Tales of a Mostly SAHM
On Tuesday, Luca had a physical at school. With all the issues with Highmark and UPMC (our doctors are UPMC, our insurance is Highmark) I figured it was so much easier just to have the school physician give him the required physical. The doctor turned out to be someone I know very well, a resident at the time when I worked at St. Margaret. A fantastic doctor. It was a very nice surprise to see him. When we saw each other, we both smiled and he asked, “How long have you been away from St. Margaret? We sure miss you there.”
It’s a standard question, one I get a lot. I’ve been out of practice for going on a year and a half. I, of course, made that decision when I was working only one day a week, a Saturday, and Matt and I realized that it wasn’t for anything but pride at that point. I wasn’t making enough money to sustain anything. All my paychecks went to savings or school clothes shopping or to pay extra on the car. I was missing time with Matt and the kids together.
When Matt’s in town, he leaves the house around 8:30, to see the kids off to school and hang out with the girls, then gets home sometime around 7 or later. The kids are in bed between 7:30 and 8. It’s just not enough time for him, and I get that.
I had to ask myself, why? Why am I missing out on time with my family together, which clearly is a rarity?
The answer was, because I like being a nurse. I liked being good at something that wasn’t just a good mom. But mostly, it was because I have always had a job, since I was 12. Always. I’ve never gone longer than a few weeks without a job. It’s all I’ve known, for 18 years. At first it was liberating. I could do whatever I wanted to, not having to worry about having to be anywhere. Then it set in. I don’t have to be anywhere. Where is my worth?
Early this morning, after seeing Matt off for a client meeting, I sat in the quiet of the house and read an article that may make me stop saying I’m just a stay at home mom. That for Matt, it allows him to do his job, without worrying about anything else, so we can live the life we have. Moreover, it may make me feel less like a glorified nanny.
“And suddenly, when I read those words, it all made sense. Well, of course, it would be a luxury to the spouse who works out of the home to have a partner who stays at home with the children. Someone who is always there to take care of the inevitable days of sickness, arrange the doctor’s appointments, make sure the cupboards are stocked, and heck, to ensure that no one steals the FedEx package off of the porch. And then — goodness! — to have someone to save you the worry of sending your kids into the world, someone to always be there to kiss a scraped knee and take care of the potty training and maybe even have a hot meal waiting for you when you come home?”
Part of that last sentence kind of rubs me the wrong way, however. Kids will grow up just fine, even if a parent doesn’t stay at home with them. In fact, some may be better off for it. I know, coming from a single mom who worked a lot, you learn to be more self sufficient than if you have a parent at home doing everything for you. Not that all stay at home parents do everything for their kids, but I’m pretty sure more gets done. My personal parenting style is to be more hands off, in that, I make my kids do chores, clean up, and be independent. Some afternoons I’m here, but I’m not, if you know what I mean. I make them figure it out. Work out their sibling squabbles, find their own missing library books, and guide themselves through their homework.
Yesterday, I had a reminder of what it was like when I worked part time. I had a class at 5:30, but Luca was red. Like, his face was red and he had a rash all over his trunk. At his physical, the doctor noted that his tonsils were really big, but since he had no symptoms, there was no reason to worry.
Of course, the next day he came home from school crying when I’d even just touch his skin. Everything hurt, and he even threw up. I may be out of nursing practice, but I know strep when I’m looking right at it.
It was too late to cancel my class, and my neighbor was sitting with the kids until Matt got home to relieve her so she could go to a choir concert. My neighbor, who is a nurse anesthetist, took one look at Luca and said, “Yah, he should get to the doctors.”
So on my way to my class, I called the doctors and was able to get him a 6:40 appointment. I also had the Volvo. There was no way for Matt to take all four kids in his Jeep, so then I began the scramble to try to find someone who could sit with the kids so Luca could get to the doctors.
There I stood, pacing, outside of Club One, calling every neighbor I could, then every nearby friend, then, I took a chance and tried my friend Kevin, who lives in the city and had never met my littlest kids, even though we’ve been friends since I was six. He could hear my panic, and left right away.
In that moment, I was reminded of how stressful it was when one of my kids were sick and I was at work, Matt was at work, and we had to arrange for someone to get them to the doctor. I was also reminded of the fact that I have some pretty awesome friends.
Of course, Kevin became best friends with Mae, and he even said she’s just like he imagined her to be.
Point is, I’m okay with being just a stay at home mom. I’m okay with making sure that my kids get to their activities and their appointments. I’m okay with doing laundry and cooking dinner. I’m okay with reading the same book over and over and over.
Okay, so I’m not that okay with it. But I’m feeling a bit more fine with my decision.
I’m also happy that I have a job that allows me to bring my kids. I get to work out for free. I get to relieve my stress while someone else watches my kids. It’s kind of the perfect setup.
When my kids are all in school, I can get a job again.
“I realized, for the first time ever, that I didn’t have anything to prove. That I had been working so hard to work from home and always have it spotless and do all my educational activities with the kids because it was my job and I’d better darn do a good job of it if my husband had to work, that I never stopped to consider that my being home with our children could actually be a gift to my husband.”
All this time, I’ve been feeling like I’ve had to prove myself worthy. As if this isn’t a job, rather an excuse to not have a real job. It’s so hard to describe the struggle I have in my mind over it. I can’t buy those shoes, I don’t make any money. I can’t plan vacation, I didn’t save for it. I shouldn’t ask for an afternoon alone, because I didn’t earn it.
One day I will get over it. One day.