This is my last week of maternity leave.
A few days ago I was having brunch with some of my closest girlfriends who happen to be younger than me. I was the only girl at the table with kids, and as they are beginning to think about having kids they were asking me questions. Invariably, the conversation turns to my choice to work. I get this question constantly. Let me preface by saying I am VERY lucky to have the option to work. I also have a unique situation because I have a home office. Having the ability to choose as well as working from home is a situation most people are not allotted. That being said, I choose to work. Why?
Being a stay at home mother is the most difficult job I have ever known. For work, I manage events. This involves the oversight of employees and a couple hundred of models. The staff who have been tending to my markets while I am on maternity leave can’t wait for me to return. They keep telling me that my job is so stressful and asking me, “how do I do it??” My job is EASY compared to being a mom.
When I’m performing well at work, people think I am amazing. When I meet my goals, I get praise. At the end of the year I get a review and typically a raise. Clients write me notes telling me I “saved the day” or “really made it happen”. I feel valuable. In addition, people around me give me accolades for being a mother and a successful business woman. Also, I receive a paycheck. When I make money I don’t feel I need to address every frivolous item I spend money on (BTW, Mike has never, even one time, questioned an item I have spent money on. But in my mind he might. Someday. And I will be ready!)
While being home on maternity leave I work twice, no 3x as hard as I do on my job. Mike is better than most men regarding praise. However, he (nor anyone) cannot begin to praise a mother for the amount of work they do. Why? Because most of the work is crappy and something none of us would ever notice (including me).
Here is what a mom envisions would happen:
5:30 pm: Husband home
5:35pm: Smiling, embraces wife and children and utters the following statement: “WOW, the house looks and smells amazing!! I can’t believe how well you did dressing and feeding the children today! And you cleaned too?? My goodness, how many loads of laundry did you accomplish ? Thank you for folding my clothes, I noticed my underwear and socks are perfectly clean in their drawers. I couldn’t help but see the grout in the bathroom smells like bleach and our bed is made. And you changed the sheets! The Duvet cover smells like fresh linen! Thank you for remembering to also take the dry cleaning, pick up my prescriptions, replace my empty shampoo, and drop off my alterations in your down time. How do you manage to do all of this, while looking so beautiful?”
Here is what really happens:
5:00pm: Wife: SHIT, I worked my ass off on the fucking grout and laundry while taking care of the kids and now need to make dinner happen? I haven’t sat down for even one minute today. Exhausted. Must look like together wife and mother. Am I still in my pajama bottoms?? What did we even buy at the grocery store? What am I supposed to be making? Tacos. Yes, tonight is taco night. Put meat in skillet. Smells like dinner. I should pour myself a glass of wine, and give kids M&Ms to quit whining so home will appear tranquil.
5:30pm: Husband home, exhausted from driving, dealing with people etc. He is thinking. “Honestly, where is dinner??” Starving, because he sacrificed long lunch to be home early. Not sure why mom is so frazzled, after all she didn’t deal with the demands of clients sucking the life out of her. Is she still in her pajama bottoms? He is not smiling or embracing. Instead, he is confused why someone isn’t feeding him after a long day. ** Disclaimer: I am exaggerating a bit for effect. In actuality, Mike is almost always smiling when he comes home, does hug all of us and usually tells me I look beautiful. Also, he helps make dinner most nights. I am ridiculously lucky to have snagged a good dude. But, I listen to the gripes of many of my friends.**
Every day I fall into bed exhausted. Being a mother is no joke. The job doesn’t stop! The “To Do List” is never-ending! At work, when the checklist is complete my work day is complete. At home I am the mother of a thousand lists, all of them partially complete with many tasks ongoing making them “un check off able”(technical term, I’m sure). However, the happiness of being around my family is much more gratifying than any type of work praise I could ever receive. I am obsessed with my girls, with Mike- even my pain in the ass dogs. But, I felt it important to explain why, in my opinion, going back to work is actually a great deal easier than staying home.
Since becoming a mother, I have noticed there are two distinct tribes of women:
The stay at home group, and the working group.
For some reason, both tribes subscribe to the fact they are the better option and often criticize the other. I have absolutely no idea why women do this. Obviously, I am removing the variable of those not able to make a choice, be it dual wage earning necessity, or a single parent.
As a woman able to make a choice, I choose to work. I choose to work because I like the balance and really enjoy having the help around the house. The never-ending list exhausts me and sometimes frustrates me. I like the feeling of knowing I actually completed something when I crawl into bed at night. As a woman who has been home the past few months, I love tending to my family. The feeling of taking breaks for afternoon cuddles, making lunches, and folding tiny onesies is pretty awesome.
In case you haven’t figured it out I am making a few points here 🙂 First, if you are at work today go home and give your homemaker a whole bunch of snaps. She (I know some Dads that stay home as well, so and/or He) is probably home magic erasing crayon marks off the wall while making dinosaur shaped sandwiches and simultaneously on hold with the cable company. She is still in her pajamas, hasn’t eaten breakfast, and has hopefully had time for a cup of coffee.
Secondly, if you are guilty of being a judgy-wudgy (another technical term) tribe member, make it your resolution to stop. Both teams work their butts off, and I have yet to meet a mother who said, “I am just sort of trying to be a good mom”. We are all trying and both mom groups deserve a medal for doing the best they can!