Motherhood: my unlikely career
It is the understatement of my life to say I dreamed of being a stay-at-home mother. Never in my wildest dreams.
Not that it isn’t a privilege or an unworthy accomplishment, and no disrespect to my many peeps who are likewise employed. But it struck me as hilarious the other day – as I logged my third hour in front of the sink, cutting oranges and doling out crackers in colourful bowls (rinse, repeat, fill with cereal, rinse repeat, replace with trail mix) – all to a soundtrack of I want the red bowl/I want the matching cup/She got more/Chloe’s mom makes her gluten-free crackers, why don’t you? – that this is my life. Three hours today – how many thousands of hours over the past ten years? Spent on minutia, and not, as I had envisioned while daydreaming in high school, changing the world.
When will they leave home so I can resume what I was supposed to be doing?
And how did minutia bully its way into a prominent position in my life?
As I rinse the peanut butter off the blue bowl (no nut allergies, there’s that), I think of my high school friends. When we talked late into the night at sleepovers about what we wanted to be, this scene never entered the picture. Author, advertising executive, something on Wall Street, yes; stay-at-home mother, no.
Nor did it come up in university, as I sat around our kitchen table drinking beers with my roommates, dreaming of life after school. It was unanimously decided I would be the last of us to settle down and have children, if my successful career even allowed for that. I had bigger fish to fry.
I’m a feminist. My book shelves are stocked with authors like Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, and Naomi Wolf – I know about the cause. The suffragettes. The pay inequality. The portrayal of women in media. I took courses in women’s studies, attended the occasional pro-choice rally. You know.
I would scoff at anyone who suggested I sacrifice my career to raise children. Please.
Yet I was the first of any of my friends to have a child, the first to quit my job and hang up my suits when the second one arrived, and when the third child came along I was so sleep deprived and lost in the confusion of diapers, play dates and doctors appointments that going back to work seemed insurmountable. Not to mention unaffordable. One child in daycare made financial sense, two not so much. While in daycare, my child was sick every other week. Every. Other. Week. With no nearby family support to call on, it was up to me to call in sick. Repeatedly.
Can you guess what happened to my then-husband’s career while I raised our children? Spoiler alert: it skyrocketed. Mine? Not so much. As his success (and responsibility) mounted, the case for my return to work became more than unlikely. It became unreasonable. And then impossible.
I never planned on being a stay-at-home mother. I’m an unlikely candidate for this unlikely career, and still dream about what I’m going to be one day, but tell that to a hiring manager.