Lately I’ve been the repeated victim of the most unfortunate kind of spit-up. This is not your normal “missed the burp cloth” dab of spoiled yogurt on your shoulder, or the stream of returned milk that ends up mostly on your baby’s own outfit. Nope. Recently my six-month-old has mastered the art of projectile spit-up that completely overrides any burp cloth or bib in place, forming a mid-air, full-fledged gushing waterfall of regurgitated milkshake that usually lands either inside my bra or between my legs, looking (and feeling) as if I’ve peed my pants.
Just thought that would be a good warm-up visual to preface this essay topic.
Unsurprisingly, there are days I fantasize about putting on heels and lipstick, giving my hair a proper blow-out (because THAT does not happen anymore), grabbing nothing but my car keys and sunglasses (freed from the diaper bag!) as I breezily head out the door – alone – en route to an actual OFFICE (or maybe a cute little writing studio, in my case), via my favorite coffee shop, of course.
In this fantasy, I alternate between rocking out to Top 40 pop hits I should maybe be embarrassed I still listen to and thoughtfully engaging in adult public radio discussions. I occasionally make a call to check in with my children from the road, where I hear their sweet voices but am comforted by knowing it’s impossible for them to spit up on me.
Oh, and my real-life minivan makes an appearance in these fantasies exactly zero times.
I arrive to my serious adult office and take a moment to slowly ease into my comfortable chair and bask in the pure QUIET that this moment provides. No Daniel Tiger in the background, no sound of plastic sippy cups exploding onto the floor for the 900th time. No children asking me questions like, “why is that shirt red?” or “What’s ‘stop’ mean?”
In my fantasy, the most mundane 9-5 grind is filled with little luxuries that perhaps those who’ve never stayed home 24/7 forget about or never knew they should appreciate to begin with. I feel alive, and CLEAN, and properly groomed. A part of lively adult conversations and intelligent transactions. I prop up adorable photos of my children in little wooden frames on my desk and tape preschool art projects to my file cabinet. Ahhhh…they’re so innocent when they’re frozen in time.
I could have had this life, and maybe I will someday, but for now, I don’t. For the last three years, I haven’t. And I know there are people who DO have this life, and they fantasize about mine. About staying in slippers and PJ pants way into the PM hours, mastering the messy bun (note, this is NOT “cute-messy”, but “please don’t photograph me for any reason” messy), hauling butt to preschool pick-up, googling “kids truck videos” on YouTube while you throw together a lunch of Annie’s Mac-and-Cheese (with broccoli, for good measure, even though it will all get picked out). That life sounds so cozy and quaint and hands-on, right?
But the office-working life sounds so stimulating and fulfilling and polished, right?
The tricky thing is, I’m learning – each has the potential to have high highs, and low lows. And each probably looks a little easier and prettier and perkier than it actually is when you’re in it All. Day. Long. Either path can be wonderful and either path can be grueling (or both, depending on the day!). “I’ve never worked a day in my life!” said no stay-at-home mom ever.
So I guess my take-away after 3 years of parenting, is this: do what you love, as often as you can, as much as it depends on you.
Maybe you’d love to stay home, but your circumstances don’t allow for that right now. OR – maybe you’d love to take a job in a field that excites you, but you can’t imagine leaving home every day and doing THAT right now. It can be an overwhelming and sometimes deflating feeling to feel like you’ve lost YOU – to not be content with your station in life, and to wonder if you’ll ever get “there.”
I love many parts of being a stay-at-home mom. I know I would miss so many little things – like spontaneous stroller walks with my kids and other mom friends, and 2pm rainy day movies on the couch – if I were to take a conventional “job” outside the home. Though, as admitted, I do find myself more and more curious about the possibilities beyond my front door as my kids get a bit older and time moves on…
At the end of the day, the good news is that each of us reserves the right to change our mind. Maybe you’re working full-time, but it just doesn’t feel right. I know moms who have quit to stay home. Or maybe you tried the SAHM thing and it wasn’t for you. You love your work and miss that adult interaction, so – no matter how guilty or conflicted you felt – you made the tough decision to go back to work. GREAT MOMS come in all sorts of job roles, wardrobes, and work environments. I truly believe that one of the best gifts you can give your kids, is committing your life to meaningful work that makes you feel alive – in or out of the home (or a mix of both!), in whatever shape that may take.
For me, for now, being at home full-time with a little babysitter help and some writing and volunteering on the side – is the set-up that works for my family and makes me feel happy, productive, and balanced. That’s what works for ME – it doesn’t matter if it works for my neighbor, my PEPS friends, etc… to each their own; there is no “one size fits all.”
That’s the beauty of parenting – there’s something about it that makes you stand up for yourself. For your time and for your beliefs and for the things you value most (this could range from your career, to carving out time for a pedicure). So stand up for whatever it is that makes YOU a most effective, most balanced person and mom. Slow down enough to listen to those pesky inner yearnings, and know it’s never too late to make a change. Your perfect pair of shoes are waiting.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” –Howard Thurman
About the Author
Seattle native Beth Morris is a PEPS Newborn Group Leader, writer for this blog and her own (writeasrainblog.com) and stay-at-home mom to her two sons, Anderson and Jude. She enjoys salty margaritas and can sing a mean Shania Twain karaoke cover (definitely in that order), and wishes life were more like the TV show Friday Night Lights.