This is an old essay I wrote for my church’s newsletter about the Mom’s Group I participated in back when I only had Thing 1 and Thing 2. It’s funny reading about the “old days.” The Boy, now 11 was probably only 4 when I wrote this. The Girl, only 2. And The Baby, not even a twinkle in my husband’s eye. I’ve since finished graduate school, spent several years as an instructional designer, and actually started writing fiction again. I’m now much more comfortable in my SAHM/WAHM skin. Probably because, seven years later, working at home isn’t quite as foreign to people. Also, I’m learning not to care so much about what those mean moms on the school corner whisper when I walk up.
This particular Mom’s Group is now defunct, but I’m now part of a new one, with both working and SAHM moms who support, inspire and guide me. Whenever we meet I know we will spend too much time laughing, crying, complaining, praying and teaching each other how to be better moms, wives and Christians. And I think I’m still the only mother in this group who has said, “Don’t lick the toilet.”
I cannot tell you how excited I am to be spending the weekend with a lot of these ladies at the Women of Faith Conference this weekend.
It’s the inevitable question when meeting someone new, “So,” tells me it’s coming and I take a deep breath as the person asks, “What do you do for a living?”
This question is more difficult than it appears. “Well,” I begin.
With my kids in daycare three days a week, I don’t qualify for Stay-At-Home Mom status. I envy the woman who leaps baby gates in a single bound, coordinate multiple play dates while folding laundry, making dinner, and breaking up a Little Mermaid Barbie fight. She can make a three-story, super-secret “girls only” fort with a dining room chair, twin blanket, and binder clips.
I am a freelance trainer and adjunct professor. While the titles sound impressive, our part-time daycare bill is more than my salary. I admit it; I also envy the Working Moms with nice suits, manicured nails, and business lunches that don’t include peanut butter. The money would certainly help those college funds. At the rate we’re going, my husband and I will have enough saved for college when the kids are 40. I think we can retire when we’re 123.
While I try to embrace my full-time graduate student status, I am too old to have a grad school lifestyle. A mortgage is different from rent, and while I will admit serving cereal for dinner, I refuse to give my children the staple Ramen noodles I lived on when I was in college. As my career shifts from web designer to professor/writer, my starting salary will equal my student loan. But, as a thirty-something mom of two, I can no longer work 14-hour days with 20-something programmers who extreme mountain bike all summer and extreme snowboard all the winter.
“So, what do YOU do for a living?” still has me staring at the place my acquaintance was standing. Perhaps he has gone to seek help for me, thinking I’m having a seizure as I try to determine my employment status.
“I’m a part-time stay-at-home mom, full-time grad student, part-time trainer and part-time professor.”
It would be so much easier to select either the Stay-At-Home Mom or Working Mom title. My calendar is packed with “extra daycare—training” and “thesis outline due” between “The Boy’s karate” and “The Girl/Mommy day.” I juggle sick days with generous grandparents—feeling guilty for leaving a feverish five-year old for classroom full of other mothers’ children. I know my son will be fine and that Granny will soon be “feeding a fever” with chocolate. I just can’t win. I feel guilty when I pick work over kids and equally guilty when I pick kids over work.
I guess that’s why I love my Mom’s Group so much. The other mothers ground me. They remind me that I am normal—that other moms have said, “Don’t lick the toilet.” (okay, no other mom has had to say that). Other moms have decided to pick their battles and not say anything when the child is licking the sliding glass door. Other moms have felt panic rise in their hearts when a child runs towards the street and other moms have prayed a fever will break by morning so they won’t miss a business meeting. They’ve also had days when they wanted to hang “FREE’ signs around their children’s necks. But, we all know there isn’t anything as wonderful as wrestling with a giggly three–year old or reading to a sleepy five–year old. My Mom’s Group reminds me that no matter what we do during the day—managing million dollar businesses or making PB&Js—we are ALL working moms.