January 13, 2012

Me: My own worst critic.

"Being a stay-at-home mom is much harder than a working mom. Don't let anyone convince you otherwise. I've done both. I know. [Plus I have 583928 kids, so when I give you my opinion, you'd better listen up because I'm the shiznit. Don't jack with me. I'm not messing around here.]"

That's my mom there. Well...mostly my mom. The brackets may possibly be a little artistic interpretation of her physical stance while saying the first real part. Possibly.

That there is also the most refreshing thing I've heard in a while from someone whose opinion completely counts. (Er, brackets aside.)

I know, I know. There are a bajillion blog posts out there about how hard being a stay-at-home mom is. Your job is never done. Ever. You don't have a boss patting you on the back for a job well done. You just have a little chubby hand patting your shoulder in bewilderment when you suddenly break down crying. You don't get scheduled breaks. You just steal time during naps to log onto Pinterest, but then feel so guilty for not using the time to clean yet another messy dirty disgusting area of your house that you either start pinning ideas for storing cleaning supplies or you just finally give up and assume your role as part-time janitor. (I tell Rob all the time, I could literally spend every minute of my child-intensive day picking up, cleaning, washing, and wiping and I still wouldn't even be caught up.)

This blog? One of the most self-indulgent things I've ever done as a mom. What? Spend time on myself? Tell the kids to go play on their own (a.k.a. find some toilet cleaner to drink) while I sit here and verbally vomit on the computer screen? Be a real person for a while who can stop singing nursery rhymes long enough to form a complete sentence that doesn't refer to herself in the 3rd person? (Jacoba understands the irony of that last sentence, mind you.)

Aside from the thanklessness of it all, the hardest thing I wrestle with? My lost sense of self.

On Sunday, Keith Tower, a former NBA player-turned-pastor preached at our church. He was fantastic. Self-depreciating (which always equals funny in my book) and honest, he spoke about how, regardless of our life choices and failures and successes, our real identity is in being God's child. Great message. Rob, too, was furiously giggling through the whole thing, although may have been more NBA adrenaline pumping through his blood more than anything else. Here it is if you'd like to watch or listen.

However, here's where I'd like to point out that God has also blessed each of us with different talents and abilities, things that for the most part (in this country) determine our profession in life. Social workers become social workers because they have generous hearts and big visions. Botanists become botanists because they have a love of molecular phylogenetics (no idea - ask my dad). Engineers become engineers because they can crunch the heck out of numbers and think outside the box.

Some days this hits hard. While I'm coloring in a picture of Elmo with my daughter, I think, I am a fairly passable artist, and THIS is what I'm doing with my life? While I'm wiping poop off another dirty bottom, I think, I got one wrong on the entire English section of my ACT, and THIS is what I'm doing with my life? While I'm telling my son for the 42nd time that morning that he needs to listen and obey, I think, I am an effective teacher, and THIS is what I'm doing with my life? (And why the heck isn't he obeying - JUST LISTEN AND OBEY ALREADY!!)

Truth is, I think the reason I'm so sensitive to people looking down on stay-at-home moms is that I kind of do it myself. To myself.

There, I said it.

When I tell someone I'm a stay-at-home mom, that I have chosen work that requires no degree, gets no pay, and is sometimes accomplished by a 16-year-old, I feel lesser. I even cringe when I fill out the "profession" blank on forms. Like someone will read it and snort, "Oh, she's a stay-at-home MOM. [snort] Here's another one for the 'disregard' pile." When I hear about my mom running into another high school classmate's mom and how they talked about what we were all up to, and when my mom comes back to report that so-and-so is a lawyer somewhere, my immediate thought is, "Crap." Another old classmate out there thinking I didn't amount to much. Another woman staying at home. Another step in the wrong direction on the ladder of gender equality.

But I KNOW in my heart of hearts that I am doing the VERY BEST THING for my kids. (I'm rereading that last sentence to myself a few times to make myself believe it.) And I am willing to sacrifice my self to provide it for them. Working moms (and dads)? They have different kids. Different financial situations. Different scenarios. But for my kids, this is what's best. For them. My life for theirs.

I know when I look back on my life, I will never think, "I wish I had spent more time at my job." Instead I will think, "Why did I wear sweatpants so often?" Oh, and also, "I'm glad I got to watch my kids grow up right before my eyes...day in and day out...every minute of every day...even when I was going the bathroom they were there...right beside me...or pounding on the bathroom door, begging to be let in, if I had the foresight to lock it before I sat down..."

There's the catch-22 though. When Jannika hugs me and says, "You're the best mom ever. [author's note: She's a little biased] I'm going to be a mom just like you when I grow up." And I catch myself saying, "Know what? You can be a mom AND a butterfly scientist! How cool is that!" Like what I do myself isn't good enough. Isn't the "real" calling in life. But then again, I want her to become an entomologist. However, I know that if I do my mom job well enough, she'll feel the intense internal struggle when she has her own kids one day. She'll want her own kids to savor the delicious feeling of having their own mom around all day and experience the security and love that comes with someone sacrificing her self for the well being of another. So, really, I'm just making her life choices more difficult with my oh-so-top-notch-A+ parenting. (*cough*)

And then she comes back with, "Nah. Maybe I'll change my mind, but I think I'm going to be a plain ol' mom." And instead of crying (not from pride, but more from just hearing the words "plain" and "old" and "mom" all in the same sentence...*sniff*), I resolve to use this phrase in the next "Profession?" blank I fill in.

Yeah, I'll show you, you...profession...askers...

So where does this leave me? Still my own worst critic. (And still in my robe at 9:30 in the morning. And with kids who stopped coloring a while back and think they're being sneaky by watching Netflix episodes of Diego on my iPad in the closet.) Now off to clean up breakfast dishes...and then the living room...and then wash the bedding...all while trying to play Candyland without audibly groaning.

Above the Candyland fighting, you may be able to hear some crazy lady whispering, "It's worth it. It's worth it. It's worth it. It's worth it. Right? Maybe... YES. It's worth it. It's worth it..."


TheBoeskool said...

Mom-Guilt is what gets things done. What would happen if moms stopped feeling guilty about not doing enough? Nothing would get done, that's what. 

This is a natural part of the parenting process, Cob. Like Dads not wanting to spend money.... Without this natural order, every family's house would be a giant mess that ridiculously poor people lived in.

Wait.... THAT"S US!!!!  crap.

ns-poel said...

confessions from the other side
As kids got into school another career developed in our household, but the developer of that career stills feels the competition for time and space from the first household career, even when that career morphs into volunteer assignments at church, campus ministry, condo . . . . mea culpa

Ellis Swingen said...

you are an amazing role model. for your kids and us.