Tuesday, March 27, 2012
A Serious Case of SAHM Envy
I’m just gonna put it out there. Sometimes, I am just OVERWHELMED with Stay At Home Mama envy.
I am sure I’m not alone. I’m sure there are plenty of working mamas out there who would give their right arm to be able to stay home and watch their kids all day, every day. I just didn’t think I would be one of them.
When Em was first born, I told myself I was one of those people who NEEDED to work, just so that my brain would be stimulated by activities other than diaper changing and walks around the park. I thought that if I stayed home with Emmy all day (because apparently I was under the impression that SAHMs just locked themselves in the house and never took their kids anywhere fun or exciting) I would get cabin fever, and would just ache for adult conversation and imposed deadlines and the kind of structure that a workday provides.
In retrospect, I know that I was just trying to convince myself that those were my reasons for needing to work. I should have been honest with myself, and admitted that the real reason I have to work is to help support our family financially. I’ve come to accept this truth. I have come to accept the fact that I am not working because I LOVE to work. I am working because I have student loans that are MY responsibility to pay off, and honestly, if our family were to try and “make it” on my husband’s income alone, it would put A LOT of stress on C’s shoulders. I don’t think that would be fair to him, and I don’t think it would be good for our family dynamic.
So I work, not because I want to, but because I feel I HAVE to.
This past summer, I made a switch in careers to help better accommodate our family life and mommyhood. I found a job that requires a lot less travel and time away from my family than my previous career did, at an academic institute that is generous with vacation days and generally very family-friendly. It’s a GREAT mommy job, and I am much happier than I was at my previous workplace. And yet…
You see, last Friday, due to my husband and mom-in-law’s simultaneous illnesses, I got to play SAHM for a day. It was SUPER fun. In the morning, Em and I goofed around in our pajamas for a while, and took a little walk around the neighborhood. Then I took Em to one of the local playgrounds, where I quickly found myself immersed in a foreign environment. It took me two seconds to realize we were in the Land of the Stay at Home Mommys.
All around me, little pockets of two or three moms chatted away about all things baby and toddler while their kids played in the sandbox and climbed on the jungle gyms. Everybody knew somebody, and their children all knew each other, too. If one woman needed to go to the bathroom, she would simply ask her friend to watch her children for a minute. Snacks were being shared. Play dates were being arranged. Everyone was acting so friendly and so helpful to one another. It seemed so darned blissful.
I really tried NOT to feel lonely. I really tried NOT to feel envious. I tried to just focus on pushing Em in her swing, making funny faces at her, and enjoying our one-on-one time for what it was. But my ears and eyes kept straying, listening for little bits of SAHM conversations, watching SAHMs interact with one another, and absolutely wishing I was one of THEM.
Of course, my wish to be a Stay At Home Mama is not just for the camaraderie of other moms. I long to have the ability to watch Em as she develops each and every day. I want to be there when she utters each new word for the first time. I want to be the one who helps her learn to sing her ABCs. I want to be around when she first learns to hop. I want to be able to watch as she makes new friends with other kids her age on the playground, or in a playgroup setting. I want to eat picnic lunches outside with Em on glorious weather weekdays, and build indoor fortresses with her when it starts randomly thunderstorming on a Thursday afternoon.
My weekends with Em are of course wonderful, but sometimes it seems like they are really just moments, you know? Fabulous little bookends to the rest of the long work week. Spending three uninterrupted days with Em last week made me realize how great it would be to have more than just the weekends with Em. It made me wish I was an every day, all day mama.
I know being a SAHM can be totally exhausting, and I am sure it has plenty of other down sides, too. I know that in my mind I am probably idealizing the experience, and the reality of the SAHM lifestyle is as tough as it is rewarding.
But here I am, sitting at my office desk on a Tuesday morning, wondering what Emmy might be busy doing or saying at daycare, and wishing like crazy that I was with her, at the park, in the Land of the Stay at Home Mamas.
Are you a Stay at Home Mama who wishes she could work? Are you a working mama who wishes she could stay home? Or are you a mama who is perfectly content with your status? I'd love to hear your perspective.