Every October my husband has a work party at one of the fanciest restaurants in town. It’s high up in the foothills, overlooks the city lights, and has a vallet to park your car. 23 courses, 32 forks and food from countries I didn’t even know existed. It’s the one time a year that I wear a dress and curl my hair to go out to eat.
Before dinner begins, everyone stands around chatting and eating fancy orderves brought on silver platters. It’s quite a change of pace from our usual $6 Chipotle splerge. Every year as we wait, the conversation goes a bit like this… “So our project… work work work… that one time in the lab… work work work…” Then turning toward me, “And what do you do?” I’m usually caught a bit off guard because I’m busy trying to figure out what I just took off the plate the watress offered and also because I haven’t been able to follow their big-worded conversation for the past twenty minutes.
“Oh!” I say. “We have three boys. I stay at home with them.” They smile, and my husband, on que, chimes in and says, “SHE has the real job.” Ha,ha,ha. Everyone laughs and nods in agreement. I roll my eyes and smile at my husband. It’s kind of him to say, but as the conversation goes back to the big work terms and abstract ideas that make absolutely no sense to my feeble mind, I can’t help but think, “Really?? The real job, huh. I make sandcastles in the sandbox all day. I fix quesadillas and grapes for lunch and watch Dinosaur Train reruns with my kids. Yep. That’s right. I have the real job.”
Don’t worry, it’s always just one of those pathetic stay-at-home-mom pitty party moments that disappears quickly. Every October as soon as we pull into the garage and walk in the door (that is, after our vallet gets our Honda that totally doesn’t fit in with the fancy BMW’s and Lexus cars), I remember that this is what I have chosen. This is what I wanted! The “real” job. I wanted to play in the sandbox, do the laundry, and take my kids to the library.
It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Stay at home, watch the kids run around, play ball, make beds, do dishes. When our first son was born I admit that I had thoughts many days that I had more to offer the world. I wanted to make a difference, change people’s lives, and I wanted to be good at something. I despirately wanted to be GOOD at something. I wanted more recognition than those adorable goos and gahs. Maybe that seems a bit selfish. I had graduated from college, and here I was, changing diapers while my husband was off saving the world and paying the bills. Some days were downright hard. The “real” job? Really? I had always wanted to be a mom, to stay home and be there for all of their wonderful benchmarks and accomplishments. I hadn’t bet on feeling so alone with no one but an infant to talk to, feeling so helpless when it came time to pull out the checkbook, and so lazy when other moms did it all–went to work, took care of their kids, fed their husbands…
It took a while to get over my envy and realize that while my husband had the “real” job (as he puts it, someone has to pay the bills, right? Plus he’s a great dad), I did too. I was contributing, I was making a difference, and I was just as much an integral part of our family. I realized that I had a unique opportunity to be a huge part of my child’s life. I could see his first steps, I could get to know him in ways I might have missed out on. Sure, it was a sacrifice. But looking back, it was worth every hard day. It was worth all that I gave up to stay home. For me, it has been one of the biggest blessings in my life, as a mother, as a wife, and as plain old me.
I still sometimes have those moments when I feel like my contribution to the world is so minimal and pathetic. Some days I feel like I don’t even do a good enough job sandcastle building and loving my children. Some days I still just want to be good at something other than dinner. But I honestly believe being a mother and caring for your children (while working or not) is one of the greatest contributions, greatest skills a woman can make and give to society. It is the “real” job. I feel honored and blessed to have three children trusted in my care every single day. To fix maccaroni for, to get frustrated at, to love, to hold when they’ve fallen down, to take pictures of, and to constantly worry about.
This October I plan to wear my fancy dress, curl my hair, and when I’m asked the classic question, “Oh, and what do you do?” And when my husband chimes in, “SHE has the real job!” I’ll probably still roll my eyes and smile at him. I’ll remember that HE has the “real” job, and so do I.
I’m a mom. I have one of the best jobs in the entire world. The “real” job.
I stay at home. I cook, I clean, I change diapers, take two second showers, sing disney songs, and eat my child’s soggy cheereos off the table.
It may not seem glamorous, it often goes underappreciated, unrecognized, and sometimes even looked down on. But I know that for me it has been worth it. I’m sure I’ll look back and realize I had the best coworkers (even when they conspired against me), the best hours (even though it’s 24/7), the best projects (like trying to teach a child to blow his nose), and the best perks (nothing to do today? I guess I could stay in sweat pants till three!). Someday I hope I can enter the working world again, but for now I’ll try to enjoy the moment.