I Stay Home…Get Over It

I have the best job ever.
This is my career. How could it be worthless?

Ever since I made the choice to leave my career and stay home with my sons, I’ve been overwhelmed by my choice. There have been periods of time when I felt like I was nothing more than a butt wiper or a housekeeper or, in darkest times, a slave. Some days it is hard to find the silver lining in my current career. But, no fail, right about the time that I am feeling 100% certain about my decision, some working woman or man asks me what I do. The standard response I get when I tell a career person that I am a stay-at-home mom is a simple, one syllable, “Oh.” Conversation over. Clearly, I have no longer have anything current or intelligent to talk about, and no one wants to hear about kids, so they leave. I am a serial conversation killer. I’m not exactly sure when the decision to expend my energy solely as mother and homemaker vaporized my IQ and decimated my inherent worth as a human being, but it happened. Working people get to ask me ridiculous questions about my personal choice without feeling an iota of impropriety. I wonder how they would feel about it if I questioned the validity of their career choice? Really? You’re a programmer? I’ve heard they’ve taught monkeys to do that.

I was fortunate enough to have a choice to make when I was 32: 1) have a career and no kids, 2) have a career and kids, or 3) have kids and no career. I chose what was behind Door Number Three. When Joe was born, I knew that what I really wanted was as low-stress of a life as I could have. To me, that meant not trying to juggle too many things. Steve worked. We could afford for me not to work. We came to an agreement. He puts money in our bank account. I run the house. We share duties with our sons. Our weekends are free to enjoy because I take care of the busy work during the week. As with any choice, it has both good and bad points. The choice I made means I clean toilets and mop floors like Cinderella because we can’t afford a maid. It also means, however, I can go to yoga during the day when my kids are in school because I am my own boss. Like anyone else’s life, my life is a balancing act to keep things working. But, make no mistake about it, I work. Every day. Seven days a week. I get no paid vacation. No bonuses. No salary. But it’s worth it to me because our four lives are more peaceful because of what I do.

To be fair, I know that the work I do is invisible to those on the outside (unless they catch me at Starbucks having coffee with a friend while they’re on their way to work and suddenly I’m no longer invisible). And this is why people feel free to interpret something they know nothing about. Still, I get tired of answering condescending questions. To that end, today I invented some succinct responses to lessen the agony of being asked them repeatedly:

“When do you think you’ll go back to work?” Never. Work sucks.

“What did you do when you worked?” I was an adult film star.

“What do you do with all your free time when the kids are in school?” Day drink.

“Don’t you get bored?” Oh…when I get bored watching Oprah, I take a nap. Crisis averted.

Really, people. I am doing the right thing for me. I only get one shot with my boys. I have to do my best the first time around because it’s the only time I have. Ask any adult child about their relationship with their parents and you will know this is true. Time with our children goes by fast. I have six years left with my beautiful, deep-thinking, first-born son. It will be over in the blink of an eye. I know I have been fortunate to have a choice, and I know that what is right for me is not necessarily right for others. I don’t begrudge anyone their choice. I simply wish others would believe that there’s more to me than my lack of a paycheck. Right now, I’m somebody’s most important person, and that won’t always be the case. Someday they will no longer need me. I bet I will not be on my death-bed regretting the inordinate amount of time I spent with my sons in their youth. I will only regret acknowledging stupid questions about the smartest choice I ever made.

The Life I Never Meant To Live

This is what it's all about.
This is what it’s all about.

At a loss as to what to write about this evening, I decided to let chance select my topic. I flipped to a random tab in my Bunny Buddhism book and selected the first quote I saw.

The wise bunny accepts life for what it is, not for what it is expected to be.

Man…I so could have used this quote about eight years ago when I was lost and questioning how I had gotten so far off track. Off track of what? Well, at that time in my life, I actually believed there was a track I was supposed to be on. That track had involved having a great career and earning enough money to have someone reliable and decent care for my children and clean my home. That was my plan to have it all. I smile at that thought now. It really didn’t seem like such an unrealistic expectation for myself. I’m smart, well-educated, and have been successful in every paying job I’ve ever had. No reason why that shouldn’t have panned out for me. No reason except that it wasn’t my path. My path involved two darling little boys who needed some extra help, help I felt only I could give them. So I quit my job to stay home with them and everything changed. I changed. Being a stay-at-home parent was far more difficult than I imagined it would be. For a few years, I felt trapped, disillusioned, and resentful. I was an unhappy bunny.

Slowly and with time I learned that my path has been uniquely mine and completely perfect, despite my original objections. I managed to release my earlier expectations for my life and to make peace with what is. Honestly I’ve more than made peace with my present. I’m grateful that things worked out the way they did. As difficult as it was at times to be with my boys day in and day out, to give up my financial independence and earning potential, it was absolutely, 100% the best thing for our family. Because of this revised path, I have learned so much about myself, my sons, and life. I’ve had time for self-expression and freedom to explore new things. I feel fortunate to have had this time to grow.

I’d like to say that I no longer have any expectations, but that is not entirely true. Old habits die hard. But I am a much wiser bunny now. I know that what I think is the best thing and what actually is the best thing may not be the same thing. I’m more flexible and open to letting things unfold without my having a stranglehold on the itinerary. In yoga class, the instructors often ask us to soften into a pose rather than force our way into it. I’ve found that analogy works in my life too. And life is much better as a soft, fluffy bunny.

