Wednesday, April 08, 2009

gettin' fonduey

Fondu(e): Fr., melted



Hands down, my favorite ballet movement. There's something so... mmmm..... melty about it. Done properly, it just feels good in your body. It's a feat of timing, force, and the execution of a very specific quality. It's difficult to convey to beginning students. It's the pulling of a rubber band, it's melting and unfolding, it's swimming through molasses. It's just... so yummy.

The eating kind of fondue is good too. Last night I got a chance to go with Lis (pronounce: Liss, not Leess), my little sister, and her friends on a "Girls' Night Out" at The Melting Pot. Mmmmm, yum. Four courses? Melted cheese? Assorted meats, seasonings and sauces? Melted chocolate? A dinner that lasts three hours? I want to go to there.

More importantly, Lis is my best girlfriend. My call-every-day-when-I-drive-home-from-work buddy. We talk a lot on the phone, but we don't really go out a lot, or go anywhere without the kids. Last night was a special treat. I enjoyed meeting her peeps too. All of the ladies were so nice. And they were all moms of small kids--not a group I get to be around very often. It's nice to be able to talk about casseroles, or the things Hank and Ad do, and not feel like I'm asking anyone to listen to stuff they're not interested in at all.

Do you feel a big BUT coming? I'm sorry. I'm so pessimistic. I want it noted that the ladies were nothing but sunshine and light and made me feel so at home and it was fun, fun, fun... but, being with my sister and her fellow stay-at-home-mom friends always makes me feel like I am less of a mom. This is all in my maladjusted little head, I know. Inevitably, though, the conversation turns to something like ironing (yes, I'm serious) or laundry, or kids and their TV time, and all of the sudden I feel like Hester Prynne and my poor little Pearls have to suffer the public shame of having a working mommy. The thing is, I like my life. I love my kids. They are (mostly) clean, (generally) well fed, and above all, LOVED TO DEATH. But we full-time working moms just don't stack up in those conversations about household chores, cooking for husbands, TV allowances. I bite my tongue and shrink.

In order to try to let go of some anxiety, I had to decide a while ago to be happy with what I could do, and not worry about what I couldn't do. Priority one for me is making sure I get QT with the kids and they feel loved. Anything else is just gravy. If you saw my house right now, you'd have a good laugh. It's always in a constant state of controlled chaos. Well, maybe not controlled. Both monkeys know they're loved, and that's the best I can do. Would I love to stay home and make care of my household my career? ABSOFREAKINGLUTELY.

It's a luxury, though. I've never been able to do it. E's meandering path of self-discovery, coupled with my unfortunate focus, responsibility, and drive has necessitated that I bring home the bacon. Nobody was trying to make me feel bad--this was purely in my own brain--but I end up feeling unworthy because I don't have June Cleaverocity in spades. I don't go to playdates or moms' groups or bunco nights. I'm okay with that, but then we start talking about preschool and I realize that Bud can't go to the same preschool next year that he is at now because when E and I both work full-time, he has to be in *gasp* daycare from early morning to night. Mom shame.

I have to say this too--and remember that I do not mean any specific person or group, and especially not anyone I was with yesterday--but I believe there is a culture in the church in general that promotes the idea that moms who stay home somehow love their children more, or are "better" moms. There, I said it. Love God? Love your kids? If you don't stay home, you are .8 of a mommy. Sigh.

I have working mom guilt.

I'll get over it. I always do. I just don't like becoming a shrinking violet when it comes to those types of conversations. I wish that we (read: I) didn't have that thing in our heads where we compare ourselves to others. This is my reality. I chose it for myself. I am happy. No need to melt into a puddle because I work.

See what I did there?

Feel free to disagree with me, or share your thoughts. I know I can't be the only one who gets down on herself about having to work. Not trying to start any fights, but I'd love to hear what you think. From either side of the fence.

Thanks for listening,
Hester PDawg

6 comments:

  1. pdawg-
    I have been reading your blogs from the beginning and I haven’t commented on any but I felt the need to comment on this one! You are right about feeling that the church makes it seem that stay at home moms love their children more. This couldn’t be further from the truth and you are an example of that. I take so much more to work a long day and still come home and be mommy and produce all the mommy magic for your kids. You should not feel bad that you work hard to make your family and situation work for your house and your kids. Your kids will appreciate it one day that you were able to do so much for them and sacrifices that you have made. So I give kudos to you!
    Secondly you blog has helped me so much get through problems and potential problems in my life and my relationship that would not have surfaced and worked themselves out if I hadn't been a reader on your blog.

