I went to my therapist a few weeks ago for a check in. I had scheduled the appointment after my emergency session following my termination thinking I would need additional tuning up a few weeks later. Turns out I had managed to emerge from the hole relatively well and was in less acute crisis.
One thing came out of our conversation that I think is worth sharing.
I called myself a Stay at Home Mom for the first time.
In our country, being a Stay at Home Mom is a wildly polarizing thing. Women write whole treatises defending their Stay at Home Momness. They describe how tough of a job it is, how thankless it is, how people assume they sit all day at home watching TV and have no fucking clue what happens in the day-to-day life of raising children. And all of that is true.
Unless you are a mother, you do not understand the profound loneliness of motherhood. You have a little person with you all day, but you never have a real conversation, never get to be fully who you are, and are constantly keeping tabs on this other being to the point that even when you are asleep and they are asleep you sort of have one eye open waiting for a cry to tell you to spring into action.
I quit being a stage manager largely because of this constant vigilance. You have to be on always and even in the moments of down time, you are not truly down. You’re always at a low hum. Mothers are exhausted because of how they are always having to monitor, run a program in the background, taking up CPU and RAM. I call it the iMommy app refreshing in the background.
One thing I can say with confidence is that when I go to work, I don’t have this program running in the background. When my baby is with my in-laws or my husband, iMommy turns off and I feel palpable relief at not having to track Ronan.
Work for me is about 9 hours a week over Wednesday-Friday while he’s at Grandparent Daycare.
As a Stay at Home Mom, I am always tracking him, always monitoring his mood, his reactions, his feelings, his hunger, his diaper, his everything. Everything. I am the subject matter expert on my son and he is a constant equation of input (food, stimulation, sleep) and output (poop, temperament, health). I know all if it always and adjust the equation every day to fine tune how to keep his output as pleasant and palatable to the rest of the world as possible.
Some people have a predisposition to doing this well and with relatively low impact on their CPU and RAM. I do not have this predisposition. Or maybe I did at some point, but it was used up when I had to track the mood/temperament/input/output of my parents and their own pathology. So not only do I not particularly like this constant tracking, but it’s also a little psychologically triggering for certain parts of me.
I resisted the title of Stay at Home Mom until this point because, in our country, these women are patronized in the worst way. On a thread about equal pay for equal work, a man went off on a tangent to explain how being a mom is The Most Important Job in the World. It’s a common refrain I hear from women defending their Stay at Home Momness or from men or women trying make Stay at Home Moms feel better about staying at home.
Parenting is viewed as inherently feminine work. It’s something that is undervalued as evidenced by the fact that we don’t have standard paid parental leave and women take financial and career hits when we have families.
Of course, I also keep hearing we “choose” this, as if for everyone it is an option. For our family, we can’t afford traditional daycare or a nanny with my business still in the early phases of growing. So I stay with our son instead of paying for daycare. You can be damn sure if I could afford daycare he would be there. I don’t believe in the nonsense about how daycare is outsourcing parenting or any other ridiculous reason people cite for why children should not be in daycare. Fuck that. As if working parents need another reason to be shamed for their choices.
And again, as if it’s a choice! Parents who work mostly do it because they HAVE to. But also, so what if they want to? I love to work. If I could have Andy and I work part or three-quarter time we would do it in an instant. But that’s not how the world, and particularly the theatre world, works.
So saying I’m a Stay at Home Mom felt big because I was taking on all the crap that people throw at women who are staying home with their children. The stereotypes include that I’m lazy and poor and have no skills I can work with and, thus, will have to join the legions of women who rigorously defend themselves about staying home.
This one feels the biggest.
Am I living up to my full potential?
My mother was a flipping rocket scientist at NASA and worked in the male dominated field of software engineering. With a legacy like that, how can I stay home and not take advantage of the work she did to pave that pathway for me?
I know my mom would never agree with this assessment. She would say that being a parent was the best part of her life and that working was a means to the end of providing for her children.
But as the end of that, it feels like I am too smart, too resourceful, too sensitive, too educated to let my Master’s degree collect dust while I plan naps and make baby food and take walks and clean up poopy diapers and do a lot of laundry.
Which is why I was resistant to claiming the role I’m already living.
I recognize that I am part of a newer type of woman. The one who is a work from home/stay at home mom. Some of us are part of those Multi-level Marketing companies that sell you essential oils and shakes and supplements. Some of us are professionals like lawyers, accountants, and consultants.
I think that being a stay at home/work from home mom is no more or less crazy-making than any other type of mothering. Of course, I will never live another lifetime like this and therefore have no way to compare it to something else. All moms are struggling in whatever their circumstances are. I am grateful that my circumstances mean I get to wear yoga pants more often than not, but I wish it didn’t come with societal stigma that tells me I should be grateful. But, as I have learned, all moms are told they should be grateful, regardless of their level of satisfaction with their circumstances. Which is a topic for another day.