I had a brief moment of delusion at the beginning of last week, when I actually thought that my husband might stay home from work for a few days and take care of the kids so that I could get at least a little bit of writing in while Rosa is on vacation. But the moment quickly passed after I suggested the idea to my husband, whose response was a brusque, “yeah right.” Why is it, I asked him, that you automatically assume that I will be the one to stay home with the kids and miss work? And why is it that just because I work from home, my work is deemed less important? Because I make more money, he answered, and because it is less important. To which I had no good answer, because he does make more money, and because I guess it might be true that me making up a story that I haven’t even sold yet is probably not quite as important as being responsible for an entire company. Fine. Touché.
And so, given my low-paying, less important job, I decided to embark upon a little experiment. Despite being given the numbers of several housekeepers, nannies, and babysitters who could work a few days here and there in Rosa’s absence, I declined them all and decided to see what it is really like to be a stay-at-home mom, if only for two weeks. And not a fake, LA, stay-at-home mom, who doesn’t work but still has a full-time nanny and someone who comes twice a week to clean the house and do laundry. No, this was to be the real deal; kids, cooking, housework and all. I wanted to spend some time on the other side of the mommy wars so that I could see for myself what all of the fuss is about. (Full disclosure: I probably would have called some of those nannies or babysitters, but Davis would never go for it. I once tried to leave him at a daycare when we went skiing, and he cried for two hours straight.) And so here I am, your faithful martyr of a blogger, with a full report on what it is really like on the dark side.
First of all, let me say that I have a newfound respect for stay-at-home moms. I always knew that it was the hardest job ever, but honestly, until you do it day in and day out, you can’t really understand. And secondly, let me say that I have not changed my mind about working, nor do I wish to no longer work. If anything, I appreciate the job that I have more than ever, and if for some reason I could no longer do this job, I would, without question, go out and find a different one.
Which is not to say that there aren’t benefits to being at home. For one thing, I got to spend real, quality time with my son, which I very rarely get to do when I’m working. On the days that I’m not at the office, I usually spend some time with him in the mornings, but then I spend the rest of the day schlepping my daughter around from school to ballet to art class to playdates, while he plays at home with Rosa and then takes a nap. And then when I finally do get home, I’m always running around, answering e-mails, returning phone calls, making dinner, and he just doesn’t get my full attention. But now, with Harper in camp all day, Davis and I have been doing some serious hanging out these last two weeks, and it’s been great. I feel like we’re having a little love affair, and although he asked for Rosa a bunch of times in the beginning, this last week her name has hardly come up at all. And because I told everyone that I’d be unavailable during this time, I’ve been able to really give him my full, undivided attention, and the way that he hugs me and kisses me – well, it just breaks my heart to know that it can’t be like this all the time.
But then when he takes his nap, I turn into a house frau. I vacuum, I sort laundry, I change sheets, I clean dishes, I make beds, I mop floors, I dust….by the time four o’clock rolls around, when Davis wakes up from his nap and the bus drops Harper off at the front door, I’m exhausted. I’m not much of a drinker, but for the first time in my life I’ve been reaching for a glass of wine while I cook dinner, because I just don’t know how I’m possibly going to last four more hours until the kids go to bed. A lot of the time, I find myself thinking that I didn’t spend seven years in college and law school for this.
I do understand, though, how women can say that it is fulfilling. It is fulfilling, on some level, to know that you’re taking care of your family, that you’re sacrificing, that you’re doing so much entirely out of love. And I can respect that. I really can. But it’s just not my kind of fulfillment. I adore my children, and I love being with them, but for me, there has got to be more to life than cleaning and laundry and ballet classes and playdates, and yes, even hugs and kisses. In my mind, by working, I am also taking care of my family. By paying someone else to do the housework so that I have more time free to do other things, I am also sacrificing. And by juggling my work with my family, I am also doing so much entirely out of love. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Except for maybe my husband’s attitude.