Remarkable Post and the Story Behind the Story
Being a SAHM is hard. It's really hard. But her tone reminded me of that period of my life when I was also a SAHM - proud, devoted, proud, proudoh, and miserable and defensive to-a-fault to just about everyone. And to all those people who, for almost two years, I just "couldn't possibly find a moment for," I apologize. The resurrection of this column reminded me just how much I needed to do it. My job was hard. But was it any harder than that of my friends with other employment? (Guard the ovaries) No. No it was not. And now I can admit it.
Three years ago, my son was born, and it was clear right away that things weren't as perfect with him as we'd hoped. He was born with a malformation that, though minor, still required reconstructive surgery and intensive aftercare that lasted several months. And there we're other problems. He hated being held. He squirmed constantly and sometimes, despite my most exhaustive efforts, couldn't be calmed. I failed at rocking him to sleep. I didn't get the sorts of "payback" other new parents reminisced about at playgroup no coos, no interaction, no hint of "I'm comfortable; I like you," or "It's working," or even the slightest "You're doing this right, Mom." When other moms would reminisce: "It's soooo hard! But it's all worth it every time I look at that little face!" I tried that. It didn't look back at me.
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Our baby, Judd, had autism spectrum disorder, though, clueless first-time parents, we didn't know it at the time. Still, it was clear something was off, and in an attempt to fix it, to somehow "bond better", I decided to stop lawyering and writing for a bit and stay at home. I never told my employer (or fellow employees) exactly what my husband and I suspected, the real reason for the change. After all, they we're still balancing it all in perfect stiletto heels into court and out of daycare with aplomb and still apparently raising kids who could write briefs before they we're out of diapers. I just said it was a personal matter, and I was becoming a SAHM.
And that's when I began to take it all myself, my life, and ESPECIALLY my new SAHM status really, really personally. It was a career, a status symbol, a shield, a trophyit was a lot of things it really shouldn't be, but I let it consume me and shape my increasingly defensive attitude, and my near-martyrish outlook on my importance in the world. I was always "EXHAUSTEDbut so fulfilled!" Because I had "The hardest job on the planet!!!" And the "toughest boss ever! (hee hee hee!)."
Damn, I was annoying. But (see above article), I was not alone. Encouraged by other SAHMs on Facebook who "liked" me and cheered me on, I posted things like: "Another day doing the MOST important job in the world!" Gee. Bet my buddies who are doctors (also with kids) really appreciated that. Or teachers (also with kids). Or bus drivers (with or without kids). Or my husband, who was still slaving away with 14-hour days as we figured out how to finance the treatment our son would probably need. Or the scores of women I knew, personally and professionally, who are having problems with fertility, and thus would never even hope to qualify for the MOST important job on the planet. SHUCKS! (Sad Facebook face!). From time to time, groups of us would get together for "Mom Breaks" (or some such annoyingly named group), and clink glasses about how glad we we're that we finally got the night out we deserved. (Man, how I miss those days. Since I've been back to work fulltime, I've yet to convince my boss to let me hand that last-minute assignment to a babysitter, so that I could go out for the drinks I'd planned.)
And then there we're the women (some former co-workers) I'd run into on the street after business hours, in their workout clothes while I pushed my stroller. With a toss of my hair, I'd comment that "I WISH I had time to go to the gym, but Judd was up at five AM" (knowing, full well, that said coworker also had a toddler at home, who she also probably had to be up with at five, before putting in a 12-hour shift for a boss who couldn't be soothed with a shiny rattle). Boy did I feel sorry for her, and I'm pretty sure she knew it.
But I defended my life choice which was, at it's heart, purely sacrificial, lest anyone forget to anyone who would listen, refusing to admit that there we're any sort of self-indulgent perks that come along with being a SAHM. Likesaya career wardrobe made solely out of terry cloth and fleece? No workplace politics? No performance evaluations? No pressure to impress anyone I didn't like? The occasional nap in the middle of the day (okay, rare, but the very fact that that was even a possibility)? The walks outside? The ability to actually visit the grocery store sometime other than rush hour, when it isn't teeming with people and mile-long lines? Oh, and the ability to be my own boss?
Yes, I know. If you spoke to me during my SAHM era, I'd have sooner been burned at the stake than admit that being a SAHM gave me that priceless gift of actually being able to control my days. "Ah, ah ah," I'd say, "it's the kid who's in charge! The kid's the boss! I'm at his mercy! So haaaard to be completely at his mercy! Oh, for the love of God, DEATH TO TYRANTS!"
Seriously, if you are letting a person a quarter of your size dictate every moment of your day and your happiness, you ARE doing it wrong. There, I said it, the sheer blasphemy the parent of an infant, is , in fact, the boss of said infant. Infant may throw the occasional wrench into your plans scream during the quiet you wanted; poop on something you loved. But so does your average workday boss. And he doesn't love you. And he knows you are replaceable. And he might even say it.
Sowhy did I feel so defensive and entitled back then in the SAHM day? I think (okay, I know) it related to my own inadequate feelings about what I was doing. I was exhausted most of the time, but if I'm being completely honest (again, guard the ovaries), it wasn't because taking care of a child is harder work than anyone else's work. It was because I'd gone from a structured environment to a completely unstructured one, and I was bad at managing all the un-managed time. I could have found 30 minutes, in the evening, when my husband got home, to go to the gym. Instead, I usually collapsed in the sofa with a bag of Doritos and a glass of Cabernet, lamenting how rough I had it. I could have taken time to call more friends. I could have done a lot of things. But more often than not, I didn't plan, I didn't structure, I let the lil one push me around, and I wallowed in being a "beast of burden" rather than a parent. It was hard, but it often was harder than it needed to be because I let it become that way. And then I complained about it and demanded a medal.
Not that people like the Washington Post columnist are lying. But I do smell some familiar exaggeration, especially in these two old standbys:
"You can't relax when you're a SAHM! EVER! You have to be looking out for their safety! Every minute! Every second!"
Yes, that is true. But it's called baby gates and band-aids. It's not really rocket science.
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Posted in Pets Post Date 05/25/2017