Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Gunter Does Interior Design

I've had the idea for this post in the back of my mind since I re-vamped the blog, but I've hesitated actually writing it because I was afraid it would be misunderstood and appear as if I was just bitching and moaning about my life. However, after a recent discussion with several of my girlfriends, I decided to just go for it. So, here it is:

I hate being a stay-at-home mom.

Okay, right off the bat, I need to add some caveats to that statement.

Caveat #1: I do NOT in any way hate being a mom. My children are, in my completely unbiased opinion of course, amazing little human beings. I have learned so much from being their mother. They have taught me patience. They have taught me to slow down and appreciate the most seemingly mundane things in life. Most of all, they have taught me that what it is to fiercely, wholly love someone the very second you first see them. They rock and I love being their mom.

Caveat #2: I am making no judgment call here about whether it's harder to be a stay-at-home parent or a working-outside-the-home parent. It's hard to be a parent, period and every situation has its unique challenges.

Caveat #3: I am also not making a statement about the value of being a stay-at-home mom. It is a completely noble and worthy profession to belong to. You know what else is a noble and worthy profession? Being a firefighter. I'm pretty sure I'd hate that, too. I hate being hot and the outfits look really uncomfortable. Oh, and the constant risking your life to save others...yeah I'm not cut out for that.

Caveat #4: Obviously, this is a lame-o first world complaint. Duh.

Okay, I think I covered all my bases there. Now for the meat of this story:

So, yep, I hate being a stay-at-home mom. Every day I mentally calculate how many days are left until Dylan finishing school and the children entering it releases me from this obligation. You know what else? I suck at it. Being a mom? I've got that down. Being a cook, maid, chaffeur, family schedule-organizer, general all-around mess cleaner-upper? If it were a class I'd be lucky to pass. How do I know this?

This is how:

Yep, that's a grown-up chore chart. That is in place to make sure I do the bare minimum of housework. Every week I add up the checkmarks and give myself a grade. I've never rated above a high C. These aren't things like clean the baseboards and vacuum out the attic, either. These are things like sign Rylan's school folder, remember to cook your children food, wash the effing dishes before the tower in the sink falls over and crushes one of the tiny creatures who crawls about on the floor.

I know part of the reason I suck at it so badly is that I hate it. But, Megan, you might ask, why the heck do you stay at home if you hate it so much?

Well, it was never the plan for me to stay at home. I watched my mom do it and, from the time that I was aware that Mommy was a person and not just a Rosie the robot there to fulfill my every need, I thought it was just about the hardest thing I'd ever seen anybody do and that, lacking my mom's saint-like level of patience, I would probably be a dismal failure at it.

So, I was a working mom. I worked at a small local bakery until Ry was about 17 months old and I loved it. It was HARD, because my workday started around 2 or 3 a.m. and then I came home around 9 or 10 and took care of Ry all day, but I was happy. Then, we found out Ry was special needs and would require a lot of therapy. Facing the necessity of carting him to 5 therapy appointments a week and implementing a home therapy program, all while being, you know, awake, I knew I couldn't keep burning the candle at both ends and I quit and thus began my stint as a stay-at-home mom.

Anyway, back to the original point of this post (man, I have traveled far afield this time). I belong to an online mom's group that has been essential in saving my sanity these past couple of years, and one of the moms sort of timidly started a discussion the other day about stay-at-home mom depression and within minutes the thing blew up. Every single one of us, it seems, has struggled with the isolation, the negative perception, the feeling of endless drudgery, the feeling that one's brain is slowly shriveling up like a dried pea while one cleans yet another puddle of disgustingness off of the floor, furniture, out of someone's hair.

The more remarkable thing about this discussion, though, was that every single one of us, whether we chose this path or took it out of financial or medical necessity, whether we ever wanted to return to school or the workforce, whether we were generally contented with our lot or chomping at the bit to get out, every one of us has a dream that has nothing to do with being a mother - some goal we want to achieve that is just for us, whether it be going back to school and earning a graduate degree like I hope to, or just carving out the time to grow a vegetable garden.

Have you ever seen the movie "Tangled"? If you haven't, you're probably not a stay-at-home mom. I have discovered that stay-at-home moms LOVE this movie. It could be because it has a strong female heroine who takes her destiny into her own hands. It could be because the male lead is a charming and goofy black sheep. It could be because it's just a darn, funny movie. For me, part of it is that my baby girl looks like this:

I feel the strongest reason we love it, though, is because of the ruffians. For those of you who haven't seen it, I'll give a short synopsis of the scene I'm referring to. Rapunzel bribes this thief, Flynn, who sneaks into her tower to hide from the police, to take her to see these floating lanterns that the king and queen release every year. It's been her lifelong dream to see them. Flynn is none too pleased to have to lead a spazzy girl toward the kingdom he has just stolen from and takes her to a tavern full of ruffians to try to scare her into going back to her tower. The ruffians look and act scary until Rapunzel mentions the reason for her journey: she has a dream. Then, they break into song and we discover that each one of them has a dream outside of ruffianness (ruffianity?). One guy wants to be a mime. One guy collects ceramic unicorns. My favorite ruffian is Gunter, who does interior design. The point is, that, despite appearances, despite the fact that they have been cast by society and have cast themselves as thugs, they all long for something else. They have goals and plans.

My fellow stay-at-home moms, we are the ruffians.

From the outside we probably appear to certain cynical folks to be brainless ninnies who have given up promising careers to embroil ourselves in a world of playdates and vaccine debates and back-to-school shopping. We are either portrayed in the media as haggard, exhausted, screaming banshees covered in spit-up and sporting sweats and a rumpled ponytail, or self-important, self-righteous know-it-alls who look down upon the working moms and constantly proclaim our children to be superior in every way because of our decision to stay at home. I'm not sure that I've ever known a stay-at-home mom in real life who conformed to either of those stereotypes deep down. We all have dreams and plans to do something other than mothering and cooking and cleaning.

We are not alone in this, of course. Working moms have dreams. Working dads have dreams. Stay-at-home dads have dreams. Childless people have dreams. This is precisely my point. We are still individuals despite the fact that we've sunk all our resources and most of our waking thoughts into our children and our homes. The most stereotypical 1950s housewife among us may listen to punk rock during her rare moments alone, or secretly yearn to train for a triathlon. It can be hard for others to remember that sometimes. It can even be hard for us to remember that.

So, while I do hate being a stay-at-home mom, constantly fear my intelligence is being judged because I don't work outside the home, and long for the day when I can go back to school, I know that being a stay-at-home mom doesn't define me. I am a stay-at-home mom and wife. I'm also a writer, a reader, a lover of big, black fake leather boots and classic literature and dancing spazzily to indie electronica when I'm alone. I'm a liberal and an aspiring athlete, a poet, a video game nut.

Most of all, I am something very recognizable and universally relatable: I am a person who hates her job ;).

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