Seems like someone is always penning an article on working mothers (WM) vs. stay at home mothers (SAHM). I am still mystified as to why they present it as a "VERSUS" argument--but that is a whole other can of worms for another day. Like all things in life, it gets polarized into one extreme or another.
Option A: The snazzy stay at home Mama who is trendy, gorgeous, has a pottery barn home, an urban farmhouse garden, perfect unvaccinated homeschooled children in flawlessly ironed clothing, surrounded by every pinterest idea you, the SAHM reader, have pinned to a board entitled "What I would do if I had less children and more time."
Option B: The frumpy disgusting housewife with a messy house, a dirt plot full of dead vegetable plants, messy unsuccessfully homeschooled children, a daytime soap opera habit, wrinkled clothes, surrounded by a mish mash of projects that you, the SAHM reader, have pinned to a pinterest board entitled "Pinterest FAILS, LOL!"
Those seem to be the options pitched at my head every time I open a parenting magazine. Unattainable perfection or miserable failure. If you don't reach one, you are clearly, the other.
And since being a stay at home mom is tough work, you can imagine what the odds are on which camp you identify most with when the self esteem monsters are chomping away at you.
Even if staying home is where you actively, willingly, CHOOSE to be each and every day...
(Cue: inspirational movie music)
That beautiful balance of the SACRIFICE of being there for your kids all day and the BLESSING of getting to be with them all day...
Those self esteem monsters can still get to you. And if you are surrounded by working mamas who work all day and do the SAHM thing, better than you can, in less than four hours...well... it pricks the parental pride a bit.
I confessed to my sister on the phone just the other day:
"Sometimes 1:30pm hits and I look back on the day so far and think, what have I really done today? I've wiped four butts and made macaroni and cheese.... thats about it."
I assured her that I washed my hands between each of those activities.
She gave me a sympathetic laugh.
"No really" I say, "sometimes I wish I had a 9-5 job that I could rock the socks off the way you do. Especially on those macaroni butt days...."
My sister sighed and said that some days she wished she could stay at home nurturing a passel of sweet babies.
Then she told me about her work day, which involved dealing with a grown up in the midst of a temper tantrum. Lets face it, grown up temper tantrums are worse than toddler tantrums... so I conceded the pity point for the morning. All though I still would not mind a day in her shoes...even with the grown up fit pitching, especially if it meant I could eat a hot meal without getting up once.
I'm sure its normal to wish for a freaky friday swap every now and again. Life is exhausting, no matter what side of the fence you are on.
J and I usually sigh and say "the grass is always greener on the other side" when we encounter friends that have spent the first 6 years of their married lives traveling the world being all artsy fartsy, while we spent the first six years birthing a preschool. They sigh right back and say they wish they had their own brood of goldfish cracker fiends.
I'm not a big fan of that saying, "the grass is always greener on the other side," even though we bandy it about the house from time to time. It just seems to say it best, no? There is a reason its a "saying" after all. Yet I dislike it since its smacks of "I hate where I am at in life and things looks better across the fence line, but I am sure they are ticked off and miserable too so we might as well stay here, discontented with life as it is." Depressing, but we still say it all the time because on some days...it works to soothe the occasional ache.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across an easier slogan to swallow. Not sure if someone posted it on facebook or if it was some marvelously scrolled chalkboard artwork on pinterest, but the words hit home loud and true:
"The grass is always greener where you water it."
It was a quaint cheesy remedy that I wanted to grab hold of. Or rather, it made me want to grab a bucket and drench the blades around me. Cover my space with the richest, greenest grass that even the emerald hills of Ireland would envy.
This made more sense to me than aiming my bucket at some far away land and using all my mental/spiritual/emotional energy to heave as much water as I could in that direction, hoping a few drops would one day land there, all the while standing on parched earth.
Dumping the water right where you stand seems a no brainer.
But what about dreams?
Childcare is not a glamorous job, no matter how cute the midgets are. Poop, vomit, spaghetti messes, laundry---it ain't pretty.
But the way I see the job and my life...that makes all the difference in the world. It makes it a work of art. Probably some weirdo modern splotch of "who would pay money for that??" kind of art...but ART just the same.
I may not be working my dream job as an editor at a publishing house, but my jobs the past few months have been awesome. Here are just a few...
Cowgirl paintball gun fighter
Oak Tree--- (ok that one sounds boring, but it wasn't. I had lots of cute boys climbing all over me)
Astronaut Dentist (VERY tricky work fixing teeth while maintaining the helmet in place so you don't get "space sucked" out into the blackness)
Carpenter & Termite Killer
Princess who needs a Knight
Princess who is secretly a Knight
World's Best Secret Kiss
Wendy Moira Angela Darling
A Female Honey Badger
Suck on that, Random House!
Fighting evil, nurturing goodness, fixing things, being creative--- not bad at all.
You know, my sister also does all those things in her own way (She really is the Dino Wrangler/PirateQueen of the Photography/ Graphic Design World).
Its all about where you water most. :)
No matter how much I secretly wish I could be SAHM option A with the perfect hair and the fabulously run home, I know that its just not me. The Princess Ninja has no time for that, you know? To be honest, I don't want to waste my water buckets on that sort of thing. My cracked, exhausted, mismatched water buckets...they want to invest their water in something else.
I hope when my little men are all grown up they look back on their childhood and remember the messes we made. Those gloriously fun sticky icky messes of playdoh and paint and baking dishes in the sink. I hope they recall that a pile of laundry sat in the same basket for three days because Mommy preferred reading Magic Tree House books under the table fort to folding shirts and underwear.
They can look back and remember the occupational hazzards of those tender growing up days..... even the bad days. The ugly messes that have nothing to do with cute fun or playdoh or innocence.
Oh do I hope they remember the bad days with the ugly messes.
Those awful days when I fail them miserably and beg their forgiveness.
The days they saw me confess to feeling eaten up by those self esteem monsters but chose to stay by their side and love them.
I hope they remember those bad days just as much as they remember the good days.
It will give them a bit of grace to hold onto on those future bad days of their own with my grandchildren.
When they feel like ripping their hair out and crying from sheer sleep deprivation, I hope they remember J and I in the same position... a memory like a hug saying, 'we've all been there son, remember?"
They will recall their Mama, SAHM Secret Option C: a feisty Mom who loved her boys fiercely, played hard, worked hard, never provided matching socks, made a mean bowl of chili, fumbled with her own frail humanity, lived off an IV of grace and never hesitated to apologize to her kids or be vulnerable about her own brokenness.
Maybe if they remember that, they will feel safe enough to surrender their parental pride, pick up the phone, call us and say "WHAT AM I DOING HERE?"
Maybe it will help them slay their own self esteem monsters a bit more easily and they can just focus on being the King of Camelot or a Shark Hunter instead.
That is a well invested bucket of water indeed.
A patched up rickety bucket with a purpose.