Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Mama Ain't Dead

Jake's grandmother picks him up from school, so I think his mom is dead.

Hmmm. She probably just works.

No, I think she's dead. Maybe she was in the Army.

What happens in the Army?

Well. Sometimes you get really ill. Or people stab you. 
Or you could get shot or something. Or just be really old. Like 98.

This is the conversation I had with my daughter yesterday after school. It was a pretty excellent tête-à-tête, and after a long laugh over the unique decoding process of her methodical little mind, I came to the somber realization that my kid has somehow decided if a mother isn't around every second of the day, then the only logical conclusion is that she's dead.

Well, shit. 

I clearly need to get a hobby. I also probably need to explain to her how the Army works.

But, back to the former. Is this really the message I want to send my little girl? That my only purpose in life is to be her mom? Don't get me wrong. I definitely define myself as a mother hen before all else -- it's just that I know I'm capable of so much more than tending flock.

I won't lie and say I'm a natural at this parenting gig. I yell way too much for the whole nurturing thing to be innate and I spend most of my time wondering why they insist on assaulting me with legions of unanswerable questions. But I've learned a few tricks of the trade and do okay for someone who barely even held a baby before her own came into the world. 

That said, I made the deliberate decision to be a stay-at-home mom once my kids were born. 

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding this choice, and I can say with certainty that it's not as easy as it looks. I only sit around eating bonbons for half of the day. The other half is obviously filled with important tasks like napping and lunching and ordering loads of crap I don't need from Amazon Prime. 

All quips aside, there are major pros and major cons to staying at home with children. I won't make a list because that's irrelevant and boring, but I will pause here to include the requisite PSA that I am acutely aware that many, many, MANY women do not have the luxury of choosing whether or not to work. Some women are fortunate enough to be right where they want to be career-wise and home-wise. But thousands of others are bound by a paycheck or insurance or the exorbitant cost of childcare. Many women would die to go back to work and others would love the opportunity to stay home. I know I'm not alone in saying that I would be thrilled to somehow manage both - definitely the Holy Grail of this whole Life Balance thing.

There are ten billion ways to raise children and not one is better than the other (as long as you feed and let them out of their cage at least twice a day). Ultimately, we are all homemakers and we all work full time. The decisions surrounding the ridiculously gargantuan task of keeping small people alive are endless. Regardless of how it's done, it's never easy. Especially if it's done right.

PSA out of the way, I'll speak to my personal experience because my name is on this website and that gives me a great excuse to blather on about myself.

Even though I am lucky enough to make my own decisions on this matter, I still tend to be largely ambivalent about what is best for my family. I love being available to my children during the day. Not because I find the day-to-day particularly exciting, but because each day has at least one particularly exciting part -- and I don't want to miss it. 

I like to drop them off and pick them up and participate in all of the mundane parts of life (although I could do without all the poop and the crumbs). I like the open-ended afternoons and hearing their funny little stories and watching their new tricks on the playground. I like "helping" with the math homework (Lord help us all) and hugging away 10,000 little hurt feelings every day. I love being around to help articulate their needs, cultivate their manners, and emphasize independence, decision-making, and problem-solving.

It's not that I couldn't do these things if I worked full-time -- far from it. It's just that I like being around. (Who am I kidding? I like being in charge.) Maybe it's not the best thing in the world, but with my son especially, I just don't trust anyone else to push him as far as I will. This is probably because I'm the only one on this planet who is partially immune to his cuteness.

Still. I have a infinite list of aspirations and goals, and there are days that I long for a career and the opportunity to challenge myself in more intellectual ways. This doesn't mean that I have to change what I'm currently doing and go back to work. It just means that it's a good time for me to move beyond wiping noses.

Regardless of whether or not I receive a paycheck, it's imperative that my children see me as more than just Mom. I want them to witness their parents living as fully-formed, independent, productive beings, so that they can learn to live in kind. I want them to know that I will ALWAYS be there for them, even if there are times when I'm not actually there

It hit a nerve when my daughter assumed that her friend's mom was dead because I desperately want her to understand that women can be so much more than just wives and mothers. More precisely, I want her to understand that while many of us adore being both, we can be those things and then some.

That said, I am wildly proud to be a mom and take the job very seriously. (They will one day learn that daddy carries around spare bail money because he knows exactly what level of crazy I'm capable of reaching over my babies.

I merely want my children to understand that my titles extend beyond Personal Chauffeur, Butt Wiper, and Snack Machine.

There are never enough Goldfish.

I want them to see me as a writer and thinker and friend and wife and volunteer and sister and daughter and go-getter and mistake-maker and an all around imperfect, intellectual, messy, spirited, accomplished, vibrant force. I want them to see me offering whatever gifts I may possess out into the world and not just here at home, so that they can in turn offer their own unique gifts unto the world.

I want to show them that they can play a multitude of parts without losing themselves in one particular role. That it's not so much about what they decide to do in life as much as it's about deciding to live life fully.  

I want my daughter to know that if she chooses to have children, she can be there for them completely without always having to be there completely. And that if one day out of many, she doesn't arrive at school to pick them up, it isn't because she's dead. 

It's because she's busy living.



  1. Brooke!! I love this post!! I have worked full time as a mom up until this year, where I am sharing a class with another teacher. I have a glorious two days at home with NO CHILDREN around!!! It is amazing for my soul!!! One of my daughters said, "what are you going to do all day?" Ummmm, eat bon bons of course!! haha!!

    Thanks for this :)

    1. Thank you! I hope you a re enjoying your new schedule - it sounds like a wonderful balance. �� Thanks for reading!


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