Sunday, September 21, 2008

What is She (Really) thinking?

Hmm.... just when you're thinking "I have NOTHING to blog about today. I wonder what I'll have to dig up just to keep my readers from yawning." something hits a nerve and POOF! A blog post is born.

We all have one of these friends... you know, the one who really loves you but deep down disagrees with you on some crucial point of your belief system. Maybe it's politics; maybe it's the decision to use dried herbs instead of fresh. Who knows. But you both know to NEVER go there, else the friendship may suffer irreparable damage.

So, I have this friend. Let's call her Pig. Now, please understand, I do not think she is a pig. She, actually, gave herself this nickname because she really likes pigs and used to collect pig things: stuffed animals, figurines, pictures, tee shirts, whatever. I have known Pig since our first days of college when we shared a freshman English class. She was the ying to my yang. She helped me to take life less seriously; I taught her how to compose herself in moments when laughter was not appropriate. Yes, me. I was there for her after her first marriage fell apart. She was there for me when I got married, as one of my bridesmaids. Her son and my daughter are born just weeks apart. She is my daughter's godmother.

So, you get it? We're close. And we have stayed close all these years.

She's also a heavy Democrat. I am a Republican. We both laugh because we both say how our votes are a wash. She lives in Kansas (always goes Republican) and I used to live in IL (always went Democrat). Sometimes I like to get her going by making some comment about liberals, or how we listen to Rush Limbaugh, or I simply mention the name "George W. Bush". She loves to debate politics and I think it infuriates her that I refuse to bend, even a little, towards the middle. Not that she's bending either, but she likes to believe that she can change someone's mind with her powers of persuasion.

Now, I was talking to Pig today and we were discussing a mutual friend from college whose children were grown now and in elementary school. She wondered why the friend had not gone back to work? I explained, well, I believe the friend - let's call her Amy (because that's my most favorite girl name and still, why have I not named any of my girls that name???) - that Amy enjoyed staying home and taking care of the house things, being active in her kids' school, volunteering, etc. Plus, Amy's husband made enough money that she didn't need to work. They weren't rich, but his salary was enough to support the family. Pig went on to say that it just didn't make sense. Why wouldn't a woman want to go back to work? What was the point in staying home?

She continued, while I listened in silence, that SHE took her son to and from school every day. That SHE took days off work when her son had field trips so that she could attend. That SHE took time off work when there was a holiday party at school with which she was helping, and not only did she attend but she baked (not bought) cookies. And, she said, I *do* like my job, but I am busy! I take my son to sports practices. I take him to games. I help him with homework.

I tried to explain, "well, maybe Amy likes staying home with her family. Maybe even if she could go back to work, she would choose not to. I can understand this dilemma if they were suffering financially, but they aren't - so what's the big deal?" And I mentioned, "maybe Amy doesn't understand why in the world you choose to work when your husband could easily support your family on his income alone."

Pig then continued, and I think this may have been the source of her frustration, how she was so SICK of bumping into one particular stay-at-home mom in her subdivision who complains that she's SO TIRED. Pig says, "What in the hell is she so tired from? She doesn't even see her kids all day because they are at school!! The kids even ride the bus so she doesn't have to drive them either. How lazy is that? I mean, what else does she have to do?"

I was pretty much stunned.

Pig: "Hello? Are you there?"

Me: "Yes, I'm here. I'm just listening."

Pig: "Oh, I'm not talking about you. I mean, you still have a small child at home. And you have 4 kids! I mean, this lady in my subdivision only has 2. And hers are at school all day."

**crickets chirping**

Me: "Okay, well, I don't know what her situation is. So, how was your son's birthday party?" (me, trying to redirect the conversation away from me putting my foot in my mouth)

Now, before you go and start in with "That Pig is a total rag. Drop her like a hot potato!" I must beg you to please restrain yourself. She is a VERY close friend. Just because I don't see the world the same way she does, doesn't mean I don't love her. We have very different views on parenting, which probably is directly related to our difference of opinions on the working/staying home thing.