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  2. So, I’ve been debating all morning if I should respond or not. I was really happy when I first started reading this and ended with a pit in my stomach. To be honest, it’s hard not to take some of your comments personally since they came after spending the evening with me. For one thing, I guess I just don’t see what you mean about the church looking down on women for working. I mean, I understand that churches in general have a more traditional viewpoint, so women staying home does somewhat follow, but I have never seen anyone judged for working outside of the home. And as a member of “the church” I have never thought of anyone loving their children any less because they worked. After all, our Mom worked. To me, that’s not even in the equation of how much Mom loved us.

    Since you asked for opinions from the other side of the fence I would like to state for the record that being a stay-at-home is not such a glamorous job. In fact, some days it sucks because it’s really, really hard. My kids are rarely excited to see me, because I’m always there, I have to be the primary disciplinarian, I don’t get the luxury of having adult conversations uninterrupted by “mommy, mommy”, fits, hitting, and every other thing little boys like to do, hardly anyone ever offers to help because “it’s my job” and worst of all in my mind, there’s no celebrated successes when you are a stay at home mom. This is by far the hardest thing of all for me. Think about it, as we grew up Mom and Dad encouraged us to be successful, to push ourselves to achieve. I grew to love accomplishing things and hearing praises when I do (my love language is words of affirmation). That’s probably why I continued on in school as much as I did and pushed to promote so fast while working. But now, there’s nothing. My days are filled with stuff, but nothing recognizable. There’s no “great job vacuuming today” or “way to think of a new way to fold the laundry”, or “way to change that 4th poopy diaper of the day”. I’m not saying I really want to hear those things; I’m just trying to make a point. I am often jealous of the things you get to participate in and do. You may not be able to stack up in the conversations about household chores, but I sometimes feel I’m stuck on the sidelines with my kids watching the world go by. You don’t have to plan your life around your children’s schedules, you get to make friends with people that aren’t connected to your children, you get to travel with students and best of all, you are not defined by a singe role, “stay-at-home mom.” It’s hard. People rarely ask about me…not Darin’s work, the kids, etc, just me, because it seems I am nothing more than my role. There are obviously benefits to being a stay-at-home mom too (which I think you already know so I don’t need to go there) or I wouldn’t be one, but I think it is important to understand that the grass is always appears greener on the other side. We all make sacrifices and chose the lives that fit our families. Despite it all, I am happy too. It’s what I choose.

    I’ll step down off my soap box now….I’m glad you had fun last night and I know it was never anyone’s intention to stir these feelings in you. I enjoyed spending uninterrupted, kidless time with you too.

    -Lis

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  3. Oh man, I just wrote a long response and then I accidentally deleted it by clicking on the wrong thing. Well, here I go again... I'll try to remember what it said.

    Lis--I'm glad you responded from your perspective. I apologize for appearing to personalize it, because it was more my intention to talk about my own feelings of inadequacy when I'm around SAHMs, and the larger cultural perceptions of working moms themselves. I shouldn't have mixed that in with my description of last night. I wasn't making a judgment about SAHMs or you. I am sorry for hurting you with what I said, and I will try not to do it again. The fact is I just don't feel like I fit in within the mom world; because I work, I'm never going to feel "good enough."--That's what I wanted to get across.

    When I was talking about "the church", I didn't mean your church or any denomination at all. I meant the larger global idea of "the church" as in *Christians* and how staying at home is looked at as the ideal, and sometimes that can make those who don't reach the ideal feel less than those who do. I didn't ever choose to work, I had to. When people say things like they are "doing the most important job in the world" or "serving their families in the best way possible" by being a SAHM, it implies that people like me are not. I know that people are not trying to be hurtful, but by expressing that beautiful sentiment, it highlights the differences between us and appears to present a judgment. I've also heard on more than one occasion, "OH, you work," and what follows is usually a look of pity. It adds to my personal feeling of inferiority to hear that there are people who view it that way. I'm just speaking from my own experience.

