September 5, 2012

Going Nuts and Rocket Science


I'm a stay at home mother. I've been questioned on that label because I also do freelance design work and teach, but since all of that is squeezed into nap time and evenings, mama is my preferred job title. Of course, like all mother's, I am a complex person with many passions and interests that have nothing to do with my child, but right now the vast majority of my time is spent planning for, playing with, researching about, cooking for, laughing with, and cleaning up after my little boy. It's my job, and I'm pretty proud of the work I'm doing.


My choice to stay home is not a common or all that popular one with many of my friends and even some family. Most people are respectful regardless of whether they approve, but that discussion of when I'll be returning seems to 'casually' bubble up too often and I field a lot of condescending comments and questions.

Last year we went to a wedding and spent the night catching up with old friends. One woman has a daughter about a year older than Little Smith and she was talking about her work and various business trips. She asked how my transition back to the office had been and when I mentioned that I was still home she tilted her head and said, 'awww, give me a hug... I know it's tough, and for those first few months I thought that maybe I could just stay with my baby forever, but we're intelligent women with real careers and that just doesn't work for us, we'd go nuts!'.

Just last week I was talking with a close family friend, her son is grown but she pretty much reiterated the whole, I'd have gone crazy if I'd stayed home with him bit and then ended with laughing about the qualifications some people require in a nanny since 'watching a kid isn't exactly rocket science'. She didn't intend it as an insult to me and I understood what she meant, it isn't always the most qualified person that is the best at nurturing a child... and it isn't rocket science... but it is challenging.


It's far more than just the labor, I have had jobs that didn't work my brain, where I was doing repeated tasks all day and my mind went to mush. I don't feel that in my current role at all, I actually feel just as mentally taxed and on point as it did in my former job. I know that isn't the case for everyone, and I completely respect all the women who work each day at an office and parent as well. Our choices as mother's are so personal and delicate, it frustrates me that these dialogues so often feel insulting, even when we try to show mutual respect.


Staying at home just fits for me. Yes, there are moments when I do think I'll go nuts, days when I think I'm messing up everything or I'm too tired to function and wish someone else could do this gig for a day or two. But even in those toughest of times, there is genuine joy. I can say that I end more days with a feeling of satisfaction and real accomplishment than in any other phase of my life. Nuts or not, that's a pretty sweet job.

*all images are from our june trip to chicago

24 comments:

  1. From one stay at home mum to another...beautifully said Lilly and just the words I needed tonight to re-inspire the mum in me x

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  2. Well said. And whilst I do need to make sure I do things just for me to keep my brain and creative side going, I LOVE being at home and don't really want to go back. Much to my own suprise!

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  3. I (mostly) stayed home with mine too-- you won't regret it. I missed working, and was glad to get back to it when the time came, but I wouldn't trade those early years for anything. I hesitate to say one way is better than another-- to each mom her own, after all. But if your beautiful blog & smiling son are any judge, you are doing exactly the right thing!

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    1. Thanks Tabetha, I definately agree that there isnt a 'better' way and whatever works for each person is what's best. I did hesitate in writing this because I didn't want to suggest staying home was superior in any way... just that it is an option for women with real brains too :)

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  4. You know, I've had a few people say similar things to me after telling them I'm putting my career on the back-burner for a bit. I'm sure they mean well but it comes across the opposite.

    I miss being an ER nurse some days. But then I go in to get Alice after her nap and am greeted by her little gummy smile (now with one tooth!) and I'm reminded why I decided to be a stay-at-home mom for this time of her life.

    Great post!

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  5. beautifully written! I received a lot of judgement when I had my oldest and shared I wasn't going back to work. At this point everyone knows. I've got friends that work from home, work 2 days a week, to "full time moms." I'm thankful I get to see the range. Each family is different.

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    1. Yes! The range is wonderful. I see it some with my friends but even more so with this online community and it's fantastic to see how different women make it work.

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  6. What a beautiful boy. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. When I have kids I will be a stay-at-home mom as well. I don't want to miss anything! I hope the heat lays off soon! Good luck with everything!

    xoxo
    Liesl

    woodsy-soiree.blogspot.com

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  7. This has to be so hard. I have to say, though, that I did not receive any of the condescending remarks when my coworkers learned of my decision, and I credit that to the type of work I was doing previous to becoming a stay at home mom (I was a school social worker).

    I do struggle some days with the old mushy-brain feeling, but most of the time I'm so busy I don't have time to feel that way. I think when I am feeling at my wit's end, I try to remember that this is the most important job in the world to me, and that I am raising three future adults to contribute to society!

    I am so sorry that you have experienced condescension. There is nothing worse. But sometimes I wonder if women who have gone back to work do that in order to justify their own decision, which I imagine has to be such a hard one when it comes to leaving your child with someone else all day. And then maybe there are some people who are just totally clueless! Either way, I know I totally look up to you and think you are doing an amazing job... whether or not you decide to go back to work.

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    1. Thanks Lauren, I do think architecture is particularly harsh on this front because it's much more than just a job, it's a passion (one that I still have btw). Of course social work is also a passion but I imagine a more understanding bunch! I know some of what I hear as condescension comes from a place of teal concern in not wanting to see me sacrifice a part of my life that they know is important, but I do work hard at that balance and get weary of explaining/ defending it.

      I'm also probably over-sensitive on the subject as well and I do take responsibility for that. Its not all them, it's me too :)

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    2. Oh, I'm sure you're not being overly-sensitive! I think those remarks are totally insensitive! If someone said that to me, I would surely bristle! And for me, social work was a passion, but not as big of one as I thought it would be. I think my transition was easier because I was already starting to feel burned out!