Now, all day long, I can't stop thinking about this. Is that what Pig thinks about me? What if I had chosen not to go back to work, would she secretly be clucking her tongue at me? Or making sarcastic comments, set up as just playful jabs but really based in truth? I almost feel like, "Thank God I have a baby at home to justify my Stay-At-Home-Mom status."

That continued the spiral... what do I do all day? Could I be doing what I do, and still go out and have a job? Why not? Many women do it and make it work. Many women do it and are really good at it! And, it's true: I don't see my kids a majority of the day (with the exception of the baby). So, should I be doing something more meaningful? Like homeschooling? (Oh, please don't make me do that. I may have to take a full-time job just to avoid it.) Or volunteering at a not-for-profit agency? Or getting a job that I can do from home? Suddenly, my days of clipping coupons, driving around town to get the best deals from various stores on our needed supplies, folding loads of laundry, picking up toys, and ironing Texan Papa's shirts seems very... insignificant. Like I'm wasting time. Like I'm unproductive.

I am so screwed. I take these little scenarios and hold onto them for dear life. My brain exists only to tumble around the different paths my life could take or should have taken. What if I'd done this instead? Would I be richer? Smarter? Someplace different? Would I have more kids? Less kids? Any kids at all?

Now, I know that every time I meet a working mom, I will be afraid that she's thinking the same thing that Pig thinks. I bet I will (subconsciously) mention that I have a baby at home, and she's only about 1 year old - just to make sure it's understood that I *DO* have someone to keep me busy all day. I will probably never act like I'm busy, but rather offer to relieve any burden she may have because, you know, I have so much extra time on my hands.

The funny thing is, I am not being funny. I DO have lots of extra time on my hands. I DO realize that my job is pretty easy. Because of those things, I purposely avoid asking my husband to do any household chores. I try to support him by allowing him to bring home the bacon without any added stress. I'm not saying that I walk around behind him, picking up his socks and wiping his nose. I just mean, I don't tell him that he has to cook dinner once a week, or that he has to fold laundry, or put away toys, etc. (For the record, he does occasionally do those things without being asked, just to be helpful.) And, in turn, he has never asked me to go out and get a job to help with the income. I have had small jobs here and there, but nothing more than what could cover a couple weeks of groceries. But my point is, I do realize that I have a great life. I enjoy staying home. I enjoy being a domestic goddess. I love teaching and one day hope to return to it. But in the mean time, should I apologize for my husband's and my belief that - for us - it's important to have a parent at home while the children are young? Should I feel guilty that I can - and do - go to yoga class, do bible study, write thank-you notes, and take bike rides while other moms are out there earning the Almighty Dollar? No, scratch that. I don't want to know if I should feel guilty. I want to know how I should justify it to my friends, to myself, to society?


binks said...

I am so far away from your realm of reality.
I only wish I had the oportunity to be a stay at home mom, join the PTA, bake cookies, or be at home when my son came home from school.

I don't think you need to explain or justify decisions about what is right for you and your family.

Your friend should understand and support your decisions.
Thats what friends do.

Anonymous said...

I am probably your mother's age but behaviors remain the same--alot of women are not supportive of differing choices we make! I always worked--part time--and it was the "right" choice for my life. I don't understand women's needs to be intolerant of other folks styles!

Mandy said...

If it's right for you and you enjoy it, then don't question it. Same for your friend. Maybe she is second guessing her decisions and that's why the discussion came up. Be supportive of her choices. It sounds like she has it together. It sounds like you have it together.

Either way you look at it, it seems to be a double standard. If you work, you should be home. If you are home, you should work.

I have worked since both kids were born (I teach). I have taught part time for 2 years in public school prior to this year. Now, I am at the preschool (until 12) where they are. I wanted to be with them AND still teach. I love my situation. I am aware that not everyone is lucky to do both. It works for me.

I really don't think your friend was trying to degrade you at all. :)

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

She sounds like she might overwhelmed or just having an overall crappy day. I remember when I first became s sahm--the work out of home mom vs. the sahm mommy was a common conversation. I don't hear this much any more, esp. since the ones who stay home are busy with volunteering, schooling, part time work.
we are all BUSY!