    The simple fact that many church events and organizations cater (schedule-wise) to SAHMs adds to the feeling that a working mom isn't as valued, or as deserving of a support system. I am envious of the world of mom-networking that SAHMs get, or the fact that their kids can attend a quality preschool and things like playdates. I guess we’re alike in that way… You’re right, grass is greener. You know that working hasn't been a choice for me, and I also believe that I serve my family and God by having a job, because it's what is right for us. (I believe you understand that, but I don't think that all people do. There are many Christian women who believe that if you work outside of the home, you're failing your children and/or husband.)

    Everything you say about your job is correct. I know how hard it is. I don't disagree with you at all. Teaching is actually the same way--NOBODY says thank you there either (actually, I feel like I spend most of my time trying to avoid the parents whose purpose seems to be finding fault), and then when I get home I have all the same battles waiting for me that you have. And I have to let some of them go, because I generally have about three hours to attack everything--that was my other point--you've seen firsthand how things like housework and laundry just don't get done at my house. So I feel ashamed when people come over, but there are only so many hours in the day. When I see people's beautiful houses and listen to them talk about their daily routines, all the things they are able to provide for their kids, I feel like I failed Mom School. I’m happy if everyone is clean, fed, and loved. Those three are challenging enough for me to meet on a daily basis. The bare minimum. That was my point. I also know that if you didn't ever have to work out of the home, you wouldn't. Me either. But it's not a choice for me, and it hasn't been since Ad was born. That was what I meant about it being a luxury.

    It wasn't my intention to belittle the work that SAHMs do or their choices. In fact, quite the opposite. I look at SAHMs like they are very lucky. I was just saying that when I hear you all talk about the one-on-one care you're able to give your kids, and your daily routines, how efficiently your homes run, I feel inadequate. I feel like a lesser mom. I just wish that people in general were more careful about what they said around each other. (Not you or your friends, I am speaking from a broader perspective again.) I wish that moms were able to value each other more. Part of that, for me, means accepting the direction my life has taken me and not getting down on myself about it—-that was the intent of my post.

    I am glad you commented from your experience. I think moms should have these kinds of honest conversations more often. Your comment reminds me that moms in general can show each other greater kindness and understanding with what they say. Including me. And you're right--it's about choices. I don't seek to prove that one is better than the other--only to say that I wish people talked about it more and that there was more equality in how moms from both sides were perceived. If you want me to, I will take it down, though. My intent wasn't to hurt you or anybody else. That's more important to me than having a conversation in this forum. I just wanted to express what I was feeling about it.

    And... I meant everything I said about you and having a good time. Serious.

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  4. Hello you two lovely sisters! I hope you don't mind if I drop in my two cents. My personal opinion is that it is good to have one parent home with the children, preferably the mom because, well, as God made it...she has the "feed bags" and it just seems the natural way to go. Obviously, sometimes it happens that it may be better for the man to stay home, which, if I'm correct E. does.

    You mentioned a few times in your post and your response to Lis that you don't have a choice. You also mentioned that you would prefer to be home if you could. Since it seems to me, from what I read, that Eric will be working full time next year also...maybe you could rethink the choice, if it is as you wrote, what you would prefer to do. Hank is 4 now and will be starting Kindergarten in a year...so, why not give it a try if it's what you want to do? You could call it a trial year and since he'll be in full-time school when he's five if you don't like it you can go back to work after that.

    If finances are the issue, there are a TON of books on frugality and working moms that never thought they'd be able to stay at home with their husbands salary alone but after making some sacrifices in their spending habits and lifestyles they realized they could.

    It also might give you a year to focus on your marriage more during this transition back into remarriage (I was so glad to read that!!!! Good for you guys!!!) Anyway, I'm not trying to rock the boat...just a suggestion. Love you!

