The Stay at Home Mom Thing

I got a letter yesterday telling me that my job has been staffed.

No, not this job. I didn’t hire a nanny. My real job. What I still think of as “my real job;” the one I hated and felt trapped by and escaped.

The news was not a surprise. My paid maternity leave ended in April and I am currently at the start of two years of unpaid leave, which makes my job available. I did it that way on purpose; my maternity leave replacement really wanted my job, god bless her, and I really wanted her to have it. Now it’s her job and I don’t have one.

And when I go back to a job, it will be a totally different one. Thinking about that yesterday evening made me feel kind of dizzy, like looking down from a high bridge. It’s fine, I know I am safe – a position with my employers is guaranteed – basically, I am like the janitor of the government and there will always be garbage bags to change – but to be Without A Job is hardwired in my brain to be a scary thing.

I mean, yes, I have one. But I think of this, (gesturing around the house) what I do all day, as work. I am working from 6:20 am till 7 pm. It’s not a job. A job is something you do for the money.

I am not making any money. Except for the childcare benefit dollars from the government to pay for our beer.

I am trying not to spend any money, either, now that I no longer have an income.

Of course the distinction doesn’t end with money.

Work is something I do because I have to, because I am compelled to, because there is a greater good beyond it. Work is generally harder – on many levels – than a job because I care. When my office job was hard it was because of this, because I cared and thought that I was doing something good and because I never, ever, ever got to see results that reflected my input.

Oh except the one time I rewrote an application letter for someone and he got into the school of his choice.

Which was not part of my job description, by the way.

Taking care of children is a total gong show a lot of the time, at least the way I run it, but at least you see results. I guess taking care of small animals might be the same. I am basically a monkey wrangler.

Maybe it is the end of my paid leave and thus my beginning a life where my job and work are the same which has made me so determined to keep the house clean. Or maybe I have just been in the house full time for over a year now and have some measure of time with which to assess the objects scattered around our kitchen. That quarter-full jar of almonds has been on the shelf above our kitchen cabinets for one year now. That sort of thing.

Before I had such a chaotic lifestyle, a little chaos scattered around me was tolerable. (OK, a lot of chaos scattered around me was tolerable. I was always the one in the office who had to be told to tidy up before the Big Honchos came to visit.) But now everything is so noisy and volatile and, just, caked on and it feels like I might get pulled under and turned into a Chaos Monster if I don’t keep the kitchen counter clean and sweep the floor at least twice a day.

(Although the compulsion seems to be limited to the ground floor, where we do the most living. My bedroom, while filthy and bothersome, is not likely to be touched anytime soon because whenever I am in it, I pass out.)

File it under: things I scoffed at before I became a parent, along with scented baby wipes.*

Along these lines, I came across this blog post yesterday and it made my heart sing a little.

* you know, even through Trombone’s first couple of years of life & diapers I scoffed at scented baby wipes but somehow having two toddlers eating a variety of foods created a Maximum Manageable Smell Level in our house the next day, shall we say, so this one time, it was a heavy flow day for the kids, if you will and it turned out I had scented wipes on hand quite by accident and suddenly, as I wiped, the terrible smell was gone. And I did rejoice for the scented baby wipes, although I haven’t bought them again because I think I am playing at being a smell martyr.

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7 Responses to The Stay at Home Mom Thing

  1. mo-wo says:

    Leave. and Work. and Job. All such loaded terms.

    I like your terms better. And, yes that cafe mama post is fa-la-la-la-la.

  2. MonkeyPants says:

    This is a great post.

    For me, it was jobs I didn’t care about that were the hardest. Holiday cashier at a suit store, for example. THAT was work, not to tell the salespeople how meaningless tone-on-tone jacquard was. Not to tell the manager that he was mind-numbingly stupid and that his cologne smelled like distilled gigolos.

    Teaching in a regular school was hard because I didn’t care about the paperwork or the negligible progress made when we were operating for the lowest common denominator. (A small class of honours students was different, but the marking was taxing.)

    What’s easy? The stuff I care about. Teaching kids to read and think in small groups, so that everyone gets the attention and information they need. Pumping diesel and gas into fishing boats, making sure that the people I know are taken care of.

    You do hard work. I do not think I could be as good as you are at doing what you do, taking care of your family. And I say, buy the scented baby wipes. Because smell is a damned big environmental factor.

  3. Arwen says:

    Oh, yes, thank you. These past few years I haven’t been able to wrap myself around all of this processing and really understand what I’m saying and feeling all at the same time.

    … Also, I started on teh scented baby wipes the moment Ripley started eating garlic, and it was better. *g*.

  4. Kyooty says:

    I haven’t “gone to work” in 11yrs this June. The first year of that, I went to distance education courses because well I “should” have been doing something, or that’s what I felt pressured to do. I then decided a “make work project” was the order of business, and my oldest turns 10 in July. He’s never known me to “go to work”. I love being the Mom. 🙂

  5. randi says:

    i’m at home now full-time too – i’ve made the commitment to do it for a few years and gave my mat leave replacement the old “yay – you got the job!” a few months ago… it was unnerving, even though it’s what i’d been planning all along. and of course not having any bi-weekly deposits to the old bank account is unsettling…

    for me, the hardest part about the mom/home thing vs the “job-job” thing is the fact that it’s 100%, all the time… it’s the not being able to take a sick day, leave work at the office after a mere 8 hours or the chance to make a hasty decision to switch careers. not like i can daydream about storming out with the middle finger up! 😉

    but then again, the good days are so very good and i’d hate to miss them. this really is a short period of time, babyhood and toddler years…

  6. Gina says:

    Ah, to be in Canada… as a US resident, my maternity leave is LONG gone and they don’t do maternity replacement or childcare credits, or what have you. Land of the FREE! (You’re on your own, get back to work, good luck with that kid thing, says the government). UG.

    But I am trying to get brave and maybe leave my work behind and stay hoem more, a whole new world. I enjoy watching your experience and ruminations…

  7. Bon says:

    i am coming up to the end of my mat leave and was just ruminating bloggily yesterday about how i want a job, probably partly for the external validation as much as the money, but still don’t really know what i want to do.

    in terms of the kids, work for me here at home is constant and very much like monkey-wrangling and it’s good but it’s exhausting b/c there is no walking away from it. i think that’s part of what appeals about a job, a career. i tend to care about doing a job well, and all, but i can walk home and escape here. here, when i work at home, i am in the thick of it all the time and every dustbunny and misplaced sippy cup and diaper that needs changing 24/7 is sometimes more than i really want to take in in a given moment.