There’s No Place Like Work

Some problems are so complex and frustrating that one feels like scrapping the whole thing and starting over anew.  Untangling those stupid “fun fur” yarns from the craft store is like that.  Right now, my whole life is like that.

Let me illustrate.  I have a degree; I double majored in art and religion.  Yeah, I know, but a degree is a degree, and I’ve at least proven that I can learn.  I managed a bookstore; I worked for a museum managing volunteers and the front desk.  But five years ago I chose to stay home with our children.  I thought it would be great; just me and the kids all day?  We’ll have so much fun!  Yeah right.  There were so many things I didn’t understand back then.  I didn’t realize how isolating it can be to stay home with children, how demoralizing to clean and clean and clean and see no difference at all, because the little hellions are manic about creating more mess.  It is their purpose in life, their calling, their destiny.  And to be in the messy house alone all day?  Is not exactly the domestic bliss I’d envisioned.

I’ve heard some people say “oh but you get paid in hugs and kisses and love!”  Well, how about getting paid in nasty looks, screams and venomous remarks?  No one, but no one, can hurt you like your child.  And Cameron is especially good at giving voice to his disapproval.  “This food tastes like slugs.”  “YOU should have done something!” (whenever anything goes wrong.)  And my favorite, saying that Daddy could do something I can’t, because he’s smarter … because he works.  (Which is totally not true, by the way, I’m plenty smart.  “I am so smart, I am so smart,  S-M-R-T … “)  It’s his talent.  Really, at this point, I would rather get paid in actual money.  At least I could spend that on therapy or vodka.

Others say that it’s the most rewarding, important thing I can do.  And yes, I agree, it is the most important thing I will do, raising my children.  But does it have to be the ONLY thing I do?  To say that is to say that any working mother is a bad mother.  And sorry, I’ve known plenty of moms who work, and they are great moms.  I know I’m glad my mom worked; I can be proud of her, and know that she did something extraordinary with her life.  Why shouldn’t I do something extraordinary with mine that does not involve my kids?  (She thinks so too.  When I first told her I was going to stay home, she said, “Why did we spend so much sending you to college if you’re just going to be a housewife?”)  And if raising kids is so important, so grand and noble, why is it that when I say I stay home with the kids, the light of interest goes off in so many eyes?  There is no value placed upon what I do, and no matter how many times I reassure myself, eventually the judgment of society weighs upon me.

I have wished over and over that I had a disposition that let me be happy at home.  I am so envious of Kim and Andrea, who are not only happy being home, but are really good at it.  I’ve wondered ever since Cameron was born, “What’s wrong with me?”  Let me tell you, that is not a happy mental place to be for five years.  I still don’t know what the difference is between me and them, but I wish I could wave a magic wand and change myself.  God knows I’ve tried.  It would sure be a lot better for everyone.

I’ve tried to make it better, more interesting.  I’ve acquired chickens, I’ve begun spinning my own yarn, I got a pair of rabbits to spin yarn from.  I’ve written a lot of stories, and published most of them.  But none of those make a significant amount of money, not anywhere near enough to cover the costs of child care, so they must remain hobbies.  And that’s such a condescending, patronizing term, hobby, when referring to something I’m trying to do to make money, to carve out a niche for myself.  There’s a desperation somewhere under all that, a scrambling feeling of a last-ditch effort to save my dignity and self-respect, that is wiped out when someone says “You don’t have to make money writing/spinning/etc.  You’re lucky that your husband makes enough for you to stay home.  But if you feel that way, I suppose it’s good for you to make a little money with your hobby(ies).”  Or even worse, “Oh that’s nice that you’ve got a little job!”  Gag me with a spork, can my significance be any more diminished?

But there are problems with going back to work, too.  The most I’ve ever made was $14 an hour, and that was for a few months at the library; those jobs are almost exclusively part time.  Hiring babysitters proved to just not work out; I needed the flexibility and assured availability of a professional drop-in daycare.  My one main babysitter was wonderful, but it was still difficult at times with syncing up our schedules, plus if her kids were sick she couldn’t very well take mine too.  She has now gone back to work, and I am so pleased for her; she seems very happy.  I can’t help but be envious, because I can’t find a full-time job that pays what I would need to make to pay for child care.  And I’m in Texas, which has a relatively stable and active economy.

Then there’s the issue of a third child.  It feels like there’s still someone missing.  Perhaps it’s because Curtiss and I both came from families with three children.  We would both like a third child, but is that for the best for our family?  Is it in my best interests, and the best interests of our current children?  Will I be able to give them the best of me, with a third little one?  Could I ever afford to work again?  Even when they’re all in school, there’s summer, breaks and illnesses to contend with.

So there’s my as-yet-unsolvable problem.  I need a sword for this Gordian knot.

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2 Comments

  1. midori said,

    April 30, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    Sorry to hear about all these frustrating things and I very much wish I had a solution to all of your problems. At least in this area there isn’t much stigma with working moms and the local daycare center starts taking kids at 6 weeks old. Even my friends are encouraging me to find a job because they know it’s beneficial to my mental stability so I know that you wanting to work is definitely not a crazy thing. I remember you searching for appropriate childcare and it angers me to think that there isn’t something even for people who have to work with constantly changing schedules. Not to mention the prices were insane.

