“Mom, you wouldn’t understand. I’m actually working a real job. I don’t get to just sit at home.”
Those were the words of a newly-working, mouthy teenager. The now me wants to pop the old me in the mouth, but how could I have known? As I jumped into a couple different occupations for the first time, it seemed like my stay at home mother couldn’t relate. My dad was on the Slope for two weeks, then home for two weeks throughout my entire life and it never dawned on me that my mom did everything by herself. In those days the world revolved around me, laundry did itself, food jumped out of the fridge and into the frying pan, then magically onto my plate, and the concept of bills was some 80s nightmare called Funny Farm. My mother would try to explain the hard work she did as a stay at home mom over and over again, but it never really sunk in. She seemed hurt and honestly, I just didn’t get it.
When my daughter was born it took about a week to “get it.” I didn’t realize my husband would go back to work right away, but we needed the money. Still, from my side of things it appeared that he had freedom mentally and physically from the baby, while she was literally attached to her wild-eyed, bewildered host. My reaction to having a baby was to hermit up. If I was going to do this mothering thing it would be sacred. I wasn’t secure enough for mellow conversation about having a new baby, it was serious business that wiped my entire life’s schedule clean. The baby spit up in my belly button was real and happening. Bathroom breaks were cherished and going to the store by myself was the Bahamas. Life becomes very different. When someone says you are “just sitting at home,” you feel like, well yeah, it seems that way. In reality you’re raising a human being and all that entails, so it’s a calm, busy life. During that time, the baby is raising you too so you can grow as their mom.
Fast forward quite a few years to having a little more experience with the mom life. Whether you stay at home or work, there is no real reason to feel guilty; the kids are alive and doing well. You are doing a great job. There is no real reason to feel sensitive; what others think doesn’t affect how much we love our kids and what they need. There is no reason to feel intense; they are old enough to help out. Their growth (as well as our own) continues to blow our minds. You’ve seen a variety of different kids by now and can just celebrate them as unique individuals. The mentality as a mother changes, because our kids are always changing. Our job description is always changing.
For being a “stay at home” mom, it feels like I’m never home. As a younger stay at home mom, the baby and I would sleep in. Where were we going to go? From the bedroom to the living room? I don’t need to set my alarm for that. Now having to be somewhere a few times a day on time feels mostly energizing, and on occasion, stressful. Younger me relied on social networking or meeting other moms at the park for conversation. Now I get to sit by them during practices, games, and school functions. Younger me would celebrate milestones such as crawling, eating solid food, and first words! Now we celebrate creativity, educational and athletic skills, or overall just recognizing our kid is growing into a legit human being. Oh, you know what I mean. Instead of expressing themselves through smushing blueberries on their head, they can watercolor a sunset and tell us a tale about it.
It might sound like I prefer the latter, but both examples warm my heart. When my 4-year-old brings home a finger painting and my 8-year-old does well on a spelling test, I feel the same amount of excitement. Ask me if I’m excited when they are teenagers.
Here’s the Thing: Sorry, Mom, for belittling a real job that is now my entire life. I’ve seen you take great pleasure in the things I have to go through as a mother, because well, you don’t try to hide it. It’s like when a person accidentally walks in on you when you are going to the bathroom, so you hold your hand out in front of you to shield them from seeing you in such a vulnerable position ... that’s kind of what it’s like raising kids around you. The older I get, the more I understand you a little better. I love you.
Kasi McClure enjoys being a wife and mother of two in Kenai. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.