Rebecca asked the other day quite innocently, “When are you going to get a job.”
That threw me for a loop, “Honey, I do work. I take care of you guys. How do you think food gets on the table and your clothes get washed.”
“No, a real job mom. Where you leave the house and make money.” She insists.
We talked a little bit how some moms work outside the house and some stay at home. I thought everything was okay until a few days later the same question pops up, “When are you going to get a job?”
I took the question to Michael because this is pretty loaded for me. I wanted to make sure that I gave Rebecca a balanced answer for this very serious women’s lib question. It is something that I have struggled with over the last 8 years of motherhood. To work or to not work, the eternal modern mom’s dilemma.
When Rebecca was born I was finishing up my grad degree in Library Science and didn’t work until she was about 15 months. Then I found a job, got sick and although I liked working, struggled with maintaining the house and other family duties on top of all the conferences and work obligations that I had.
For me, I found it difficult to maintain a work/family balance I was happy with. It didn’t help that I was always having to take time off because of my cancer diagnosis.
When I was 7 months pregnant with Isaac, I decided to finally stay at home. The stress at work was getting to me and I was constantly at the doctor to control my diabetes. Rebecca was going to be old enough to start preschool in the fall and it seemed like the right time to make the transition back to home.
But it was hard. I struggled through that first year at home. I had liked working, but when I was working I felt guilty. When I was home, I was bored, which then made me feel guilty. I wasn’t bored because I didn’t have anything to do, but because my days consisted of poop, feedings, poop, cleaning, poop, and laundry. The day ended only so the process could start all over again the next day. I was frustrated. I was a very well educated poop cleaner.
We eventually found a groove, even though it took a long time and a bit of therapy. Now, I enjoy staying home. Mainly, because I seek out opportunities to break up the monotony. I volunteer, I exercise, and I get together with other moms. But it was a long road getting here. And someday, I will go back to work.
So Rebecca didn’t know that her simple question had brought up all these emotions for me. I want her to know that she can make any decision she wants. She won’t be like her grandmother’s generation who many had to quit working when they got pregnant, and hopefully it will be better than my generation who has all these opportunities to decide what we want only to feel guilty no matter the decision. I want her to do what she wants, and I suppose I am the one who can lead by example.
So I sit her down and start a real conversation. How I enjoy working because it is challenging and fulfilling. But how I really have enjoyed the time I get to spend with them. We get to do things that we couldn’t do if I was working. That when everyone is in school I do plan on going back to work in some capacity. That my time off of work has helped me see what I truly am passionate about. That I worked a lot of jobs and quit a lot of jobs because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was always doing something that I thought OTHER people wanted me to do.
She looks at me thoughtfully for a minute and says, “And when you go back to work, do I get to babysit?”
Befuddled, I say, “Um, I guess it depends how old you are and how responsible you are.”
“Will I get to do chores around the house and make sure that Isaac and Margo do them. And do I get to make meals?” She demands.
“Well, I suppose there will be things that you need to do.” I stammer. It all begins to make sense now.
“Wait, do you want me to go back to work so you can babysit?” I ask incredulously.
“Yeah, kinda. I like to watch Isaac and Margo.” Rebecca says quietly.
All my worrying and all she wants to know is if she can babysit when she is older.
I think I may have jumped the gun a bit on this one. My women’s lib speech will have to go back in my pocket for a while.