Monday, September 8, 2008

What Ever Will I Do With Myself?

My favorite outspoken cashier was at it again today. My long-time readers may remember the story about the cashier who, upon noticing my then-blossoming pregnant tummy, remarked, “Oops!” She always has something to say about the type and amount of groceries I buy. “The Millers are buying out the store again!” she’ll announce, thinking it is funny for the hundredth time.

Today, we were discussing how all our children were getting along in their new school year. She leaned over to my toddler and said, “Mommy won’t know what to do with herself once you go to school.”

I said jocundly, “Oh, I always find plenty to keep myself busy.”

“I know, cleaning and stuff. . .” she trailed off.

I knew better than to correct her. But as I went home the thought horrified me, that people think all stay-at-home-moms-with-school-aged-kids (SAHMWSAK) do is stay at home and clean! What horrified me even worse was that I used to be once of those who wondered what stay-at-home mothers did when their children were in school all day. I did think life must be dreadfully dull.

That was back in my homeschooling days, when I had more than my hands full with three children constantly in my care. I commented about one such SAHMWSAK in my neighborhood to another homeschooling mom.

“I wonder what she does all day?” I mused.

“I bet you could eat off her floor. . .,” answered my friend.

“But she has a house cleaner come every week.”

“She probably does charity work,” reasoned my friend.

The fact of it is that, although it may seem that we clean all day, we do not. A friend of mine who keeps a lovely, tastefully decorated and well-organized home, actually clocks her housework at 3.5 hours per week! That leaves an awful lot of time for do more intellectually fulfilling activities!

Once I had the children in school and “just” a newborn baby at home, I thought my life would be one of luxury and constant streams of creative writing. I learned all too well, too quickly, that that was not to be so.

Those of us whose husbands work overtime to afford us the ability to stay at home often turn into do-it-yourselfers, out of necessity. Jobs normally relegated to the husband or a hired handyman are taken on by us tough super-moms. The more we learn to do, the more we see of what we would love to learn to do, if only we had the time!

I look at my yard and fill in the empty spaces with raised garden beds that I will build, fill in, and plant. I see in my imagination brick walls around groves of trees, overflowing with bulbs. On every fence are roses of every color, climbing, falling, blossoming. . .

I look at my bathroom walls and sigh, thinking of the free How To Tile clinic given at Home Depot on Saturday mornings. One day I will take that course and have bathrooms a millionaire would envy.

And of course there are my novels, books and books of handwritten pages just looking to be edited, word-processed, and proposed about.

Oh, if they only knew. . .

The funny thing of it is that my own mother, who worked as a per diem registered nurse when I was younger, defied categorization. Some days she was a stay-at-home mom. Some days she was a working mom. I always knew she filled all too many shoes. Later we would earn our masters’ degrees together!

But still we fall easily into stereotyping, especially when we finally find a clique of moms “just like us”. (I have yet to re-find that – and am not sure I want to.) We need to justify our own decisions to work, not work, work part-time, work-at-home; send our kids to private or public school, or homeschool, or maybe a little bit of both. If we are not too sure about ourselves we must by necessity see “the other” as wrong so we can be right.

I see Palin as one role model that will help bring together all mothers. Already I see the stay-at-home moms blogging in favor of Palin’s decision to be involved in politics at the highest level while also tackling the tough problems of mothering. She has shown us, just by being who she is and proud of it, that when you point your finger, three are pointing right back at you.

So what will I do when I am a SAHMWSAK? A little bit of this, a little bit of that, a whole lot of the other. I publicly pledge than not more than ten percent of my time will be spent on cleaning. I am sure it will be quite fulfilling.

Painting, Mary Cassatt, Mother and Child against a Green Background (Maternity) , 1897

1 comment:

Leticia said...

Thank you Elizabeth, since I decided to send my homeschooled girls to school and stay home to write full time, I have been wondering which category to put myself in.
I'm happy to learn that this is not necessary.
Just call me "Mommy".