Posted by: canthold | March 7, 2006

Crying for Argentina

I have been in a funk for three and a half days now. That’s how long I’ve been in the US since returning from Argentina. It has mainly been a reluctance to return to the routine I had left behind. It certainly doesn’t help that I came home to a very messy house which needed to be cleaned for an upcoming houseguest. (Extra special cleaning for an extra special guest!)

And it doesn’t help that I discovered the source of a long-nagging injury of which I have been unable to trace the source until now. I have a vacuuming injury! The ridiculousness of the reality exacerbates the very funk itself. If I am not the epitomy of a hausfrau with a vacuuming injury, what am I?

The vacation in Argentina was a bonafide holiday for me. It was the first time in the four and a half years since my first baby was born that I was able to do something fun (very fun!) without any responsibilities in the mix.* Every other vacation we have taken is with children in tow and it’s more like a relocation of my responsibilities. Yes, I’d rather be a mom in Hawaii, but there’s still work to do.

My relentless bout of job burnout has been a torment because, by nature, I’m a problem solver. My options for resolution are complex and carry a heavy burden in and of themselves. Do I stay at home with the kids or go back to work? When? I’ve been contemplating this question for about a year and a half and I don’t get any closer to finding the answer with all of my consideration.

Part of the problem lies in the entanglement between being a mother and a housewife. Short of hiring a full time maid, I cannot be a stay-at-home mom without the household duties that fall on me for managing said household. When I hate my job, I really only hate the housewife part, but the motherhood part becomes more difficult with my daily dissatisfaction.

I think it’s a lack of respect for my role as household manager that ruins it for me. I don’t take pride in my accomplishments the way I imagine June Cleaver might. The rewards are short lived, if they come at all. (Yippee! The room was clean for 15 minutes!) And I’m just not that good at it. And perhaps I’m not that good at it because I don’t have pride.

The March issue of Self Magazine has a pair of articles exerpted from a book. One is written by a working mother who states, “…Work was my oxygen…” meaning that she needed it as a fundamental part of her existance. If she did, in fact, have no guilt for being a working mom, why would she take offense when a stay-at-home mom states her occupation as “mom”? You don’t get to have a job title when you work and make a woman who stays home with her kids go without one.

On the flipside, the stay-at-home mom states that “the currency of love is time.” That the greatest gift you can give to someone you love is time spent with them. I would love to experience the joy that I expected to have upon contemplation of this occupation. I love my kids, but I hate cleaning the poop out of the training potty or catching their puke in a towel. I hate being the bad-guy who makes them brush their teeth or refuses to give them all the candy they actually ask for.

My time is my gift to my kids. It is an incredible sacrifice to become an invisible person for the love of another. After spending my whole life trying to become important and worthy and whole, the needs of these two dependent little souls takes precedence over anything I could ever want or need. When I think about my needs as a woman, and my desire to become visible again to the rest of the world, I still feel that my children’s needs are more important, for now at least. I try to hang on, just a little bit longer, and know that my time will come eventually.

I know that my kids are very adaptable and will roll with whatever course I need or want to take. If I go back to work, they will survive. I did. Millions of kids do. I know that they will have benefited from my gift of time, no matter long it lasts. I do not begrudge women who make either choice. There are sacrifices on both sides of the equation.

I recently spilled this whole dilemma to someone who was living in a different world from me. The advice received back from the fresh perspective was to work part-time. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? While I can tie a million complex angles to this, as well, I appreciate the objectivity and will make an effort to pursue this possible solution. I think I make things much harder than they have to be. Paralysis by analysis.

And I’ll always have Argentina. It was a whole week of intelligent conversation, drinking binges and laughter. It was freedom from alarm clocks and duties and expectations. I was the person that I used to know. I was visible again.

*I traveled solo during my dad’s hospital stay and the resulting business with his house, but that wasn’t a vacation by any stretch, and certainly not relaxing.

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Responses

  1. This was an awesome story about the life of a stay at home mom. I felt like you were talking about me and my life. The way you described be invisible hit it right on the nose for me. It was always difficult to describe my “occupation” but invisible describes the way most if not all moms feel for many years. Its unfortunate that we need to feel this way when we are doing the hardest job of all, but yet our husbands think we are on some sort of vacation being home. The housework is by far the most paralyzing part of my job. It takes me 10 times as long to clean something and then its messy within the hour. I look forward to future blogs by you.
    Love,
    Same boat mom


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