially dependent on her husband when we moved to Boston. And apparently on Sunday they just boiled over.

So I decided to create some visual aids to give dudes an insight into the mind of a woman. And although these aids are specific to my own neurosis, you will at least get somewhat of an idea of the way a modern woman’s mind works.

For example, chart No. 1, which I like to call “The Cycle of Guilt,” is all about my mixed feelings on being a freelancer writer and occasional photographer and not making much money:

Long before my current employment situation occurred, my husband and I had already discussed the possibility of one of us staying home with our future children if we could afford it, instead of schlepping them to daycare all the time. We agreed, as mature, rational adults, that whoever did stay home would take on the majority of the household chores since they would have more free time. Gender roles be damned.

And so, even though we don’t have kids, I have kept my end of the bargain during my non-9-to-5 lull. But seeing as I’m not really doing anything meaningful, like, oh, I don’t know, raising a human being, it is constantly sending me down what I like to call the “Cleaning Spiral of Shame”:

Of course, being a woman, I let all these feelings fester inside, which leads to the Pie Chart of Reasons for Overeating:

And for a former athlete and one-time size six, all this over-eating makes me worry even MORE and feel bad about my body, which makes me feel even MORE guilt, meaning most of my days are spent in cycles and spirals of these feelings, which leads into the Bar Graph of Time Mis-management:

And what does all of the above equal out to? What I like to call Husband-Oriented Anger Displacement:

Yeah. It’s exhausting being a chick.

Now where are those damn Oreos?

P.S. Ryan, you are a very, very tolerant man. I love you.

P.S.S. Where are the damn Oreos?