Tuesday, September 10, 2013

On Being a Stay At Home Mom.

Every time I sit down to blog...

I have  huge folder full of...

The thing is...

I can't even figure out how to start this post of properly.  That's how muddled my brain has been lately.  I know it's a phase, but when one is in a phase such as this one, it feels as though one will never emerge from it.

The incongruity of my situation is that right now I have loads of time to write.  My child has just gone back to school, and is now there for seven and a half hours a day.  I should be writing novels! and screenplays! and songs! and short stories! and blog posts! but I haven't been able to wade through the mud in my brain in order to dig out the words.  It's a problem.

This is not to say that I haven't been writing.  I wrote a short script yesterday which had been floating around in my brain for weeks and I've sat down daily to write blog posts.  It's just that none of it is very...good. 

Many writers and writer gurus say that if you're having a hard time coming up with words, the remedy is just to sit down and write.  So that's what I do.  I sit and I write and I'm very happy to do that, only I have had little to nothing to show for it at the end of the day.  If I had to pinpoint the root of my fog, I'd have to say that it's pressure.  Pressure to succeed.  Pressure to earn money.  Pressure to do this while also still maintaining my role as a wife and mother.  It's a lot.

"It's the toughest job in the world" has become a cliche, but after being a stay at home mom for more than six years, I can attest to the validity of that statement.  I do all the things that you would expect me to do--including being responsible for keeping a WHOLE PERSON ALIVE, which everyone seems to overlook--but the hardest part of this job is something that is rarely talked about.  Staying at home with my kid is mentally draining. 

First, there's the guilt.  I could write an entire post dedicated to the guilt of being a stay at home mom, but here's a small sample of things which cause me to feel guilty on a regular basis: not earning an income, wanting time to myself, feeding my kid food with corn syrup in it, not being a perfect housekeeper, wanting to take a nap, drinking alcohol in front of my kid, not having him enrolled in sports, the fact that he can't swim yet, getting the regular fruits and vegetables and not all organic ones, not being able to get my kid to eat anything green, spending money on myself, being addicted to caffeine, not scheduling regular dentist appointments for my family, forgetting to schedule oil change appointments for my car, reading a book or watching a movie, or basically doing anything which does not involve my family. 

Then, similar to guilt, but a different monster altogether is the worry.  Here's a sample of things I worry about on a regular basis:  that my kid watches too much TV, that he'll miss the bus, that I won't wake him up in time for school, that we're not reading enough, that we're not practicing his writing enough, that I've gotten him addicted to sugar, that he'll get a terminal illness, that he'll get his feelings hurt by someone at school, that he'll stop wanting to be seen in public with me soon, that I won't be able to get a real job by the time I'm able to because I've spent all this time at home with him and employers don't like big time gaps in resumés, that he'll drown, that he'll fall in a sand hole and suffocate, that he'll be molested if I send him into the men's bathroom alone, that I'm not doing a good job as a mom, that I'm spoiling my kid, that I will forget to pay a bill, that my kid will never eat a vegetable I don't force down his throat and that he'll get a vitamin deficiency from it and cease to grow, that my car will break down because it's making a weird noise but I haven't figured out how to juggle our finances and bring it in to get looked at yet, that my kid will be addicted to technology, that my husband will lose his job and we'll be income-less, that I'm not spending enough time writing, that I'm not spending enough time cleaning, that I'm not spending enough quality time with my kid, and I could go on, but I'm pretty sure you stopped reading about halfway through this list anyway.

So, you've got your guilt and you've got your worry--either of which would be enough to warrant a hefty anti-anxiety medication prescription--but then you've got the outside world to deal with.  The condescending looks from strangers when you tell them that you're a stay at home mom.  The "so what do you do all day?" questions from well-meaning people, which carry the inadvertent implication that you live a life of leisure while they slave away all day at a 9-5 job.  The expectation from everyone around you that you will get a "regular job" now that your child is in school for a good portion of the day--not one of them taking into account the fact that kids get sick, schools have many holiday breaks, and that you would have to quit or hire a full-time caregiver (which is the entire thing you were trying to avoid BY being a stay at home mom) once summer vacation hits. 

My husband's job is not 9-5, it's often 8-6 (not counting the often hour-long commute each way) and sometimes it's even 9-3.  Yes, that's 9AM to 3AM the next morning.  On weekends.  I'm not complaining about it, but that's because I'm a stay at home mom.  That means that whenever he works crazy hours, I'm here as soon as he does come home and we can spend time together as a family.

Of course, I'm also a writer.  I've managed to write over 400 blog posts, three feature-length screenplays, a few songs, and a book all in stolen moments over the last six years.  In spite of all that, when people ask me what I do for a living I usually say that I'm a stay at home mom--because that's the job that takes up the majority of my time and mental capacity.  It's also the most important job to me right now.

If it seems like I'm defending myself, I guess that's because I feel like I always have to defend myself.  It's silly.  In how many other lines of work do people have to do this?  "Yes, I'm an accountant, but the building I work in is very tall and the benefits are great."  "Sure, I'm a mechanic, but the hours are flexible and the grease is actually pretty good for your skin."

I know that I shouldn't care what other people think, and I don't, really.  Contrary to what I've presented here, I'm actually quite happy with my role as a stay at home mom.  I know that I'm lucky to be able to do it and that many parents wish they were in my position, anxiety and all.  I just wish that people would let me do my job and experience my anxiety in peace.

Well, would you look at that!  I guess I did have something to say after all. 
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