This is not one of those posts. This is not a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM) vs Work Out of the Home Mom thing. I think that whole debate is mostly drummed up by people who want to sell magazines and morning talk shows.
The morning I had Guille Other Half called my then boss, Gary, to tell him I wouldn’t be in that day. That voicemail became legendary.
Beeeeep “Hi Gary, this is J. I’m calling to tell you that Azucar won’t be in to work today because she had a baby. She wanted me to call you to let you know because she has this whole ‘work ethic’ thing. Whatever, I don’t get it.” Gary played that voicemail for people for the next six months. It’s kind of true…
When Other Half was putting me through school by working fulltime, I still worked three jobs. It was hard to not work (lest you think I’m supergirl, ‘work ethic’ does not extend to ‘housework ethic.’) When it was time for Other Half to finish school, after many fits and starts over the years, we decided that I would work and he would go to school and be the dad. Lots of people can work AND go to school; Other Half is not one of them.
The arrangement let both of us grow. I realized that someday it would be nice to stay at home and be a mom, an idea that I’ve struggled with since being a teenager. It gave Other Half a chance to be a fulltime dad and experience the hard work of parenting all day. I loved hearing him say things like, “Every time I clean something it’s just undone immediately!” Yes, he understands with complete empathy what it’s like being a stay at home parent. He’s a much better spouse because of the experience, and he’s a great dad. It’s been two years since he had a fulltime job. He’ll be graduating soon and is now interviewing for work.
As for me, my job used to be pretty awesome. Even though I was working fulltime, I got to bring Baby Guille with me to work for half the day. He would take his long afternoon nap under my desk while I worked. There was a little room for pumping. If there was a problem at home, I could leave. It was ideal.
In our case, as much as it was a choice, it also wasn’t. Other Half needed to finish school as quickly as possible. I made more money than him. I’ll probably always make more money than him. It wasn’t about buying jet-skis or trips to the coast; it was about being able to pay the mortgage AND tuition. I’ve never had to put my babies in day care thanks to creative school schedules and an incredible extended family.
One day I got into the elevator at work with Guille in his car seat. He was just a couple months old.
“Ooooh,” crooned a woman already on the elevator, “Who do you belong to?”
I said, “I belong to me.”
She said, “No, I mean who are you visiting?”
I said, “No one, I work here.”
She gave me the strangest look. I was a touch annoyed. You know, sometimes women with babies work, I wanted to say to her.
I didn’t want to tell her that sometimes we feel conflicted about working: it’s awful to leave the house; it’s great to leave the house. You don't get to wear aprons to work, but you do get to wear these.
We’ve come to a strange place. Even though J will be working, it won’t be enough to cover our really basic living expenses for several years. Don’t get me started on what they pay public school teachers in this state because it MAKES ME ANGRY. Let’s just say that one day we were driving down the road when we saw a sign on a fast food restaurant advertising for a night manager. J could make more money flipping burgers than teaching your child quadratic equations.
This is my last week on maternity leave, it’s hard to even type that phrase. I’m going to have to keep working for a while. Working breaks my heart into rough pieces; it makes me free and happy.