The other day I was at a staff barbeque and co-workers were getting all friendly and attempting casual conversation that didn’t have anything to do with work, work drama, or work gossip. It was going fairly well. I work with what seems so far (I’ve come back from maternity leave only a short while ago to an almost complete staff turnover) to be a very excellent group of people.
However, what do people trying to be social find as the default conversation with me? My babies. Franklin and Eliza.
Isn’t it hard to leave them?
Wouldn’t you rather be at home?
Is she having a hard time at daycare?
Are you coping okay?
I can understand this curiosity. From the people with no kids, it is a little more rare. From the mothers who are in the office, it’s almost the first thing they talk about. I think they’ve been working for awhile, it’s a busy time, it’s stressful right now and they have forgotten what it means to stay at home. The “Momversation” video above isn’t all that great. All those women are working as “Mom Bloggers” as Daphne points out. They are writers and usually writers who either work from home or work casually outside the home. For me, these aren’t “working mothers”. They are extremely talented, extremely privileged people who really weren’t able to have an actual in depth conversation about being a working mother because they really aren’t.
To me, a working mother makes lunches and plans breakfast and dinner the night before. They spend their evening drinking wine while relaxing to the rhythmic motion of mopping the floor or lint brushing the carpet to avoid waking the kids with the vacuum at 11 o’clock at night. Working mothers don’t work overtime after 5pm. Working mothers go home and eat dinner, do homework, read stories, play climb the cushions and do the laundry between 5pm and the 7pm bedtime. Then they go back to work after kissing their partner (if they have one – or kiss their babysitter, whatever) and do the extra 2 or so hours of work that needs to be done.
But yes, it makes me a better version of me. There is pride, there is intellectual stimulation, there is adult conversation, there is job advancement. These are things most Stay-At-Home-Moms and Work-At-Home-Moms get as well, but sometimes achieving this is more complicated. In a way, I’m getting it easy. And I’m serious when I say that.
I was talking to another mother at Franklin’s Aikido class on Friday afternoon – the class I leave early to attend with him and what I have worked overtime to be able to do. Her son is 7 and her daughter is 3 days younger than Eliza (15 months). She went back to work full time as well – and also with somewhat flexible hours. She made a good point that I’ve been thinking about more and more. We had our sons and we went back to work. We were ourselves for 5 years – our definition of ourselves as mothers was working and parenting. This fulfilled us and showed us that this form of parenting worked for us. Now with our second child, at a time when many mothers start to make the leap into staying at home (many times for simple child care cost reasons) it seems foreign.
We don’t pay two sets of daycare fees.
We don’t have two kids in diapers.
We don’t have sleepless nights with two children.
Franklin is largely independent. His time at Out of School Care is spent careening through forests, exploring beaches, learning jedi dodge ball and making balloon rocket ships. His after school time spent with me before this came along? “Shhhhh, the baby is sleeping.”
Seriously. This is me. This is how our family works. It’s not for everyone but it works for us. Franklin is a well adjusted, social, happy kid who knows how to navigate society. Would he do so well hanging out with me? Perhaps. Would he see a lot more of me being tired, cranky, annoyed and thirsty for some “Me Time”? Absolutely.
This working gig. It works for me. It makes me a better version of me.