sahm i am

The term SAHM is so vile, isn’t it? But I was practicing being one all along because the maternity leaves in this country are so wonderfully long, that most people who take them have lived both kinds of mum lives: working at a paid job, and not.

I got to try out both when Jonah was a baby, and when I went back to work when he was 8 1/2 months old I didn’t freak out. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t cry all day. I would sometimes look longingly at his photos on my pin board (that’s what these crazy British people call it) but then a few minutes later I was inevitably engrossed in a project on my computer or sitting in a meeting with interesting people or trying to pretend I could follow along in a discussion about politics with my office-mate or going to get my 14th chai latte of the week at the Starbucks inside the building. Which I loved. I loved all those skinny chai lattes (I also love saying skinny, not skim) and I miss them.

I actually miss quite a few things about working but the reasons for deciding to resign are NSFB. The upshot is that although I can think of better circumstances which would have made me stay in my job or better circumstances which would make me enjoy being at home even more, that’s not how life works as far as I am aware and I am happy I decided something. The months when I was in limbo about what to do were terrible. It’s the epitome of why choice is sometimes a mixed blessing. For now, I am in my notice period, so still technically an employee. And I absolutely respect my manager and colleagues and I deeply prize whatever positive professional reputation I have. I’m not scared of falling off the employment track in terms of future opportunities – I am more scared for the present.

I love my kids in the way that anyone who loves a person this much knows there is no way to even verbalize it. I treasure hanging out with them. I’m just saying I am kind of shitty at the whole thing. I am not at home making homemade Play-Doh or organic homemade snacks. I don’t rush my children to different playgroups and classes every single day. I don’t sit and do reading circles and song time and I have to admit that sometimes I put them down for a nap even if they don’t seem tired. How else can I catch up on my internet reading and tv watching? My kids have to sit in dressing rooms with me and watch me look at my iPhone a lot and sometimes they have to cry for minutes on end when stuck underneath a drawer because I just don’t feel like getting up that particular second. I sometimes avoid conversations with other moms because I am worried I will get pulled into some smiley, happy playgroup where no alcohol is ever served.

Any parent that hangs out at playgrounds enough (I do) knows the variety of parents out there. Fashionista Mom with her heeled boots and flawless make-up. Super Excited Mom who just sings and claps at her kid the whole time It is playing. Totally Prepared Mom who often has to give my kids snacks when they’re hungry. Eagle Eye Mom that would never let her child fall from a climbing frame (guilty). Endless Energy Mom that can go to the playground for 3 hours and never get bored. And then there are the rest of us. Milling about in various states  of dirty yoga trouser-wearing distracted and envious iPhone app playing unrest. Just hoping it won’t matter because Serenity Parenting will win out and our kids will be exactly who they were going to be anyway, and know how much they’re loved all along.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “sahm i am

  1. Jenny

    Btw congrats on the sahm decision! 😉

  2. hoythappenings

    OK. Call me a total sap but I actually teared up a little on this one. The thing is 99% of the time our kids do fine whether we are working or not. Can you really look around and tell whose mom (or Dad) stayed home with them and whose worked? Of course not. I always said I stayed home FOR ME because I realized that my time with them was so short. And it is. And for the record, I’ve never made homemade play-doh.

    • yael

      Now you made ME tear up! I like the way you put that: that the time is for us.

      Wouldn’t it be even better though if we were still neighbors? x

  3. GG

    We’ve never met, but I stumbled across your blog ages ago and have carried on following your time in London. I think this weather’s getting to you. It’s getting to all of us.

    Kids are pretty adept at amusing themselves, whether chewing footwear, drawing on walls or running headfirst into door frames. As a baby/toddler, my wife used to sit on the kitchen floor watching an entire cycle of the washing machine, completely mesmerised. It was her Mum’s favourite time of the day. Occasionally, she’d put washes on that didn’t need washing, just for a bit of time to herself. You don’t need to entertain your children during their every waking moment; letting them be allows them to develop their curiosity, imagination and independence. Just as Auto-pilot technology was introduced to enable Airline pilots to relax, drink beer, play cards and sleep during flights*, so parents have the internet and access to alcohol to break the tedium of reading the same ten page book about a dog looking for his hat, over and over again. It’s why they invented DVDs, Cbeebies and siblings.

    If you provide your kids with a home full of love, laughter, encouragement and support, then I think you’ve done your bit. If I’m grateful for anything in particular about my upbringing, it’s that my parents took an interest in our interests and spent time having fun with us, whether it be trips to the library/museums, endless hours playing football and cricket down the park, singing along to The Beatles/The Kinks in the car or digging out the Atlas and giving us clues whenever we wanted to know where Czechoslovakia/Beirut/Battersea were.

    You’re extremely fortunate to be able to be at home with your kids, so you should just get on with enjoying it and stop worrying. There’s no shame in carving out a little bit of time for yourself during the day – it’s not like you’re leaving them alone whilst you disappear down the pub for the afternoon. You’re just zoning out for a bit and hoping no-one notices you sitting quietly in the corner. You palpably love your children, you have fun with them, you do things together that you know they’ll enjoy, and they see a lot of your extended family and friends**. That sounds like a pretty good start in life to me.

    * I am not an Airline pilot, so this might not be factually correct, but I suspect it is. Long haul flights are a major wear-out – and that’s with books, films and alcohol to distract you – pilots do those flights every day – there’s no way they’re just sat-up there concentrating through 5,000 miles of cloud or whatever.

    ** Considering you live several thousand miles from both your families.

    • yael

      Thanks for this very thoughtful comment, GG. It’s funny how parenting has taken on impossible standards (which columnists love to skewer). I still appreciate the sentiment that it’s the 70s parents we should be harking back to. To be honest, that’s my comfort level.

      I may be hard on myself – and probably shouldn’t be (you’re right that I’m very lucky to have this time at home) – but it doesn’t change the moments when SAHMs might miss working. But missing something and regret are two different animals, aren’t they.

      I wonder if airline pilots bring their Kindles? That sounds like my dream job. A version of my days reading voluminously while lifeguarding an empty pool, but without the future skin cancer.

      Thanks for writing and following and thinking.

      Oh and yes, the weather IS getting to me. And they say May will be as bad. What are we all supposed to do?

  4. GG

    It’s a cliche, but nobody worth knowing ever went to their grave wishing they’d spent more time in the office.

    I can fully understand missing adult company and using your mind – that element of work, but that’s what child-friendly pubs and suduko are for.

    As for the weather – I’m not sure. I guess this is the price we pay for a ridiculously dry Winter. My current plan is to hunker down in a series of boozers until the rain stops sometime around October.

  5. I needed to read this today. Having major mom guilt over spending time on my iPhone, sending emails, and not interacting as much as I should. Glad to know I’m not the only one — and that it’s okay 🙂 I do have a brilliantly happy, imaginative, confident, and smart little girl. I must be doing something right, right?

  6. sonjey

    Just look at those happy, energetic, gorgeous faces……….kiss them all over and know……for now … while sipping tea, you have the best job in the world!

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