The Curse Of Being A Quantitative Person With A Qualitative Life

I find myself in a bit of a quandary. I have a quantitative mind. Like most Americans, I like to see measurable results. Numbers are tidy. They tell a clear story. In this country, we like our charts, percentages, and statistics. You don’t need to look any further than our school system to recognize that truth. Our kids’ successful futures seem to hinge entirely upon grade point averages and optimal scores on the SAT and ACT exams. I did poorly at standardized tests. In fact, based on my marginal scores on the ACT exam, the University of Colorado at Boulder predicted I would be a solid C student. I graduated CU, however, with a solid B+ average. You see, what CU didn’t count on is that despite my desire to be a person who is successful by quantitative measure, I am not. It’s only through subjective assessment that I excel. Standardized tests might tell you that I’m average. My professors might suggest something different.

I’ve been thinking this weekend about how much of a struggle I cause for myself by being a person who would like to measure my success with numbers when there are no figures that can assess my current career. Oh, sure. You could log the number of miles I put in driving my boys to and from private school. You could maybe record the number of hours I spend working with them on their homework per week. I suppose you could even run a statistical analysis on the way I manage our grocery bills. But, none of that is impressive. Grocery bills and carpool hours are not consequential. I’m not increasing sales or cutting corporate losses by millions of dollars. I’m not earning large bonuses or shattering glass ceilings. There’s no way to quantify my effectiveness in my current job, despite the desire my numbers-oriented mind has to do just that.

Because of this discrepancy between the amount of effort I put out and the lack of measurable results I see and accolades I receive, I often feel unsuccessful. As I have reflected on this over this weekend, though, I’ve realized that my need to feel successful has occasionally overshadowed the importance of what I do. What should matter the most is what I know in my heart, which is that I have followed through on what I set out to do. Eleven years ago I made a choice. I chose to stay home with my boys rather than to continue working. I did this because I know I’m an all or nothing gal. I knew if I was working, I’d be wishing I was home with my children; and if I was at home with my children, I’d be thinking about all I had to do at work. I didn’t want my attention to be scattered, so I made a decision. I chose to pull myself out of the numbers game. All this time, though, I’ve continued holding myself accountable to a measurable standard that cannot exist in the role of stay-at-home parent.

Certainly there are more things in this life that are measured in terms of subjective quality rather than objective quantity. Every day there is one sunrise and one sunset, but there is no way to determine which is more breathtaking. There are billions of people on the planet, but each one has unique gifts to offer and there’s no way to measure which of those matter the most. Why do I care if I’m not winning any awards? Would an award make my children love me more? Would it prove I’m a better mother? Does not winning an award prove I’m not worth my carbon matter? I think it’s time to pull myself out of the quantitative world I grew up in. I need to let my competitive mindset go and release my mind from the bonds of measurable assessment. I know I’ve never been great at standardized evaluations. I’m doing the best of which I am capable. By those terms, I am incomparable. That should be enough.

By Order Of The Queen Of LaLa Land

Joe…out and about as we did our Adopt-A-Highway time today

If I were the Queen, I would make quite a few changes.

1) Every person over the age of the 18 would be required to work at least one hour unpaid per month serving in their community by working at shelters (people or pet), picking up trash outside, assisting the elderly, or otherwise aiding the less fortunate.

2) Anyone demonstrating a lack of understanding between “yield” and “merge” would be put in the dungeon.

3) Gummi bears would contain no calories and comprise the largest portion of the Food Pyramid.

4) The punishment for tossing a cigarette butt of a car window would be beheading.

5) Every model would be a size 8, and not the current size 8 (which is actually a size 12).

6) Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, headwriters for the now defunct, popular ABC drama LOST, would have to explain every single mystery they left unanswered from the show. I’m not kidding. Just because the show was called LOST does not mean it should have ended with every single viewer actually being lost.

7) Every household would be required to recycle at least 50% of their household trash.

8) No man over the age of 19 would be allowed to wear plastic, white sunglasses…unless he was Shaun White.

9) Wolves would be reintroduced in all lower 48 states to help control the deer population. They might eat a few people too, but that would simply prove Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest postulation.

10) Justin Bieber and Lindsey Lohan would be placed in a rocket and launched into outer space where they might actually be happy together, but no one would care.

11) Women’s uteruses would be free from government legislation, same-sex marriages would be not only granted but socially accepted, and stay-at-home parenting would be the most highly regarded profession.

12) Tattoos of any Disney, Looney Tunes, or other cartoon-like character would have to be placed on a body part not seen by the general public.

13) All men would be required to lift the toilet seat before peeing and place it gently back down into place afterward. Any man caught in non-compliance would be forced to clean every toilet in their home every day for a full year.

14) My husband (who is not the king, by the way) would be locked in shackles for an indeterminate amount of time for stealing the covers and then complaining about how hot it was while he was sleeping.

Perhaps my queenly wishes seem a bit ridiculous. I suppose you think the only thing I am the Queen of is LaLa Land. There’s no way even a queen as powerful as I am could bring about the kind of sweeping change I’m espousing here. You silly fool! It’s not my job to figure out how to make these things happen. That’s your job. I’m the Queen and you do my bidding. End of story. Now, get busy or off with your head.