I want a job.
I KNOW! I hear some of you gasping, some of you saying, "NO! You're a fantastic mother why would you want to work if you can afford to stay home?"I hear some of you saying, "Finally! She realized that she had so much more potential than being a stay-at-home mom". And that's where this inner struggle begins... I think you're both right.
I LOVE, and wouldn't trade anything in the world for the hours I get to wipe butts, pick up vomit, play cars for the 1,000th time and do more laundry than seems possible. I wouldn't trade the fights with a three year old for blaming ME for HIM pooping in HIS pants, or the fight with a 20 month old who just can't seem to figure out why hitting is bad. I wouldn't trade the hours of fighting nap time or the number of cups of coffee I drink or the glasses of wine I drink at night as I zone out to The Voice because I'm too exhausted to do anything else. I wouldn't trade anything for the chance to spend as much time as possible with these tiny humans I created.
At the same time, on occasion, I come across my reflection during middle of a tantrum and I stand up and look at it for a second. I am a college graduate. I'm still young, and good looking. I am an excellent public speaker, an alright writer, and a hard worker. I was an Administrative Assistant and a freeking Executive Director! Why on earth am I putting up with this crap? I should be out there, doing something that gives me something for my work. I could be earning good money to pay off our debt and become a two income family, man, what a difference that would make. I could go somewhere where I get compliments during the day, talk about the news around the water cooler and use my brain instead of listening to something incomprehensible due to snot, tears and whining.
Every once in a while I pretend I'm on a reality show or married to a prince, or a famous something where I can have it all: fame, fortune and family.
But that's not my reality. I chose, one year ago actually, to step away from my career, my 10+ years of non-profit experience, and my current role as an Executive Director, to take care of my family when we needed it most. I decided that a job, a new baby, a flooded house, a toddler, and a husband who was gone all the time, was too much for my sanity and I wasn't doing ANY of my jobs well. And I wasn't happy either. At the time, I was congratulated for actually acknowledging that I was doing too much and taking time for me and our young family. I was happy and people were happy for me that I was able to FINALLY be a real stay-at-home parent instead of a work-at-home parent. It was all I ever wanted in life actually. And here I am, on the one year anniversary of being a stay-at-home parent, admitting to all of you that I've turned in numerous applications for work from everything from being a nanny to being an event planner, to working for a radio, to being an Admin assistant, and I've been turned down for every one. Or ignored, that always makes you feel good.
I'm so torn: my family could use the extra income. I could use some intellectual time and even a few hours away from my kids each week, but in return, I'd be giving up alone time with Theodor while Henrik is at school. I'd be giving up playtime and home school time with my boys that I'm honestly, really good at and enjoy. I'd be giving up all of the little things like their achievements, their 10+ word sentences, their abstract thoughts, their smiles and laughter for time away. I understand it works for some of you to be away from your kids, but for me, it's so hard.
I don't understand why I can't find a job I can do from home? I don't know why when I've asked in an interview, for a job that could totally be done online (like I did it before online for another job), if I would be able to work from home a few days a week, that the reply is that, "there is no way possible to work from home a few days a week". Really? Why? You just want someone to send emails and compile data. I don't understand why I have this stay-at-home parent guilt. Why is it that I want to contribute more to my family? Is it solely base on money? Is it that I can taste being debt free and I just do have the job to do it? Or is it because I am unsure of myself and the impact I'm leaving on my boys. Is it because I want them to see (like I saw) their mother getting a Master's Degree, or that I make the world better one person at a time? Or is it because I'm afraid that my sons will see that women stay home and raise children because in the military it's just easier than switching jobs a million times and having two 1099s and a handful of W2s. Or is it because I think that society is judging me for stepping out of the workforce for family, it's so.... 1950s.
You see, I want my boys to see that women can do anything. I want them to see the hard work a stay-at-home mom (and parent too) does all day and why a mother would be a great addition to any business. Especially one who is qualified. I want them to see that a woman does more than cook, clean and raise children, because one day, maybe they will feel the whispers society gives a man who stays home. Or because one day, they too will have a wife in my shoes. I want them to see that moms can make money and work and make family dinner. I want them to see me for me and appreciate the things and sacrifices that I've made, for them.
Is it even possible to have it all? Do I really want it all? Tonight when I picked up the toys while Eric put the boys to bed, I found a masterpiece of a creation that Henrik built with and for his trains. I saw the "farm" Theodor made by lining up all of his animals in the corner of the play room. I got to really look at their artwork and their home school projects and think, "Man, I'm doing a great job with them". And I smiled because they impress me and amaze me every day. Would I notice that if I added work to the mix? Maybe. Probably. But would it mean the same thing as it does tonight? I'm not sure.
I think I'm torn for a few reasons: 1. There about a million stay-at-home parents in the military because it's easy, affordable, and probably the best thing with such an unstable, transient career. I feel like I fall into the "perfect military spouse" category by doing just that. I've never liked to "fit the mold". 2. In my experience, it's very hard to answer the question, "Do you work?" When you meet someone new. "I stay home with my boys" is usually followed with a "right now". Why do I do that? Is it because I think people judge me for not being smart? For not having a degree or experience in the work field? Is it because I'm just self conscious? And 3. I think society is trying to push the stay-at-home experience for a multitude of reasons concerning the education and health of a child, yet the business world doesn't make time for kids, or families. WHY?
When I look into my soul and really think about what I want, I want a job where I can work from home. I want a job that I can do that is flexible, yet challenging. I want time for my family, because there is NOTHING more important than family in my mind. And I want something that can contribute to the financial success of my family. I want to be an equal in the financial world, not a dependent (which happens to be a word I despise because of being in the military sector). I want to be able to take my kids to and from school and teach them lessons on a variety of different things at home. I want to be able to see my kids have fun in the afternoon riding bikes or building towers. I want to be around them now because they won't want me around them forever.
I am still actively looking for a job. I am still going to be very picky about what it is I choose to do as a job or even a career because, quite simply, I want to be able to make it to the pumpkin patch or art museum when their classes go. If I'm going to leave my boys to work, it's going to be worth it for all of us, not just me. But I'm looking for a job so that I can gain some of my independence back. It's not because I want to get away from my children, but because I deserve to do something for myself.
I think it is possible. I think I can take pride in doing "work" and raising my children as long as I wait for the right fit for us. I think I can relax and stop pressuring myself into finding a job because maybe, right now my job is to be with them until the universe is ready for me to work. And right now, when my boys play house, I'm honored that they fight over who gets to be the Mom. Sure they pretend to go to work, a lot actually, but if Daddy isn't around they assume that's where he is, even if he's out golfing. I want my boys to think of me as someone who will be around to hold our family together through a deployment, a crisis or a disaster. Sure, Daddy has the muscle and ability to fix anything and protect us, but Momma has the glue that holds it together. I guess that's the message and image of me I want them to have, and I think that I've already done that when I really sit down and evaluate my life and relationship with my boys.
A while back, I changed my Facebook "work" section to "Stay-at-home Mom" you know why? Because it's hard. Because it's something I am proud of. Because not everyone can do it. And when my future employeers look at the gap in my employment experience, they will say, "What did you do for a year?" and I can honestly reply, "I was a janitor, a housekeeper, a chef, a caretaker, a teacher, a leader, an organized multi-tasker, a doctor, a nurse, a financial planner, a butler, a mechanic, a project manager, an event planner, and an expert on giving hugs to solve the world's largest problems". When they look at me, completely confused, I can say, with pride, "A mom. I was a mom."