Friday, December 10, 2010

Aren’t Moms People Too?

As I was cleaning out my files, I came across the following diatribe. I guess I wrote it almost four years ago when I still lived in San Francisco. I don't really remember writing it, and actually wasn't sure if I was the author for the first half...then there were startling facts that are unique to me. I was actually laughing at my own jokes, that's how bad my mommy memory is.

I’m a pretty young mother. In fact, I’m only 26. I stay at home with my two little girls. I know a lot less about being a mom than most, but more than some. However, after trying to teach my husband what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom, I learned some things for myself. It’s amazing what articulating something out loud does for your own understanding.

Many people think being a stay-at-home mom is easy, you get to do what you want when you want and you don’t have a schedule or anyone to answer to. I would like to meet the mom that sits at home watching soaps and eating bon-bons because she ruined it for the rest of us. Let me say for the record, moms definitely have a schedule. Whether you have babies and are tied to naptimes and bedtimes, pre-teens with soccer games, or teenagers who need the car for jobs and dates, you can’t just do whatever the heck you want. Couldn’t you just skip your children’s naps? Well yes, but I could also stick red-hot pokers in my eyes, but I won’t do it. Granted, there are times when naps need to be skipped and bedtimes pushed back, but these are definitely not the norm or else my waking hours would be much more tear-filled, theirs and mine.

That said, being able to stay at home with my children is what I have always wanted to do. No, I haven’t been brainwashed by husband, country, or creed. My husband is very grateful that I get to stay home and I am grateful that he works so hard to make this possible.

It’s hard doing what I and so many other mothers do. Why? Not because I can’t do the laundry or cook dinner. I’m perfectly capable of heating water and pouring in noodles (with frozen veggies on a good day.) I can also pass wet clothes from the washer to the dryer. The broom isn’t very heavy, either. Why, then, is staying at home and being your own boss so tiring sometimes? Here’s what I learned.

1. I rarely talk to adults and when I do, it’s usually about my children and their recent developments and escapades. How many of my friends know I’m reading the unabridged version of Les Miserables, graduated from BYU with a Humanities degree, or that I want to get my MBA? And how much do I know about my friends’ dreams and aspirations?

2. I’m obviously not in the workforce. I don’t compete with co-workers for promotions or get kudos for a “job well-done.” My thanks come from sticky mouths saying “Tanks!” or “Lu you!” Don’t get me wrong, these thanks are a mother’s dream and melt my heart. Most of my adult compliments come from my loving husband supplemented by the occasional family member, probably my mom. He does a wonderful job, but it’s also nice to receive compliments from outside observers. My daughter can’t tell me, “Wow, Mom, you did great at not losing your temper when I put my hands in my messy diaper and got creative. Great job!” Who sees these things? Who’s there to congratulate you on the little victories and encourage or scold you on the lost ones?

I usually talk to a variety of friends and family throughout the week, but how often do we compliment each other as caregivers, women, mothers, sisters, daughters, cousins, and friends? It’s one thing to relate to a poopy diaper story, but it’s an entirely different thing to change someone’s day just because you thought to say, “You’re a great mom. Keep it up!” Or “I really like how you handle so-and-so’s tantrums. Teach me how to do that.” I know I’ve never done this to my own friends and I resolve to start today.

3. Juggling schedules and various household chores is a talent indeed. It seems that just when you get something figured out, something in life changes. Maybe you started working part-time, your husband lost his job, or you get pregnant again and can’t move let alone make dinner. My daily and weekly chores are not difficult in and of themselves, but when you compound everything together and add a super-sized helping of screaming children, now you have yourselves a problem. It’s dinner time, you have no idea what to make, the ground beef’s frozen, you had Mac-n-Cheese last night and shouldn’t make it again at least until tomorrow, your two year old wants candy for dinner, your baby just woke up with a messy diaper, Dad gets home in 15 minutes, the laundry needs to be changed over and can’t wait because you live in an apartment building with 32 apartments and only two washers and two dryers among the lot of you and if you’re lucky they both work today. So you strap your baby into the Bjorn, bribe your toddler down the stairs with Skittles or put on yet another Baby Einstein and just hope she doesn’t rip apart the house while you run downstairs to change the laundry. Phew! Now how are you going to carry that basket upstairs with the Bjorn full of baby? Answer: you figure out some superhuman way, as moms are prone to do, or you leave it there until Daddy gets home and add it to his “honey-do list” and hope that he magically folds and puts things away while you’re not looking. Like I said, it’s not the individual tasks that are difficult, it’s the synergistic affect of all of them put together.

4. Nothing is ever done. “I just washed these sheets yesterday!” I have said this on more than one occasion. No matter how good, healthy, and well-planned dinner is, there will always be breakfast tomorrow along with the accompanying dishes. There is no sense of “Ah, I’m finished, I won’t have to do that for a few more years.” (Unless of course you’re talking about giving birth or painting a bedroom.) Sometimes it’s hard to recognize or feel a sense of accomplishment with a never-ending list of chores and when your greatest project (your children) won’t really be done for 18 years or more. Maybe we should all paint more bedrooms.

5. No matter how good you get at doing a task, you never “graduate” from it. Many jobs have room for promotion, hopefully merit-based. But, no matter how good you get at changing those dirty diapers at all hours, you never get promoted to a higher job status where changing diapers is no longer in your job description. Even when you figure out how to get pen marks out of clothing (rubbing alcohol, by the way) you still have to do the laundry. How fair is that? Of course, you can train your children to do many of these chores, but you are still the manager and bear the responsibility for making sure they get done. You have certain chores to do and you will always have them to do. This goes for every adult, not just moms at home. The difference is, sometimes the highlight of your day is that you got the blood stain out of your toddlers new white shirt, which leads me to the next point.

6. As a stay-at-home mom, your world tends to be very small. Meeting people and making friends is much worse than when you were single and trying to find a date. Now you have fewer venues and opportunities to do so. Your friends are usually limited to those in your same situation. It’s easy to feel like there’s no one who understands, or if there are (and there are) you don’t know where to meet them.

I don’t have the solution to all these “problems” but I do know that knowing all of these things has made it easier for me to realize what I’m dealing with and “fight” accordingly. I also need to realize that I do have a name, I am a person, I chose this job, and though I will be a mother for life, I won’t always be taking care of my children to the extent I am now. This is an intense care-giving season in my life and I hope to enjoy it now and look forward and plan for the different future.


  1. This is beautiful, Nattie. Thank you so much. I have often searched for the answer to "WHY IS THIS SO HARD!?!?!?" and have never heard it expressed as eloquently as this. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    And I always laugh at my own jokes... that way I can ensure that somebody always thinks they're funny. :)

  2. Thanks for the insight. I definitely am one of those moms and know almost exactly how you feel! You are my inspiration though. I am always so amazed at how well-composed you are with your children - especially when they are runny amok. Love you!

  3. So funny and insightful! This made me feel better after a crappy morning today. And now I know you want to get an MBA! Sorry that has never come up; excellent point there.