I’m very fortunate but at times I feel discontent. Hell, for the last couple years or so. I’m discontented with a society that doesn’t value mothers. Sometimes I’m discontented with the man who works hard to give me more than I ever thought we could have. He works and works, but there are days when the working kind of feels like an escape from the drudgery of being at home with small children. Sometimes I wish for that escape. I know it is fleeting and beautiful in all its sticky floor, booger faced, antibiotic administering, snuggly bliss. Parenting is filled with clichés my friends, but damn, time accelerates when you have children. Time travel and parenting are interchangeable for me.
Time travel isn’t always satisfying.
My life is far more than I ever imagined I’d have, in the domestic sense. In the individual sense I thought I’d have more career success by now. I stay home with my kids. But don’t get confused and use the phrase “get to.” It’s not that I “get to” stay home with my kids. For some of us working is the luxury. Now that my first born is nearly four many of my mom-friends have returned to work or graduate school. Lately I find myself trying to hang onto those early days of Gymboree classes, zoo trips, and play dates in the park, but it’s gone. My son and all his friends are in preschool now.
I take my second child to a new baby class. No one talks to us. We don’t make friends. They are all new moms, obsessively talking about teething, sleep schedules and word counts. They sense I’m past it all. Maybe it’s me, I’m not seeking them out like I did the first time around. My sister-in-law returns to work. She posts a picture of her work desk. I tell her I’m jealous. She tells me, “You should go back!” I sit there feeling like I’m repeating senior year while all my friends have gone off to college.
My sister-in-law is an engineer. Before kids I was a hairstylist. There’s a bit of an income gap there. If I returned to work I would make just enough to pay for childcare. And this is what no one talks about.
Screw the Mommy Wars. That shit’s not real.
I’ve never met a working mother who looks down on stay-at-home-moms and vice versa. Maybe I’m just lucky. Maybe I don’t come in contact with too many assholes, but for the most part I don’t live in a world where grown women openly criticize each other. I’ve never heard the cliché, “You stay home? That must be nice” I have heard, “Oh, I stayed home for eighteen months with my first baby. I have no idea how I did that for so long.” I guess I’m fortunate that the mothers I know are supportive. We’re all just doing what’s best for our own families.
Going to work isn’t easy when you have little ones at home. It’s busy as hell and exhausting, and you still come home to laundry, dishes, and babies that need bathing. But we all have to agree that working gives you an identity outside of your home. You’re not just a mom. You’re an engineer or a doctor, a teacher, an artist etc. It gives you more vocabulary with which to define your existence.
Sure, some of us longed to be mommies since childhood and reveled in our promotion to mother. Some women are 100% fulfilled by motherhood, and that is a beautiful thing. Truly, a beautiful thing and I will always believe that society should view motherhood as a legitimate and important profession. Mothers all over the world are doing incredibly important work. (Some of them are raising the doctors that will take care of you when you’re in a nursing home. Think about that for a minute.) But some of us need a little more of ourselves, well, to ourselves. I still need to be me.
Me walking down the street by myself without a diaper bag on my shoulder. Me talking to a client, or giving a lecture, or publishing an article, or writing a novel, or laughing over a stiff drink while swearing like a sailor. As a wise friend once told me about being a mother,
“It’s amazing how much I miss myself sometimes.”
Because that’s the thing, right?
Because when a man becomes a father he’s still a man, he just has kids now. The kids are just an accessory to his identity as a man. He can still be sexy. He can still work a lot. No one asks him who’s watching his kids when he’s on a business trip. When a woman becomes a mom the world views her differently. She’s supposed to act like someone’s mother. And if she’s sexy she’s not sexy, she’s a MILF because she’ll always be a mom first and foremost.
Don’t get me wrong, I celebrate my Mom Status. It will always be my favorite title. I was overjoyed to join that club. I’ll tell my birth stories to anyone who will listen. My children have given me a joy for which I’m immensely grateful. Every night I snuggle a little boy that looks just like me. A boy that’s still young enough to want me around. I get to nurse a baby girl that is glorious in her angelic perfection. I smell her still sweet toddler breath, inhale the smell of her hair and feel her warm wiggly body next to mine. I stand in awe of their healthy development and know how damn lucky I am. My children are my world. They’re just not all of me. I existed before them. One day they will grow up and move away. I will have to exist again without them. When that day comes I want to know who I am.