A few days ago, my son asked me when’s the last time I’d had a “real” job. He went on to clarify: A job where, you know, I “worked.”
You’ve never known a time when I haven’t worked.
I returned to work the minute I came home from the hospital with you in tow.
No maternity leave for me. You already had an older brother and sister at home, so I went straight to work.
So, in your lifetime, I’ve always worked.
Some people live to work. Most people work to live. I live to work because I get to do a job I mostly love: Caring for your brothers and sisters and you.
Coming out of college, if someone had offered me a position with long hours, no vacation and intangible compensation, I would’ve said, “DON’T sign me up.” I would’ve turned it down flat.
The Women’s Movement was still in its adolescence when I grew up. Bra burning had cooled to a simmer, but women still hadn’t shattered the glass ceiling in many industries. We were paving the way. Staying home was almost unheard of in certain circles.
When your dad and I married, I remember feeling superior to those poor girls who stayed home. I intended to have a career in addition to being a wife and mom.
Women who stayed home were sell-outs, zealots, throw-backs. I wanted it all. I’d been told I could have it all. I could bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan.
Umm. . then I had your older sister. I faced a dilemma about what to do with my life after having a baby. I started wondering if I ought to consider doing something besides climbing the corporate ladder.
So I decided to make home my work.
I kind of felt like I’d be a loser if I decided to stay home after getting all those degrees and buying that nice work wardrobe.
Don’t misunderstand; I respect women who have children and work outside the home. Some do it because they want to. Some because they have to.
But make no mistake—outside the home or in–all us moms work. I don’t leave the house everyday, but I work.
I believe you’re better off because I choose to “work.” I’m a professional home organizer, which means I’m a cook, a nurse, a teacher, a custodian, an accountant, a concierge, a chauffeur, a therapist, a judge, a jury, a warden, and chief nose wiper.
I would’ve been fired long ago if I’d had a traditional boss. Like the time you fell and broke your arm and I didn’t take you to the hospital because I didn’t think you were really hurt. Or the time I accidentally locked your one-year old brother outside while I went in and had lunch. Sometimes I do a crappy job.
Your dad’s probably wanted to fire me as wife at times.
And many days, I’ve wanted to quit. Everyone has those moments, even when you do something you love.
I hope your question wasn’t precipitated by a perception moms who choose to make home their work are less valuable or less important than people who work outside the home.
That perception is changing, but, in our society, some still think staying home isn’t work.
Believe me, it is. You don’t need an advanced degree to do it, but a lot of moms, like, me have one anyway.
I work just as hard as your dad does but in different ways.
Yes, someone has to work outside the home for money to feed you and house you and clothe you. Someone has to pay for your piano lessons, the Internet, and your Xbox Live. And, I’m glad your dad does that.
But, I’m glad he values the work I do. He appreciates my willingness to stay home because it allows him to go to work to do what he does without worry or concern about you.
Come to think of it. . . I’ve never heard you ask him about his real job.
But, here are 4 reasons why I “work”:
- I work because I want you and your brothers and sisters to be well cared for.
- I work because I want you to have someone to laugh with and to talk with and to dream with and to dance with.
- I want you to listen to your stories and admire your Lego creations. And to remind you even though life can be icky at times, it’s also beautiful and meaningful.
- I work because if you and your wife decide she’s going to make home her work, I want you to appreciate her and understand why she’s annoyed when your son asks her when’s the last time she had a real job.
So to answer your question, when’s the last time I had a “real” job? Being a mom full-time is a real job. It’s work. I chose to be a professional mom because I love you.
I’m thankful I don’t have to leave our home to work. This mom gig is about as “real” as it gets.
Sheila Qualls is a stay-at-home mom, writer and speaker. She shares her life through a window of humor and transparency, one awkward moment at a time. She writes at sheilaqualls.com.