This conversation seriously happens on a monthly basis:
Person I just met inevitably asks: “So what do for work?”
Me, after an uncomfortable pause: “Um…I’m just a mom.” Then I blurt out “But I used to work!” and proceed to talk about my old job like I’m still working there to make myself sound interesting.
And here’s a conversation I had on the plane last week:
<Random chit chat about Disneyworld with the guy next to me. I mention that AKA can’t wait to go back>
Me, noticing the guy is working like crazy on his laptop: “You look really busy- what do you do?” I SHOULD KNOW BETTER THAN TO ASK THIS.
Guy: Yeah, I work in tech. The emails never stop! So….are you just a mom or do you work?”
Me: “I’m…just a mom.”
Guy: “Oh, that’s nice.”
Just a mom. “Just” a mom. Since when did being a stay-at-home mom become such a negative thing?
Being a mom, and all that comes with it, has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done…with no end in sight. Of course there are those people (usually childless women, in my personal experience) who point out that motherhood is a choice (and clearly I deserve all the difficult things that come with motherhood because I made that choice), so therefore I should just shut up. I don’t know if the internet has made things worse, but the divide between women has never been deeper in my opinion. There are fucking “mommy wars”, insults traded between working and non-working moms, criticisms between those who only have one kid and those who have more and a big rift between moms and childless women. Women already have enough to deal with; can’t we just all get along? Seriously, this is not a good way to make progress ladies. JUST STOP.
I’ve run the gamut of mom roles in the last four years: full-time working mom, part-time work from home mom and “just a mom”. And I can tell you, no one situation is better or easier than another. When I worked full-time, I struggled with the daily routine as a nursing mom and felt guilty for not raising AKA myself. When I worked from home it was just part-time, but I felt guilty for pushing away AKA when I was busy and equally guilty for not fully committing to my job. And now, I feel self-induced guilt for not contributing to the household financially (we could have afforded X if I was working full-time…). So, which would you choose? We always want what we don’t have.
While no one’s personally asked me this, I’ve seen the loaded “What do stay-at-home moms DO all day” question tossed around online a lot. Would you ask that to anyone else? Dear marketing manager- just what do you DO all day? Just like any other group, stay-at-home moms are spread across the spectrum and the outliers ruin things for the rest of us. Yes, some women are lazy and park their kids in front of the TV all day. And some are freaking supermoms that do everything…perfectly of course! I tried pushing the needle into supermom territory and that didn’t work out well- full days volunteering at the bird shelter, vying for the top 5 in CX, trying to make everyone eat healthy stuff and keeping my DIY pedicure looking great LOL. Crash and burn. But really, I usually do most household tasks with the exception of really dirty dishes and mowing the lawn (I have an irrational fear of cutting my foot) and anything related to AKA’s 7a-6p routine. It’s a lot. Sure, I can take a nap with the kiddo, but that’s kid-free time to do something without interruptions! And yes, when AKA’s at school I can sneak in a ride, but that’s also my only time for personal things like medical appointments, errands, phone calls etc…I can’t just take a “long lunch” or leave work early for an appointment. BTW I am not trying to justify my daily routine to you.
You know, there’s a lot more to being a mom than just parenting your child or household chores. Even after four years I still struggle with my identity…I feel like, well, “just a mom” and not “Karyn” anymore. Frumpy. Boring. Does it have to be like that? I get a brief glimpse of my old self (slightly less frumpy and boring) when I travel without AKA but that is only week or so out of the year. Generally speaking I like the person I’ve become, but boy, I sure miss the old me sometimes. Don’t even get me started about body image! Again, the internet is terrible for making women feel like they should “bounce back” and all that shit. Oh and I’ll never be the pre-kid athlete I used to be either…
Did you know that stay-at-home mom life can be really lonely, especially when you’re in new town, don’t relate to 99% of the women there and your days revolve around meals and multiple naps? I do. If I didn’t have cycling as a means of escape I would be in a very dark place. I’m not trying to be dramatic or garner empathy but the last three years have been the absolute loneliest…even worse than Bakersfield. If you know me that’s saying a lot. I’m over trying to meet (or even talk to, for that matter) other women around here. That’s OK, I was never cut out to be a GEM anyway! Apparently Glen Ellyn Moms are a thing here….and I’m the one pulling up to the park on a muddy mountain bike with a
tomboy well-rounded girl not far behind (who doesn’t seem to fit in well here either). I feel bad for AKA, because nowadays moms have to be friends with other moms in order for a playdate to happen so she never goes to any. Really- I feel like it’s my fault that she doesn’t have any solid friendships because I don’t have any mom friends locally (yay more mom guilt). I have a few ideas as to why I’m not in the GEM club- I wasn’t raised here, I’m very liberal, older, have only one kid, am not religious and have several hobbies that are of zero interest to most women. To each their own. I shall find my tribe elsewhere. Note– it’s not all doom and gloom; I do have a tiny group of cyclist/mom friends but we just don’t see each other very often.
After writing all this, I wonder: how would other women answer the dreaded “So what do you do?” question? I’m pretty sure they’re not saying “I’m “just” a postal worker” or “I’m “just” a director of human resources”. Right? People usually take pride in what they do. And men certainly wouldn’t give responses like that (I say with a snort). Raising kids is a job…my awesome current job…and us stay-home moms need to stop with the self-deprecating comments and give ourselves more credit. I’m certain I’ll go back to work once AKA starts kindergarten, but until then…
I promise I will never say I’m “just a mom” again 🙂