|This Binki-Sucking Babe is almost 12. Hoo, boy. And yes, that's me -- from an odd angle and with surprisingly long hair.|
Recently, Scott and I (am I the only one who wants to scream when women refer to their husbands as "hubby"? Anyone less fitting for that sort of name than Scott, I cannot imagine -- unless it's Sven Wilson, for those of you who know who that is ... somehow, it's just a really cringe-inducing term. Does it really take too long to write "husband"? Don't get me started on things like "hubster"!) were at a friend's wedding. During the reception we sat at a table with a couple of Scott's nurses and office staff, and one medical assistant who no longer works at his office -- she began staying home with her two children (about 3, and 2 1/2 months) a few months ago. One of the other gals asked her how she was liking being home full time. "Well..." she said, "it's okay. But I'm really bored out of my skull! I mean, it just doesn't take any brains to be a stay-at-home mother! I've had a job since I was 16, and I used my brain every day, and now I just don't have to! It doesn't take any brain-work at all to stay home with two kids."
Those of you who know my usual inability to keep my mouth shut, and also my feelings about at-home motherhood will now be waiting with some anxiety to learn what smart-ass thing I said back, which made the whole table uncomfortable. Amazingly, I managed to stay quiet. The first thing that popped into my head was, "Boy, are your kids going to turn out badly." Scott later told me that he was looking for the blood running out the side of my lip from my lacerated, bitten tongue. HOWEVER, I contained myself, feeling that I should keep things light and friendly at a happy occasion. But it bothered me -- it's not the first time I've heard that sentiment. And I don't understand it AT ALL.
|One of the only pictures I have of Steven at this age -- he was SO colicky and unhappy that I was almost always trying to comfort him, and hardly ever thought to take any pictures! Isn't that awful??|
I can tell you at first-hand that sometimes being at home with my kids full time felt exhausting, lonely, frustrating, demanding, isolating, and like way more work than I could possibly do. But never did I EVER feel that I wasn't using my brain. If it doesn't use your brain to figure out how to keep three young children happy, learning and occupied (while not setting them in front of TV or computer for hours a day), and then work in meal preparation (making sure it's healthy), laundry, housekeeping, any outside activities, time for your own self on occasion, and still being at least somewhat responsive when your spouse arrives home, I don't know what it does take. Any meal-preparing, recipe-reading mother (or father, or aunt, or grandparent ...) who has ever answered yes to "can I help?" from a 4 and 7 year old, and then managed not to burn down the house and still serve a meal which does not involve accidentally-added eggshells in the casserole has had an extremely active session of brain-work.
And then there's the question of the best way to relate to and discipline each child. If you sent Emily to her room when she was little, it was the most fearful punishment ever imposed. Sending Steven to his room was something of a treat -- telling him he had to miss his afternoon computer time, however, was slightly worse than bamboo under the fingernails. I am trying to resist adding here ... okay, can't resist it after all ... that the above-mentioned mother, who by her own report never uses her brain, told her three-year-old (as we were setting up for the wedding) to go to the car with his father. His response? "No." "That's not the word I want to hear," was all she said. A few minutes later, she asked again. "No." Finally, his father just picked him up and took him. I can only think of one time (each) that each of my children has said "No" to me -- the resulting firestorm, I hope, was enough to clearly express my dislike of that response (and, I'm sorry, but no 3-year-old actually grasps the irony of "That's not the word I want to hear." He just thinks, "Oh, sorry about that. It's the word I'm using, so why do you care?").
|If you hold the baby right (it's Mara), you can get their hands in the right position, and they hold their OWN binki in .... (yes, I know "baby" is singular, and "their" is plural. I'm making an informed use decision).|
I'm not really trying to rant here, just trying to understand what seems to be so inherently stupid in so many people's minds about women who are home with their kids. Why do we feel like we have to respond, "Oh, I'm just home with the kids," when others ask what we do? (I *still* do that! I hate it when that comes out of my mouth!) I know that many of the maternal Victorian platitudes were a disguised way of expressing men's desire to keep women out of the public sphere, but there's a certain wisdom in that old one, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." Why is it more intellectually stimulating to run, say, an office than run a household? Having been a secretary for an academic office at Loma Linda, I submit that the facts show that handling people of any age is similar! Surely, to be in charge of training characters and raising healthy bodies from the home must be significant. I can tell you it beats the holy hell out of any other job I've ever done in terms of sheer difficulty and scope, and the amount of self-discipline involved.
Thank you to those of you who are still reading after this lengthy exposition. I feel better now, and hope you do, too. This afternoon, I'm making raspberry jam with the kids. I'll be trying to quadruple the recipe on the pectin box, and considering my math skills and the amount of chaos likely involved (despite the advanced age of some of the participants), I can tell you I sure as heck will be using my brain.