Thursday, July 21, 2011

Inner Musings After a Looooong Mommy Day

As a stay-at-home-home for the past 8.5 years, I occasionally struggle to find measurable meaning in my overwhelmingly routine existence. I understand that my reward for endless sacrifice and suffocatingly difficult days with young kids will come when they emerge as strong, loving, contributing adults, but some days it's hard to lay my head down at night with no tangible validation for all the work I put in that day.

Eons ago, back when I was in the working world, corporate speak was the norm, pantyhose were a curse and at the end of the day, I could look at a pile of projects checked off my list and feel satisfied with the day's accomplishments. I took pride in my work, had confidence in my abilities, and overall, felt that whichever company I was working for was benefiting from having me on staff.

Now, I rarely get a shower before noon. I can clean up the same mess six times in one day but, somehow, it's still there at bedtime. Dishes and laundry simply do not have a finish line. At any given point in the day, it is a safe bet that I am wiping someone's butt. I make 1,000 micro decisions per day, and have little confidence in many of them. I often wonder if anyone in the family is benefiting from having me “on staff”. Sometimes, I long for the days when I could see tangible proof of my contributions and received validation from coworkers and clients for my hard work. I miss the feeling of having something important to contribute to a project, or giving intelligent interjections at a meeting. I can work my tail off for my kids and they still say my arms are flabby, I have yellow teeth, and, most recently, John informed me I have no talent. I can laugh at those innocent proclamations, but deep down, I often long for the days when there were a few people around who respected me.

I admire my friends who are throwing together multi-million dollar corporate extravaganzas, saving lives as RNs, making a difference in a classroom or boardroom, etc. I often envy the stories they have to tell at the end of the day. My spit-up and poop debacles are hardly fodder for table talk.

In a society where one's worth is often irrevocably connected to their occupation and education, I am quite frequently presumed to hold a lower social rung on the proverbial ladder. I often find that others equate stay-at-home-mom with uneducated or incapable of achieving higher goals. While I occasionally find the misconceptions humorous, it inevitably chips away at my inner self-confidence. Fact is, I have a bachelor's degree and held positions in numerous reputable companies before I consciously chose to stay home and raise my children – a decision I do not regret.

What is regrettable, however, is how inadequate I often feel when surrounded by my husband's colleagues or other corporate-types. (A large number of my extended family all work for the same company.) I rarely have anything useful to contribute to the natural flow of conversation, and often find myself spinning one-liners or meager attempts at humor if only to feel included. Sometimes I just space out. Quite frankly, talking about investing and finance for hours on end is not my idea of a happenin’ night out. However, it's those moments of interaction with other educated, successful grown-ups when I find myself wistfully wishing that someone would turn and say, “Let's hear what Jeni has to say about this,” and genuinely care. Now, if the conversation suddenly turns to how to multi-task in the kitchen or juggle the needs of three children while simultaneously folding laundry, doing dishes, wiping snot and feeding the dog, then, heck, I've got that market cornered!

As I sign off from this entry, I am about to head upstairs to tuck my children in bed, kiss them goodnight, and then spend the next hour cleaning up the various messes they left in their wake – and then do it all again tomorrow. When I wake up, I will trade the pantyhose and heels for denim and flip flops and the most important decision I make will be what to fix for lunch. I will judge my accomplishments to be successful if I manage to get from the kitchen to the bedroom without tripping over legos. And when my husband comes home from work, he will most likely find dishes in the sink, toys on the floor, an unmade bed and a dirty diaper on Jossilyn. What he doesn't know is that I already did breakfast and lunch dishes, but then the kids ate snacks. I made the bed first thing in the morning, but then the boys built a fort out of my covers. I changed Jossilyn's diaper 10 minutes earlier, but she “did her thing” seconds before he walked in the door.

That’s my life. And I love it. I’m not contributing to world peace, forging corporate mergers or even designing a magazine ad, but my kids will go to bed knowing that Mommy will be there in the morning. And at lunch. And at dinner. And then I will trip over legos as I walk upstairs to tuck them in at night.

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Kirsten said...

Jeni, you are such an inspirational woman! Because I have never been in the corporate world or ran a household full of children, I can't offer much advice. I can however tell you that your words are inspiring, and I know for a fact that your children adore you. It's evident just in the way they look at you. You are a terrific mother and your children are so incredibly lucky to have you in their lives and I promise, one day they will appreciate you!

Helen Stevenson said...

It may not help much but I have to tell you I KNOW exactly how you feel. The only difference is that we had four instead of three and I got zero help from anyone. I always felt like such a bump on the log anywhere we went. In fact, some of that still is there. I just end up sitting back watching. But in 20 years as you see your kids all good productive people with wonderful families, you will know that YES it was worth it all!!!! You are doing a FANTASTIC JOB at home with three of the sweetest kids I know!

Anonymous said...

Jeni, my mom stayed home with me and my brother for many years and I had the best childhood ever (despite us four surviving on my dad's salary). I will be forever grateful for that. You are doing an amazing job and your children will thank you one day. Mind you, I also feel left out of conversations sometimes... I live in my own little world :) Nicki