Just last week, my youngest daughter began full-day kindergarten, and for the first time in 7 years, I’m spending my days without a child at my feet. When I share this news with other people, the most common response is, “Wow! So, what are you going to do?” I’m not sure what that question means exactly, and from the look on most of their faces, I don’t give the right answer.
So I can tell you what I HAVE done. On the first day, there were a few tears all of them mine. I had lunch with a friend who was in the same position last year….she gets it. Then we did a little shopping and I came home. Not at all the sad day, sitting and watching the clock I had planned for myself. I’m thankful for that. Since then I’ve gone back to doing what I always do, only now I do it alone.
I go grocery shopping. I clean the house. I do the laundry. I pay bills and next week I’ll take the dogs to the vet and schedule the septic to be cleaned. Glamorous! And while I do work outside the home, albeit part-time, I think of this as my REAL job. My title: Homemaker. My salary: Nada. And I am A-OK with that.
So why then, do so many people expect I’m going to work more now that my kids are in school full-time? Maybe it’s the vision of a stay-at-home mom “status-quo.” Ya know? That old-school Mad Men idea of women wearing aprons and serving a dry martini to their husbands as soon as they walk in the door. This is NOT today’s woman. And while I do happily retrieve my husband a cold beer from time to time, I do not vacuum in heels. Also, it’s not a role I feel forced into. It’s a matter of convenience and my choice to stay home. It’s a decision I am grateful to be able to make, as I am sure there are women in the workforce who’d opt to stay home if they could. I do admire those who have the ambition and the ability to build a career while raising a family. But the truth is, it’s just never been there for me.
I suppose if I wanted to go back to work full time I could. But why would I? My duties at home have not lessened with the kids in school. Sure, it might be easier to run errands as a party of one rather than a party of three. But working parents consider this theory: if your workload at the office was getting out of control and your boss offered to hire you an assistant, would you turn it down? Of course not. So why would I choose to work outside of the home NOW, just when my kids will start doing homework, taking dance lessons and playing sports every day after school? There are already not enough hours in the day.
There’s a great scene in the movie Parenthood where Mary Steenburgen’s character is talking to her sister-in-law played by Dianne Weiss. She’s discussing the fact that her young son is going to kindergarten and everyone wants to know what she’ll do next. Her response? “I dunno, I used to work and it was okay. But, ya know? I think I am better at this. I think I am sort of good at it.” She adds to that statement saying, “People make me feel embarrassed about it. Like I don’t have goals or something.” I love this because, for me, it rings so true. When I was younger, I had career goals of my own, none of which included the traditional role of a mom and a wife. But right now, I find myself living it. I find myself loving it. And isn’t that the ultimate goal? To be happy?
There is no wrong choice, no “outdated” path. As parents, we all do what works best for our families. Maybe someday when my girls are older I’ll make a career move, but for now, I’m happy in my current position.