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  8. I really respect women who are willing to stay at home with their children. It is defiantly a hard job. My mother stayed home until we had reached junior high. She said that she was busier as a stay at home mom than any nursing job she has held (she kept as very busy). You have an adorable son!

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  9. I am so pleased for you that you are so happy with your choice. :) Seems obvious that you are where you are meant to be. It's different for everyone, and people should not judge. I took the longest maternity leaves that I possibly could with my kids. Fortunately, I live in Canada, so that meant a year off with some money from the government. My employer also allowed another year off without pay. So, it was almost two years with each kid. I would not have traded that time for a million bucks. Now I work at home, and they are at school. You just never know what's going to happen!

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    1. Yes, I am very envious of my Canadian friends! It's a much more supportive environment for maternity leave. And it's very true that you never know what the future holds!

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  10. I'm also a stay-at-homer (in fact I blogged about this recently). My daughter is 8 months old and I haven't actually been away from her yet. A lot of my working-mom friends make hurtful comments, but then on the weekends they complain they can't get anything done with the kids in the house, have no time for themselves, etc..Petty, but I've actually had to delete Facebook friends for making rude comments about moms who don't work. Supposedly there are those who think we're lazy, uneducated, live off the system...ugh. I never realized how mean women were until I had my daughter. I personally don't care what a woman does, as long as she's doing it for the betterment of her family. I know it can be hard not having a minute to yourself away from the house/kids. Sometimes I miss just being "Melissa", if that makes sense. BUT I love what I do and feel I'm where I belong. My daughter's father is an architect so I know making the jump from architecture to stay-at-home-mommy is a BIG leap. It sounds like you're doing what's best for YOUR family, so kudos to you!

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    1. Hi Melissa, thanks for sharing your story, and sorry you've dealt with some mean comments. It's so tough to win as a mom, we judge ourselves and eachother far too harshly. Being married to an architect can be it's own challenge too! :)

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  11. olive has just turned one and i get it ALL the time - "when are you going back to work?" and "are you going back to work?"....i don't know if it's because these people (mostly women) felt that they needed or had to go back to work for whatever reason...or whether it's a bit of jealousy because they had to go back to work for financial reasons...i don't know. but it's beginning to irk me because i feel like taking care of olive IS work! it's just not paid and it's not the same as what i was doing before...but i am teaching her and guiding and nurturing her in a way that i feel wouldn't be the same by day care providers. i don't have the "luxury" of having grandparents be able to look after her and all that aside, my job, teaching primary school students, is more than a full-time job. i don't stop my job at 3.15pm like i think most people think i do. and that irks me even more.

    but most importantly, i am at home with olive because I LOVE IT.

    i think those comments by those women were insensitivve. intelligent women with real careers can and do stay at home with their kids...happily! grrr. and it takes intelligence to think of interesting, challenging, fun and educational things for them to do all day, every day. great post -- very thought and comment provoking!

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    1. That does sound frustrating, I think the one year mark was probably the worst in terms of pressure and questions so hopefully that eases up a bit. Happy birthday to Miss Olive again too!

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  12. And then there are those of us who work and when we meet up with our SAHM friends we are insanely jealous because we want to be home with our kids, too.

    *Raises hand*

    I wish it were a choice in my case, but unfortunately the bills do not pay themselves! Sigh. I can daydream, though.

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    1. So glad you chimed in and love the added perspective. I definately recognize that it's always a tough choice, and I am fairly certain working mother's also have frustrations in their dealings with those of us who are home. In our situation the price of daycare (particularly for the hours required in my field) was actually more costly than my not working. That's a fact I find depressing given how many years of training and job experience I have... but in a way I'm grateful because it did allow me to remove finances from the equation and ultimately I wanted to be home. Staying home with your child isn't an option that everyone has and I'm extremely grateful. It's just the presumption that I'm now somehow less intelligent or driven because of my choice that gets my goat :)

      I'm sure you do a fantastic job at balancing it all, something that I so admire in the working mothers I know.

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  13. I think the pressure to go back to work can be as much of a tyranny as the pressure to stay at home was in the past. I stayed at home a lot when my children were young, and even though work was a necessity at times, I have never worked full time since I have had children, and I think the family has been the better for it. It is really not true when people say that you have to go out to work to use your brain, or imply that childcare is not for the intelligent. I have a PhD and a degree for Cambridge, but I have felt just as fulfilled by being a full-on mother - in fact, it is more demanding and rewarding than much of the work I have done! And now that two out of three have grown-up and left home I am so pleased that I was able to spend plenty of time with them at home, and I absolutely treasure those happy memories now their childhood is past.

    Pomona x

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  14. I've had insanely rude things said to me about being a sahm. I think there is an unfriendly environment where women are judged whether they go back to work, or not. It's not perfect, and there are days I *really* long for those work days, but if you can financially swing staying at home, and you WANT TO, then why judge?

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  15. Being a mom is the most challenging job I've ever encountered! I'm in the same boat as you - I couldn't earn enough to cover the cost of childcare, so it's not really an option. Sometimes, a bit shamefully, I do envy mothers who get to leave the house alone every day and go to work... Dealing with a little one 24/7 takes so much patience, creativity and energy! I'm sorry you've encountered some negativity about it. You are definitely doing an amazing job with Little Smith - these are the most formative years of his life, and you're providing an incredible foundation!

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  16. I have a hard time with that attitude from folks as well. It's so condescending. Like only intelligent women return to the workforce after having a child, and staying home with a kid is for people who have no ambition or desire for a fuller life. It's a weird thing to have to remind people that you have interests and are a person outside just being a mother. That in my former life, I was a sound editor for film and it was a really cool job. And that I could still be doing that job, but staying home with my kids has been a priority for me, as difficult as it can be sometimes.

    I'm glad that you have such good perspective on it all, and are able to maintain your sense of individuality while being a stay-at-home mom.

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