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  5. Hey Heather,
    Ok, kudos to you for consistantly posting your true feelings. It's honestly refreshing to her real thoughts! I only wish I had the courage to unlock my blog and make it public.
    Anyway
    Kudos to Melissa for expressing her opinion and you guys for coming to a mutual understanding...ok, now for my opinion.
    I have been on both sides of the fence. As you may know, I have four year old twins: T and L, and stayed home with them until about three months ago. The reason I stayed home was the cost of daycare. I initially was completely against staying home because I had friends that were SAHM's and were CONSTANTLY complaining and griping about their miserable existence. I knew this was not for me! I too, like Melissa, like the praise of a job well done. Staying at home with T and L was only going to bring me MORE work and less appreciation. SO I THOUGHT...since our income did not allow for the added expense of daycare, it was my only "choice." I stayed home with them during the infant stage and felt inadequate when I was unable to breast feed both and had to give in to formula. I stayed home with them during their exploration stages when everything had to be moved to higher ground and almost everything I collected or cherished was broken or chewed up and felt inadequate because my children were destroying my house and I was supposed to be a SAHM, why was my house a disaster!? I stayed home with them during potty training and "why aren't they in preschool, yet?" phase, which, BTW is never a good question...don't ask this question to moms especially teacher moms because I get it, Preschool is important! Yay, well NOT EVERYONE can afford preschool, so since I've got this degree and all, I think I'll use it to teach them myself, to save some unnecessarily spent money, IF YOU DON'T MIND!
    Which brings me to the present...in case people have forgotten the economy is in the dumper and CA is one of the most expensive states to live in...so, when offered a job at a local charter school, I took it! Now, I've only been working for a few months, but I still think I can contribute to this forum because it's hard, stressful and guilt-ridden no matter which side of the fence you're on. When I was a SAHM I was concerned that I wasn't contributing financially to the family and all the responsibility rested on Chad's shoulders, now that I'm working I worry that I'm not home enough for T and L...it's a difficult situation raising a family in general. I think that if society did not put so much pressure on us to be the perfect wife and mother, and spent more time supporting us for our efforts we could finally relax and enjoy the positives that come from both situations.
    Positives from SAHM's:
    I enjoyed all the AHA moments being home with T and L. The little things that I wouldn't have seen or experienced had I been at work. I love that T and L are thinkers...and that's because of me! So, even though SAHM's don't get that constant verbal praise like a working woman would recieve, like a raise in pay or a promotion...in a way we still do, only we have to look a little harder to see it. Our praise is seen in our children's happy faces, or the way they reach for us when they're hurt, the way they tell you, "I'm looking at you, Mommy because I love you!" Staying at home with my kids was one of my greatest accomplishments because afterall in this economy it's a major accomplishment to be able to stay home and nuture our little ones.
    Even though it's life's greatest reward to be a mother and raise our children without the stress of working daily. There are also many positives to working...
    Positives for working:
    The success of something that is yours and yours alone. Work is a place where you can be yourself and do what you do best. Work allows you to experience instant gratification of achievement either through your pay check, or a promotion, or just verbal praise, "job well done!" I appreciate being able to provide a better future for my family because of my financial contribution. I also know that I'm setting a good example for my family by showing them that I worked hard to get where I'm at and they can too!
    So, you see the grass is not always greener, but either side is good enough if that's where you want or have to be! Don't focuss on what you're NOT providing. Focus on what your ARE providing and the rest will work itself out. You already know your kids and E love you unconditionally, and WHO CARES if your house isn't immaculate!? Your house is lived in and that just proves that you're doing EVERYTHING right! Cut yourself some slack and enjoy your life, your family and the love you and E are creating!
    Peace out,
    B

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  6. Michelle, B, Lis, ??

    Thanks to all of you. I've always wanted people to comment and I'm (kinda) glad I hit on something that people feel strongly about. Thanks for sharing your sides of the story. Like I said, the more we can have this conversation, the better.

    Michelle--
    I used to think that one parent staying home was the best too, and I wouldn't trade E's time with the monkeys for anything, but I have to say it has shown me how we're just wired differently. It's been harder on me to be away from them than it would have been on him. Things are changing right now, but now enough that it looks like I am going to be able to stay home. My hope is to one day scale back and at least work part time, or work from home teaching online. We'll see. For now, I'm going to keep doing what I am doing.

    B--You're crazy, woman. I think twins fall into a completely different category... falling short is 100% forgiven! Geez Louise! I'm surprised you're still alive. I'm glad you could share from both sides of the issue too.

    Lis-- :)

    Thanks to all of you. I really appreciate you sharing.

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