You may be shocked to hear this, but sometimes I feel like a loser for being a stay-at-home-mom. (I'm sure you're not shocked.) Somedays I have greasy hair and wear my pjs until lunch and feel like I've got to get a grip quick. Sometimes I think about the working world with an idealistic longing for adult conversation and a feeling of accomplishment and an opportunity to wear smart suit jackets and these shoes (don't you love using "smart" as a clothing descriptor?). Sometimes, I hear a mean voice in my head saying that my husband pays for everything and I sit around in my pjs eating sick-looking valentine cupcakes that taste really awesome. I have a super smart friend here in Austin named Meghan. She's new in town as well. She's an attorney and she's new at her firm and has been expected to work obscene amounts of hours. She has a two-year-old. We were talking about our completely different daily experiences with motherhood: how she's balancing her demanding working life with her mothering life; how I'm learning to be grateful instead of guilty for my life at home. Meghan used to stay home with her son during his first year. She struggled with the same sense of guilt: Was she really contributing to her family? What was her value?
She had a friend who spelled it out to her like this:
If you were to hire someone to provide the same level of care for your child, a nanny who worked 10 hours a day playing, cleaning, getting him down for a nap, feeding, teaching, reading to him...what do you think that would cost you? You do have a job.
I've been thinking about that myself. If I were to hire someone to care for my two children with the level of care and dedication and commitment I have, for a ten hours a day, seven days a week, I could be shelling out $50,000 a year. Then add taxes.
That's $3,000 a month.
I may not be bringing any cashy cash into the home, but I'm starting to think of myself as someone who provides. I'm not just a greasy haired jammie wearer arranging playdates. I'm a provider.
Of course I believe my work is important. There's a reason I chose to stay home and there's a reason I continue to. But, just in case you stay home and you're like me and have days where it feels like your life at home is something that smarter women laugh about far away behind their executive desks, while wearing "smart" suit jackets, I hope you'll sit down and do some math and determine how much money you would have paid someone else to do your job today.
Sometimes, those of us SAHMs need to think of our time at home as a real job. A real job allows breaks and rest and conversations at the water cooler. A real job has a stopping point. If you feel like you don't get a chance to take a breath. If you don't feel like you have someone after those ten hours of work to share the burden with you. Why don't you pull out the calculator, friend?
Stay-at-home-mom, I'm not saying you should become crazy about your invisible salary. I'm just saying you should give yourself some grace and, if you have a working husband, so should he.
Working mom, I'm talking to you, too. You should give yourself some grace as well. You work hard and then you come home and work hard. If I had my way, you'd arrive home to sparkly bathrooms and already prepared healthy meals every evening. But, I hope you remember, you're being asked to work two jobs. Give yourself a break if it's all a bit hairy these days.
And now I'll just link to these shoes one more time, because, come on.