When I worked outside of the home for the first two and one-half years of my daughter’s life, I was horribly, immeasurably, intensely, really, truly, unfairly and unreasonably jealous of stay-at-home and work-at-home moms.
Okay, well, maybe not to that extent, but, sure, I was jealous. Not mad, but jealous.
While I pumped breastmilk in an office bathroom stall and agonized daily over a rapidly dwindling supply, I envisioned millions of other new moms lounging at home in a floral nursing gown, peacefully and contentendly feeding their sweet Gerber babe(s) on the couch and enjoying the newest Ellen/Oprah/The View episode, laughing and bonding. Instead of waking at four in the morning to hurridly dress and commute and tearfully hand off their infant(s) to a daycare provider, I imagined that these new moms languidly slept in and nursed, then rose to take leisurely neighborhood walks or attend various Mommy and Me type classes. Then, as Alina grew, I imagined these same (imaginary) stay-at-home or work-at-home moms cooing and playing pattycake at noon, or coordinating picnic park playdates with various new mom friends, or, most importantly, engaging in all manner of educationally stimulating and nurturing activities that I felt certain Alina was missing out on simply because I wasn’t at home full-time.
Really, I lost a lot of sleep over that. I just knew that my bright and beautiful girl would be at an unfair social and academic advantage come kindergarten simply because Mama was gone up to ten hours a day. And though I readily accepted that it is NEVER truly easy for anyone to be the mother of a newborn, regardless of work status, I imagined that all SAHMs and WAHMs had it waaaay easier. No sobbing separations. No forgetting the formula. No heartache.
Flash forward to this week:
As a voiceover artist and freelance writer, I require loads of (at least minimally) uninterrupted computer time. So my daughter, who is now home with me, is often forced to entertain and occupy herself … quietly. (Granted, she’s, not, like, far; she’s usually either coloring at her little plastic desk next to my work station or watching PBS in the next room within eye and earshot). And though I try scheduling “fun” and “off” days at least twice a week, the freelance nature of my work requires flexibility.
So it dawned on me last week, as I was finishing a 300-mp3 file of voiceovers, that Alina had patiently drawn and colored for MORE THAN ONE HOUR BY HERSELF. No interruptions. No requests. No tantrums. Instead, my big girl had filled a notebook, drunk her juice, and even used the potty *all by herself*. People, she’s not even three years old yet … her birthday is at the end of the month.
I almost started crying when I realized the time that had passed and just how big my big girl is getting. Though Alina had been physically next to me the entire time, she was, I felt, practically left to her own devices just so Mama could work.
Just like in daycare. Just like before.
It dawned on me, then, that I had not designed or implemented or even engaged in very many “educational” lessons with her since I started working from home in January. Sure, I’ve taken her to the pool and the park and the occassional museum, and I read to her, but it’s not like I spend two hours a day reciting ABCs and holding math problem flashcards. Just like before, I work … and fill in as much quality, quantity time with my child as possible. That’s when I realized that there probably is no perfect supermom around; she doesn’t exist. The fantasies I’d concoted while stuck in a miserable career were just that: fantasies meant to make me feel worse about my own situation than I already did. The reality is, the SAHMs and WAHMs I’ve met since leaving the mortgage business are, for the most part, like me: endlessly busy women who nonetheless nurture and stimulate their children as much as humanly possible while trying to squeeze in everything else. They, like me, run around all day and work until their heads hit the pillow, sometimes long after everyone else in the house has retired. There is no free time. No bon-bons. No TV.
I think, in celebration of my daughter’s wonderfulness and intelligence and independence (and, oh yeah, the 4th of July), I’ll quit working early today. Maybe I’ll take her to Chuck-E-Cheese. Then we’ll come home, and together we’ll bond and lounge, peacefully and contentedly, on the couch. It’s time for us to meet Ellen, Oprah, and the ladies of The View.
by Elisa Garcia