|Spring Break 2011…32 weeks pregnant
My car hit 10,000 miles this week, just as it will be one year since I got it. This little milestone brought a little stored-away memory to the forefront of my brain. It was of the day we signed the papers for the car. I was 8 months pregnant and had a list a mile long of things to do to prepare for our annual spring break drive to Florida. Not that it is imperative to the story, but if you have never prepared to drive 1200 miles with four kids while 8 months pregnant, I’ll let you know that it can be a bit overwhelming…on a good day. Back to the car, so there we were getting ready to sign papers for this car. As I began signing the papers, I was confused as to why DH’s name was listed first on the title, as this was my car, and all of my other cars had me listed first. The dealership manager’s answer was “He is the BREADWINNER. He needs to be listed first”. WHAT?!?! As DH will tell you, he actually held his breath in anticipation of my reaction (guess he thought his pregnant and hormonal wife was going to sock this guy in the jaw). I maintained my composure but asked him, “so, what does that make me, the BREAD LOSER?”. I left that office feeling about an inch tall and angry, and to be honest, thinking about that guy still infuriates me. In our society, we still do not value the hard work and dedication of a mother (or father) who chooses to relinquish their career to raise children. Somewhere along the way, the title of stay-at home mom (or dad) shifted from one of importance to one that implied a lazy lifestyle with days filled with TV watching and bon bon eating. “How hard can it be?” people say. “You don’t have any WORK to do, you can sleep as long as you want, there are no demands to be met, and you are free to do whatever you want all day long”. Well, to all of those people I say, “Apparently you have never spent the day ALONE , at home, raising a child”.
|If you do not feed your children in time,
they take matters into their own hands (or mouths)
While you, the breadwinner, begin your day with a hot shower, maybe a workout, breakfast, and coffee, MY day begins whenever a child decides it is time to get up. Your alarm may yank you from your sweet slumber at 6 or 7 am, but my alarm can’t tell time, or even appropriate time. He/she doesn’t know that getting up at 5am is not only unreasonable but will make for a very LONG and trying day. There is no shower for me first thing in the morning. I have a diaper to change or someone to coax to use the potty when she gets up. There are empty little tummies that urgently need to be filled because waiting even a single moment longer will most certainly cause them to perish right there on the kitchen floor. There are bodies to dress, lunches to be packed and kids to be taken to schools, two different schools. There is a morning disaster in the kitchen that needs to be cleaned and the second shift of breakfast eaters are now complaining, and heaven forbid you have a diaper explosion or a toddler accident that requires a morning bath. There is endless laundry,and the dishes, dust, and crumbs seem to multiply the moment your back is turned.
|One of my many jobs-creating family traditions
Here we are making Christmas wrapping paper
You, breadwinner, get bathroom breaks, coffee breaks, lunch breaks. I haven’t used the bathroom alone since 2001. My lunch consists of whatever is left on the bottom of the mac n’ cheese pot, eaten cold while standing. You may have the most demanding of bosses, but I assure you there is no one more demanding than a teething 8 month old. Your boss may ask you to do something that is outside of your job title. My boss requires me to be a mom, a teacher, a chauffeur, a secretary, a schedule keeper, a cleaning lady, a chef, a nutritionist, dishwasher, nurse, gardener, tour guide, referee, judge and jury, peacekeeper, cheerleader, motivator, story teller, and songwriter.
While you, breadwinner, are thinking about an afternoon snack or reading a joke email, I , the bread loser, am attempting to orchestrate homework, snack time, and all sorts of after school activities while somewhere squeezing in grocery shopping with 5 kids and figuring out what to make for dinner that isn’t “gross” or “that again”. While you, breadwinner, leave your office and your job after 8, 10, or even 12 hours, I am on the clock 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I do not get weekends, holidays, or sick days. I don’t get to decide to “slack off” or “knock off a bit early”. I do not get paid and I do not get a monetary bonus for going above and beyond the call of duty, because when you are a full time parent, there is no such thing. As for TV and bon-bons, I rarely watch TV and if I do, it is at 9 pm, between when we have all the kids put to bed and when the baby wakes for her first night time feeding…..and what exactly IS a bon bon??
|Yet another duty:
Science Fair Project Advisor
My day may be filled with chaos. There are days that are difficult and every once in a while, I wish I could quit. But it is truly a job that is worth all of the effort. Every time I hear DD3 tell me what letter a word begins with or DS8 reads a book intended for 3 grade levels above him, I smile because I taught them that. When DD6 brought home her “special math work” the other day that involved multiplication, I secretly patted myself on the back for a job well done. These things are my paycheck, and while it may not add to my bank account, I feel very wealthy.
I gave up my career, and, admittedly, a bit of my own identity, to raise our kids. While I never for a moment have regretted my decision, I am constantly annoyed by the way society looks down on parents that choose their kids over their careers. There are people who think these parents “have it made”. While I am very fortunate that I am able to raise my children full time (and have a supportive DH), I would never consider myself “having it made”. It has been in my experience that people who make those comments are people who have never raised children full time, who have had family members or daycare or babysitters to share in the child raising experience (our situation is the extreme, in that we do not live near family and had a babysitter once, 2 years ago, who fell asleep while watching the kids (7,4,3,1) ). It is people who have that sort of attitude that make those of us who have made the choice to sacrifice ourselves, feel less important, almost to the point of shame, than our working counterparts.
|One of those moments that makes
all the hard work worth while..
watching your 7 year old read to
his new baby sister
A few years ago, I had an emergency appendectomy. The kids were 7, 4, 2, and 8 months at the time. My mom and dad both came to stay with us for a period of time to help with the kids so I could recover from abdominal surgery. My mom stayed with us for the first two weeks following my surgery and the third week, my dad came. The first night he was here, he was so exhausted, he was asleep by 8:30 pm (and later admitted that he REALLY wanted to go home). After the week was up, before he left, he said one of the nicest things ever. He told me he had never really understood what stay-at-home moms did all day and he couldn’t believe all that we had to do. He said he had a greater appreciation and a deeper respect for not just me but for all stay at home parents because we really have a hard job. (I still get a bit choked up when I think about that, Poppy). And that is what all full-time parents essentially want, the acknowledgment that we work hard, day in and day out, just as someone who has a job with a paycheck. Our contribution to the world is just as important, is just as stressful, but can be even more rewarding than a paying career.
So, Mr. Dealership Manager, perhaps you should think of another way to explain name order on the car title, maybe an explanation that does not involve belittling those of us who have chosen to sacrifice their own career aspirations and a paycheck to undertake an even greater responsibilty, raising great kids!