It has been 7 years since I've been employed. Being a stay-at-home mom has been my job for so long I thought it might always be that way. Not that there's anything wrong with that, otherwise I would never have quit my job in the first place.
But there's no denying that choosing to stay at home to raise your kids, no matter how sensible and noble that decision is, no matter how well you multitask and manage schedules and carpools and find all sorts of fun crafts to do or places to go or classes to take -- it can still end up playing havoc with your self-esteem. Especially when you find yourself underneath the breakfast table, wiping up your husband's and kids' messes while they hurry up proceed with matters of importance. Especially when you think of your two graduate degrees from not-so-insignificant institutions, diplomas rotting somewhere in your attic (or did my parents take them and display them?). When people who know you have them make jokes about how your degrees are going to waste and you counter with all the anecdotes of how difficult being a mom is, and they agree with you (I don't know how you do it!) and you laugh with them, haha, but it kind of rankles. When you think of your daughter looking to you as a role model. When you want to tell her that you are an intelligent individual who is so much more than carpools and laundry.
So I blogged out my frustrations. Blogging about my thoughts and feelings and experiences might seem narcissistic, but it's darn therapeutic, and it made me feel good. Coming up with things to say was easy, but making them interesting to read was challenging. I was exercising my brain. I met a whole community of bloggers, and began connecting with adults who had something in common with me. I was doing something. A few people were even listening and enjoying what I had to say. I was happy.
Then, by some miracle, people started compensating me to blog; only a fraction of my blogging, and not for much. Just enough to buy a nice meal at a restaurant for the family now and them, or pay for a babysitter, or help cover the cost of my kids' afterschool classes. It hasn't been what I'd call a job (I've been telling people I do a bit of freelance work, or that I have a "wobby", i.e. work + hobby). But that little bit of extra money was great. Even better was the thought that I could contribute financially, even a little, and the self-confidence boost to remember Yes, I'm so much more than carpools and laundry. Best of all was the feeling of Oh My God, people are giving me money to do something I'd do for free!
And now one of those gigs has turned into a regular, part-time job. One with a salary and a set number of hours per week. I've had to fill in direct deposit forms, employer agreements and W-9 forms. I'm actually going to receive a W-2 at the end of the year. And even though my income is a fraction of Alfie's, the dollar figure beside my name is actually going to be higher than the cost of The Pea's dance lessons.
Today I filled in a survey, and for the first time ever, I felt comfortable skipping the "Stay at home parent" option and selection "Work part-time". But being a mom will always be part of my job description, so when someone asks me "What do you do?", I will say:
I'm a mom who works part-time.
How do I feel about it?
I'm happy, excited and fulfilled. A bit overwhelmed, but eager to keep going. And very, very grateful to Alfie for insisting I never do myself the disservice of settling for a job that I wouldn't love, just for the money.
But that's all the time I'm going to take for deep reflections, because I'm too busy.