So here I go making a new blog and then posting absolutely nothing in it. I’ve not purposefully been neglectful, but I also didn’t intend for this space to be just a random list of my daily carryings on. More actual thoughts, less drivel. No one wants to read my diary, because frankly, it wouldn’t be very interesting. And that’s what Facebook and Instagram are for, anyway. But there are still some actual thoughts rattling around in this head of mine, so I suppose I should commit them to… pixels? Something.
Last week sometime, I think, was a year since I (unexpectedly, early) went on my maternity leave. Although I didn’t officially quit my job until January or so, it’s now been an entire year since I worked. At least, the paid, outside the home kind of work. Believe me, I’m not knocking the stay at home mom gig, as being something less than work. Good grief, is it a lot of work.
But you know what it’s not? A job. A career. It’s just not. And it’s not that it’s not an acceptable choice in place of those things, because it’s a fine one to make, and “working” mothers are no better than mothers of any other kind, but it’s not a job. There are no off hours or lunch breaks or salary or bonuses or raises or promotions. No HR, no company picnic, no employee discount. Nor is there the ability to look for a new job if this one is sucking your soul away. There is no “work-life balance.” Because it’s all one thing. And man, that’s rough.
I have a really supportive partner. He understands that I am sacrificing my own career, my future earning potential, my retirement fund, and you know, my sanity, so he can go pursue his dream. He knows that just because the kids are my “job” when he’s at work, it doesn’t mean they are also always my job when he’s home. He knows looking after two small needy people is well, the worst, and doesn’t have unreasonable expectations about all the other things I ought to be getting done around our house during the day. We have a housekeeper, because I may be staying home with our children, but I’m no homemaker.
But despite my rad husband, and despite loving the poop out of my two little weirdos, I really and truly HATE being a stay at home parent. It’s just not me. I love my kids, but I like to get away from them. I like to be able to miss them once in a while. I like to take coffee breaks and zone out with my cell phone. I like to interact with other adults, and talk about things other than babies. I like non-LEGO-based problem solving. I like to wear real clothes and do my hair and makeup and not pick my outfit based on how easy it is to access my boobs. I kind of even like commuting. I like having time alone to listen to whatever inappropriate music I’ve picked as loudly as I want. I dearly miss all of these things.
A year away from paid, outside the home work feels like a big deal. I mean, it feels like a big deal every single day, but a year makes it pretty clear that this is not an extended maternity leave. Not a hiatus. This is me now. Astrid, the stay at home mom. I still can’t call myself that out loud. Not because it’s terrible or anything, but because despite a year of staying at home and momming that label just doesn’t fit right. It doesn’t roll off my tongue.
But at this point I’ve been away from work long enough that it’s bordering on ridiculous to talk about my old job like it is anything beyond something I used to do. It’s been a long time and things have probably changed and I still don’t have any plans to go back. And that’s more than a little scary.
Despite all that, though, a year at home with my kids doesn’t feel so bad. For one thing, I’ve survived. We’re here, and my kids are both (mostly) thriving and my marriage is still chugging along, and I don’t think I’ve been reduced to a shell of a person, at least not completely. I’m still figuring things out, but I AM figuring them out. It’s been three whole days since I’ve lost my patience and yelled at Tycho, and I’m pretty sure that’s a new record. My future feels uncertain, I don’t know if paid work is in my future really anytime soon, or at all, but while I don’t know what’s coming, it doesn’t look bleak. I can do this. I am doing it and I’m going to keep doing it and it’s going to be okay.
I still can’t say “stay at home mom,” though.