“Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability.”
― Sam Keen
Okay, it’s no secret that I think smooshy articles, status updates and “open letters” written by men to their wives’ who are stay at home mothers (SAHMs) are kinda gross. And by gross, I mean they make me roll my eyes and my upper lip does this little snarly thing. Because, in my perception, they come off as being sort of compensation for all the hardships that SAHMs are forced to endure, while throwing working mothers’ the side eye, because they obviously hate their children. Yes, I’m oversimplifying.
This piece isn’t about one of those posts. It’s about perspective.
Because when a few of us here at Runit got together to craft a reply to one of those posts that we found pandering and condescending and divisive, we were all full time working mothers.
Because I used to rejoice in the summer, because there were no afterschool or weekend kid lessons, practices, games, events. They had one place to be. Camp. All day.
Because I had absolutely NO IDEA why there was such a collective cheer from SAHMs when the school year started.
Because I would have given anything, some days, to be a SAHM myself, just to try it on.
Because I have two degrees and I bring in half of my family’s income which is absolutely necessary and I’ve never not had a job, since I was like, 14.
Because I lost my job earlier this year.
Because I am now a SAHM.
And now I really, truly, GET IT. Both sides. All sides. Sides I didn’t even know about until I navigated the summer as the by-a-wide-majority primary caretaker of two children.
I went into the summer full of swagger. Like, I GOT this! And we really did make a lot of wonderful memories together, my girls and I. Doing things we never would have had or made the time for. Two full weeks at the beach, with friends and then family. Going to Six Flags. Full days at the pool. Running three 5Ks together. Visiting Mystic Seaport, Mystic Aquarium, and the Museum of Natural History. Going kayaking, sailing, swimming in the river, and hiking. My two sidekicks and I did our best to squeeze every last moment out of summer.
Trying to keep up with laundry and housework and errands while simultaneously trying to keep two kids occupied and not trying to kill each other? Challenging, for sure. Let’s just say that my house may still not be recovered from the Just Blowing That Shit Off.
Hearing “Mama? Mama?!? Maaaaaaaamaaaaaaaaa!” approximately every 15 seconds for three months made me want to crouch down with my fingers in my ears and yell “lalalalalalalalalalala!!”until they just. Fricking. Stopped.
Aside from housework and laundry, what else did I give up on…? Oh yeah, intentional and scheduled exercise. Because now that they have Mama, she ain’t going anywhere without them.
And any other interests and/or intellectual pursuits, they just went buh bye. I have literal and virtual stacks of books on my table and on my tablet. I just came across an unopened NY Times paper from late July, hidden beneath some detritus from the same timeframe that I am just getting around to addressing. Any writing, knitting, bike riding and normal communication with people who I didn’t give birth to was rendered unlikely, if not impossible.
The mental exhaustion. Ermahgerd. Several nights, after they FINALLY went the f**k to sleep, I would just sit and stare, until my ears stopped buzzing and my blood pressure lowered and I could complete a sentence without being interrupted 16,000 times.
The first day of school? Oh, I get it now. When the 2nd one got on the bus on that first day, I screamed with delight, danced around the driveway, and then promptly went inside and took a nap.
And now that it’s fall? Well, my circumstances have allowed me to be the Head Coach of the first Girls on the Run program at my older daughter’s school, and I’ll share more about that in a future post. And I’m allowed to be responsible for after school activities. Both of which have enabled me to interact with other actual grownups that I may not have otherwise. The house is still kind of a mess, but I’ll get to it. And my job search is going in full force. I hope to remember only the tremendous amount of joy and fun we had, this Summer of SAHM, but I’m also hoping not to have to repeat it. Unless a giant sum of cash finds its way to me and I can pay someone to deal with some of the more exhausting and frustrating moments, and of course, to photodocument the wonderful ones.
I now get how being a SAHM can be isolating and frustrating, and how much work it actually is. And I have reaped the rewards of having unprecedented time with my children. I still don’t want or need a pandering thank you note, unless the giver of such note is looking for an eyeroll and a sneer. I got this, and will continue to do my best for my kids, no matter my employment status.