As I am writing this I feel like I need to have a few disclaimers.
1. I am a teensy bit pre-menstrual (read-ranty!). My nose is on the fritz, everything REEKS today and my "geez-lady-sensitive-much?-o-meter" is kind of off the charts.
2. I am not, nor would I ever judge another person for their CHOICES in life and I applaud anyone who writes with a realness and honesty the likes of "OMG, I can't believe she just said that!".
3. You MUST read the linked article FIRST to fully understand this post. It's OK, I don't mind giving HuffPo some linky love! Maybe one day, they'll return the favor. ;)
Now that being said, I just read an article written by a woman who is at least 15 years down the mothering road from me that has every hair on my body bristling. Lisa Endlich Heffernan from Grown and Flown just published a post with a laundry list of the reasons she regrets being a SAHM for the last 20 years. Now again, I am not judging her for her life choices or diminishing her feelings about them. What I would like to do is maybe offer a different perspective on her list. Maybe things are different as a SAHM in 2013 than they were in the '80s and '90s. Then again, I may read this post in 15 years and be all, "Yeah, RIGHT! Little did you know back then smart ass!" Either way, here is what I think.
"I let down those who went before me." Lisa read The Feminine Mystique in the '70s. I read How to be a Woman in 2013. Both contain strong messages about feminism and what that means to each individual reader is up to them. Betty Freidan was preaching for woman to dream big and beyond the confines of being a housewife and a mother. Caitlin Moran was preaching (with lots of colourful words) to a new generation of women on taking ownership of our bodies, our minds and our work, whatever that work may be! I am a stay at home mom by choice. I have the privilege to make that choice and I stand on the shoulders of the women who came before me that gave me the right to actually have a choice in this matter and so many others in my life!
"I used my driver's license far more than my degree." I can't disagree with her on this one. I live in an urban setting that requires a vehicle to get around and so yes, I drive a lot. I have also graduated high school and I too spent 6 years in university and have a B.Sc. in Medical Lab Sciences. My years of education taught me many things: how to splice genes, how to diagnose a parasitic infection and how to match someones blood-type for an emergency blood transfusion. It also taught me how to interact with all kinds of people, how to WRITE, how to look at situations critically and analytically, how to manage projects and people and most importantly, it taught me to always have an inquisitive and open mind. My driver's test taught me how to parallel park.
"My kids think I did nothing." OK, I am sorry, I have to get a bit judge-y here. Who's fault is this? Lisa says her kids knew what a job looked like and that she didn't have one. Hmmm... Raising three boys and not helping them to understand that what you are doing as a stay at home mom is indeed a job and a damn valuable one at that is not anyone's fault but her own. Little C and I had this very conversation yesterday when he was about to have a meltdown because I had to go to the bank. We talked about how my job is to look after the family and then we discussed all the different ways that I do that. Daddy may go to an office for his job, but my job is everywhere my family is and without me doing it, things would get really messy around here. And I am not just talking about the piles of laundry!
"My world narrowed." I get this. When your world all of a sudden becomes about the frequency and consistency of someone else's bowel movements, you want to be able to talk to people who are also concerned with these type of things. It makes the experience less isolating and far less scary. I too have made many "mommy" friends in the past six years that I hope to have for many years to come. AND, even though I am still wiping bums at home, I have also started getting myself out there in the world to meet other people too. Multiple events in my city get me out of the comforts of my inner circle and into the far-less-scary-than-I-thought circles of many others. Circles in which the talk is substantially less about poop and more with and about people of all genders and all walks of life lifting each other up and trying to make our world a better place for all of us.
"I got sucked into a mountain of volunteer work." ME TOO! Because, you know what, I too have the time. And for a lot of the volunteer work that I do, I also have the skills (See above, re: my degree). I can also say NO to the things that don't work for me. It's really that simple and the thing with volunteer work is that it is not a job, it is something you do freely, without any expectation of payment or recognition. Some of it sucks (think 6 PM to 3 AM shift at a Casino fundraiser), some of it is ridiculously fun (sitting with 5 year olds making rainbow fossil rubbings) and some of it helps keep great programs and organizations GREAT. You do what you can with your time and skills, say no when it doesn't work for you and make the best out of all of it. Kind of like anything in life!
"I worried more." I don't know about this one. Can anyone really say they worry about their kids more than another parent? It's all rather subjective. I don't think being in their presence makes the worries any less "substantive". If you click on the link to Lisa's Overparenting post, you'll see the lengths to which she has gone in this regard. Would I do anything less? Perhaps not. I am a fan of natural consequences though and eventually some cute girl will comment on how stinky a college boy who doesn't do his own laundry is and that problem will be solved and mama bear will have one less thing to worry about!
"I slipped into a more traditional marriage." I guess this depends on what one means by "traditional". If, like the author, you tend to see things in a very narrow 1950's way with the mom at home and the dad at work, and the division of labour as simple as that, then yes, I suppose that is what happens. What actually happens inside the houses of these traditional looking marriages may be very different. My husband is a very active part of our household maintenance and cleanliness and has changed just as many dirty diapers and wiped as many bums and snotty noses as I have. He is not off the hook from being a parent because his "work day" is over and we divide our household responsibilities based on our strengths and weaknesses. (Apparently, my weakness is my ability to properly clean a toilet. A task I GLADLY gave up! On the other hand, my husband's weakness is shopping in any way , shape or form, and this is something that I am very, VERY good at!)
"I became outdated." I think this is another way of saying "I got old." Sorry hon, it happens to all of us! Our parents got outdated the minute we figured out how to get the damn blinking 12:00 off of the VCR at 7 years old and still have to go over and help them change the message on their answering machines (aka, voicemail) AND remind them that the beeping sound they hear when they are on the phone means that they have call waiting. Technology is moving light years faster than human beings are evolving and it is as inevitable as the laser disc was a bad idea that our children will be more technologically adept than us a some point in our lives. In ten years from now when everyone has an actual EYE phone, I'll be clutching my dear old 4S like it is a long lost lover from my past, while my kids roll their "phones"at me!
"I lowered my sights and lost my confidence." Nothing, and I mean NOT ONE DAMN THING in my life has shaken my confidence in myself like motherhood has. I believe this is what happens when someone else's life is actually in your hands and it takes all the effort one can muster to not totally mess it up! Add to that all the outside pressure that exists for all of us to be "mom enough" or this or that kind of parent and the limited value society as a whole places on motherhood, and really, the cards are quite stacked against us and any self-confidence we may have had. It's why we surround ourselves with others in the same boat. We support each other and we give one another booster shots of confidence when our titres are low.
As for lowering one's sights, I am not sure that is the right way to look at this part of life. I like to think of it more as a matter of changing the line of sight and having different goals for this particular project. It's no longer the corner office and the big fat bonus check that I lean-in to and work for. It's the ridiculously tight full arms and leg hug that I get at the end of a long day letting me know that I rocked it at "work" that day. My bonus check is seeing a big brother help his little sister learn her letters and encouraging her when she is losing her confidence. The payments I receive for my "job" are infinite and for the most part invisible. And the view from my "corner office" (the dining room table) is damn sweet!
One particular line in Lisa's post really struck me and I am not sure what to make of it. At the end she says....
"And despite it being obvious, I did not focus on the inevitable obsolescence that my job as mom held."
Unlike Lisa, I am not at this perceived tail end of motherhood. I feel it is unfair of me to comment on an impending empty nest and lack of marketable skills to re-enter the workforce. I may very well feel her same sense of remorse in 15 years time. I do know one thing though and it is something that my kids and I talk about all the time...
Motherhood is NEVER obsolete!