    You are definitely smart and don’t allow anyone to say otherwise, even Cameron. I envy not just your intelligence but your practicality and common sense. And every time a phone call needed to be made you simply did it instead of me procrastinating because it was too troublesome.

    As for work -forgive me if this is something you’ve already thought of- the things that you do now sound like your kind of stuff, but have you looked into work that isn’t fun or interesting but simply something you are good at? My friend had to do this so she went into accounting which is a completely different career from her two majors. Honestly it wasn’t something I thought of just because I’m not really good at anything. DX Of course you should still do the things your enjoy but sometimes the time it takes to get it done just isn’t efficient enough to make it a decent job. Honestly I know nothing about yarn, though.

    I know that what some people say can make you feel worse, but even you know that they’re not trying to hurt you and you just need to let those things go. God, is that the most difficult thing to do! Especially when they’re trying to make you see the good side of something that seems to have no good side. To me you were meant to work and occupy your mind in a very constructive way and I bet there are a lot of moms like you out there (I just wonder if more of them are in my area). There’s nothing wrong with wanting to work!! I’d be doing it now if I could find a decent job (or if Geico would’ve at least granted me an interview, hehe).

    You’ve definitely got a lot of difficult things on your mind. I hope things get better soon for you and your family. Don’t take anything I’ve written personally because, well, it’s okay to disagree with anything I’ve said. Plus I’m embarrassed because I’m not good at writing and here I’m writing for my good friend who’s a writer. Hehe. Hang in there and call me anything you want!

  2. Karen said,

    May 1, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Anyone who demeans what a mother does as less interesting, even in their own mind, finds their children just as unappealing, uninteresting, and boring as they find you taking care of yours. And also day-care workers, teachers, social workers, pediatricians, pediatric dentists, and any time anyone spends with a child must necessarily be less interesting and less appealing that time spent with an adult. It turns your children into a hobby that you’re just spending too much time on and should probably give up.

    Anyone who thinks that it’s the greatest job in the world and getting paid in love and hugs and kisses is all you should need should be exhorting fathers to stay home with their children too or they’re bullshitting you. And they’re also discounting the realities of being “unemployed” for however long, and having people disconnect as soon as you open your mouth. You get “paid” in some cases, with a hostile work environment and an inconsistent “paycheck.” If they’ll sign up for that sort of job, then they can talk all they like about how getting nothing but crap some days despite busting tail is so totally worth it. In fact, they can take over for me on the bad days, I’ll be happy to share all this wonderfulness.

    Anyone who does not exhort fathers to stay home just as much as a wife does not believe that fathers love their children as much as mothers. In fact, anyone who says that a father’s duty is to *not* stay home is saying that it is improper, unnatural, and just plain wrong for a father to love his children as much as their mother does. Which may be true in *their* case, but I will beat the holy hell out of anyone who says that about *my* children’s father.

    Anyone who talks dismissively about another person’s job, and calling it a hobby is talking dismissively of it, isn’t worth the time of day.

    And anyone who says that you’re lucky to be completely dependent on another person should try it sometime. I’d suggest they go live with their mom without a job. Surely your mother loves you just as much as a spouse.

    Some people piss me right the f*** off. Those people who speak self-righteously about how you ought to be happy with what you’ve got, but don’t expect them to respect are usually the ones. The best thing you will ever do for your children is be a good person, demand their respect, and demand respect from everyone around you. Anything less, and your children will either accept what you’ve got for themselves or put someone through it.

    Some people are good at kids. Some people are good at 120 hour work weeks. Some people are good at literally (and I’m not using it here to mean “figuratively”) living at work. Anyone who refuses to do at least two of the three needs to step up and walk that mile before they close their minds. Not having sick days unless you can find someone to completely take over your job. Not getting to negotiate for better work conditions or pay. Not being able to quit because you can’t handle it. And getting sneered at for being lazy for doing it and getting sneered at for not being able to handle it. I can count the people I know who can do any two out of the three on one hand.

    Quite frankly, I’m surprised you know anyone happy with that kind of thing. But then, it takes all kinds. There are a lot of stay at home parents out there that would be better parents with a job, any job, that don’t get one because they’re more afraid someone will think they’re a bad mother than they are scared of actually being a bad mother. I’ve known couples that would be better if the father could have stayed home, but they would have gone through hell trying to do so, and were more concerned with appearances than doing the best by their kids.

    And anyone who says that you *ought* to be okay and ignores the fact that you’re not, does not care about you or your kids, only about appearances. Your kids are more important than that. You figure out what you need to be the best mother you can be in this reality, then you do that. I needed a job. I’m a better mother with it. In fact, I’m a better stay at home mother for the other 100 hours I work here with that part time job. But, y’know, 100 hours just isn’t as much “work” as 16, so I guess I’m not really a “stay at home” mother anymore, am I? And that’s yet another stupid, stupid, stupid perception.


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