Friday, March 14, 2014

An Unkept Woman

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I had one of "those" conversations a while back. You know, the one you kinda wish you had never had  because it gave you a glimpse of how others view you that you wish you had never seen. A friend and I were talking about work and our struggles to balance a family and a career. I thought we were completely on the same page. I figured another mother of two would understand as I expressed my wish to be able to stay at home full time with my family. Instead I got side eyes and the comment "I guess, if you're comfortable with being a kept woman. I couldn't do it." She realized later how it sounded and apologized, which was sweet. You can't unring a bell though.

A kept woman. That phrase has been ringing in my ears ever since, it's hung over my head like an ominous storm cloud. A kept woman. You never notice how many red Toyota Corollas there are in the world until you buy a red Corolla and suddenly everybody and their fucking dog drives a red Corolla. Well I didn't realize being a stay at home mom was such a big deal until I became one and then suddenly these anti housewife sentiments were everywhere.

In the express lane at the supermarket, two women overheard gossiping about their coworker "I should have a baby too so I can have an excuse not to work anymore." 

In a bitchy dressed up as funny comment from an acquaintance "You're still not back to work? Who's paying for all those yoga pants and Soap Opera Digests, har har"

In an actually funny comment from a friend "You have a job...making tasty go make me a tasty sammich"

A kept woman. What does that even mean? I picture a chick from a cheesy romance novel. Someone who doesn't work so they can devote all their attention to their husband or lover or both.  A woman who gives up her autonomy and markets her anatomy. Someone who is beholden to another for their lifestyle and has a "keeper". Naw, that can't be right. That's just my taste in beach reading coming out. No one else thinks this way. Surely Google will have a definition...OH GOD, LOOK AWAY.

Huh, you would think that would pay better.

I've always been very open about the fact that becoming a mother completely tilted my world on its axis. I had a well thought out five year plan with straightforward goals: education, money, career, material comfort. I was content to be the breadwinner, proud of my ability to be the provider so that hubby could work a light schedule that wouldn't completely hobble him. I never thought I would be a mother, to be perfectly honest. Four contraception free years produced nothing but a couple of minor scares and a few wasted pregnancy tests. Years of harsh disease and harsher medications had taken its toll on my husbands body and we figured "Hey, maybe it's just not meant to happen for us". We were quite reconciled to the idea that it was just going to be us and the dog and that was fine. He was going to start college in the fall. I had switched jobs with an eye to advancing my career. It got to the point where I had convinced myself that I didn't even want kids.

Until two pink lines on a pregnancy test changed our lives forever.

Suddenly all those things that had dominated my priority list were replaced by a baser instinct. That day, that very minute, I put my plans on hold. The future could wait. We were bringing a baby into this world and we were going to do it our way dammit.

So we made plans.

I'm very fortunate to work in a flexible profession that gives me the freedom to somewhat set my own hours. I would take my full year of maternity leave and then go back to work part time, spending as much time as possible at home with our baby. He would finish college and embark on his new career, one that utilized his mind and not his body. His chosen profession paid well so we would be able to swing part time daycare and I could keep plugging away at my career. We could do it. We could have it all. I'd even have time to blog. Living the dream, baby!

Until two more pink lines on another pregnancy test changed our lives forever.

True story. Karma is a real bitch.

Really? After we just went through all that work reorganizing our game plan? Ok, back to the drawing board. Two kids in daycare changes everything. I don't know how it is where you live but where I live it costs anywhere from $60 to $70 a day to have two kids in daycare. A day. I only make about $100 a day after taxes and all that jazz...wait a mean I have to pay someone else to watch my kids while I work and at the end of the day, after I pay them, I am taking home less money than they are? Less than half actually. No wonder so many mothers elect to stay at home and watch other peoples kids for them...they're making a killing.

So we made different plans.

I would be a stay at home mom. No hesitation. As much as I loved my career it would still be there when my kids were gone off to school. Hubby gets weekends off and could watch the kids on Saturdays and I could take that day to work. It would give me a break from the kids and an excuse to put on makeup and do my hair once a week. I could keep some loyal clients happy and make a few extra bucks a month...actually it would be close to the same when you factor in what we would be saving in daycare...wait a mean I can make the almost same amount of money working one day a week and NOT using daycare as I would if I put both kids in daycare and worked five days a week? We could do that. We could have it all. I wouldn't have time to blog but that could wait, right alongside my career. Living the dream, baby!

Except the dream is a lot different than the reality.

The reality is that I am exhausted. It's bone deep exhaustion that never goes away, even after stealing a couple of extra hours of sleep on a Sunday. It's exhaustion that comes, not only from the late nights and early mornings that every mother deals with, but from the constant flurry of activity that is the life of a stay at home mom. It comes from barely ever seeing my amazing man because my one day of work is one of his few days off. It comes from feeling guilty about asking for time off to plan a family weekend because "You only work one day a week, how much time off do you actually need?!?" I finally gave up working altogether.

I double dog dare you.

Staying at home means making sacrifices. It means working harder so we can live better and cheaper. It means making bread every week because its better for my kids and cheaper than the bakery. Its using cloth instead of disposables and saving hundreds of dollars on diapers and wipes. It's growing my own vegetables so I can supplement my grocery budget with food I can trust so I can cook meals from scratch because it's healthier and cheaper than convenience food. I do everything but knit my own goddamn yogurt and although I wouldn't have it any other way it is Work with a capital W. Just having two toddlers clinging to me for fourteen hours a day is hard, emotionally draining work. You wouldn't dare tell your daycare provider that they don't actually work for the eight or nine hours a day that they have your children, why is it OK to imply that the work I do inside my home is somehow less valid than theirs? Because they earn a paycheque? Do I need to earn money to validate my existence? Is my worth measured not by the sweat and effort I put into my family but by something as common as money? Fuck that.

I'm not kept, I keep.

I keep my kids around all day: healthy, happy and engaged. I keep the two of them from beating each other senseless on a daily basis. I keep their butts, clothes and noses clean all throughout the day. I keep the house as clean as one can with a couple of three foot tall terrorists underfoot all day. I keep the yard and gardens neat and tend to our humble crops. I keep my family fed with wholesome meals, made from scratch.  I keep things organized around here and I am the glue that keeps this family together. Through it all I try to keep my wits about me and keep my sense of humor despite the fact that I keep having to listen to people insult my lifestyle to my face. Through it all I just keep on keeping on. There are always going to be people who don't understand what I do everyday, that think I'm some lazy bum eating bon-bons and watching soap operas all day. That's fine. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion.

Some days though, I really wish they would keep it to themselves...

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