The Nice One said...

Just the other day I caught flack from several of my friends for the large amount of housework I do with no help. Like you, I don't expect Dh to do much...he brings home the paycheck. That's his job. Mine is to maintain the house. My working friends can not get that logic. Very 1950s?

Bridge said...

I have been both a stay-at-home mom and working mom. Staying home is much harder, but for me it feels more rewarding...right now.

My advice to you is not judge your best friend too harshly for her words. When we vent (like your friend did) it really has more to do with our own internal struggles. Being a mom at times is really hard and at others dreamy. I know when I was home with a baby and a toddler who seemed to cry all day their were days I wished I could be the one to drive to work in a car, eat lunch with adults...that was all in my head not my heart.

Whenever we sit in judgment of another, like your friend did, we are playing God and we are projecting our own insecurities on to another. IMO!

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

PIG sounds very firm in her beliefs. She sounds very unaccepting of other's problems and concerns (or uninterested) and I am not insulting her. It just sounds like she has a judgemental personality.

Don't let someone with a judgemental personality sway how you feel about what you do. Staying at home is admirable and oh by the way, Biblical. You are there for your kids when they get off the bus. You always will be as long as you see this as part of your life.

PIG will see as her kids get older and daycare or after care programs become a thing of the past, that is when you NEED to be home before and after school. You NEED to see what decisions they are making and who their friends are.

I would like to be able to stay home for as long as possible.


Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Thanks for all the comments, y'all. My friend, Pig, is very opinionated about lots of issues, and lots of folks, and I have come to just take her comments with a grain of salt. She wants others to see things her way and agree with her. Maybe that's her way of validating her own choices? I dunno. Really, I think it's just a deep desire to be right and for other people to acknowledge her correctness.

But, I don't think she's judging me for my lifestyle choices, any more than I judged her for some of the mistakes I feel she's made in her life. I really think she looks at me, and says to herself, "That's crazy to live that way" in the same way you'd look at someone who lives on a commune, or is a vegetarian, or whatever. Seems like personal choices but if they are contrary to her point of view she thinks you're crazy. I've heard her say SO many times, "But can't you just see my point? Can't you admit the error in thinking?" I just respond: "I will admit I understand your thinking but I do not, and never will, agree with you." This is the standard response for lots of our conversations.

We are such good friends, it is not something that will divide us, I think. I would probably draw the line, however, if she came right out and said something like, "Why are you still at home? I mean, what could you be doing all day?" She might, and I think that's where my real sadness is. I don't want my true friend to think of me as crazy, lazy, or unintelligent. Like I have to have a money-earning job to make myself credible. I know, a friend should not place expectations on one another. I hope I never have this dilemma.

Baby Favorite said...

I don't even know you, but the whole time I was reading your post, I was dying to pick up the phone to call you --because I have so much to say!

First of all, not all working moms think of SAHMs that way. I'm sure some do (maybe plenty), but I sure don't.

I think the most important job you can have IN THE WORLD is to raise your children, and to do it as a SAHM is the best way (in my opinion). The reason I in particular returned to work was because I carried the health insurance in the family. Also, I have a gov't job that was very hard to come by (being non-degreed, and I have worked my way up), and my husband has heart problems, and I still am afraid that if I ever quit my job and something, God forbid, happened to my husband -- well, I'd be screwed. So I'm hanging onto my job for dear life. I hope it's the right decision, because I have shed many tears over being a working mom and not being home for my kids.

What do you do all day? What DON'T you do?!?! You cook, you clean, you counsel, you teach, you guide, you take care of your family in every way imagineable (whether your kids are in school or not during the day). What could be more important? NOTHING, as far as I'm concerned.

Be proud of yourself and don't worry about what other people think. I am guessing your family thinks the WORLD of you. And aren't their opinions the most important of all, anyway?


Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Baby Fave, thanks so much for your comment. It is hard to imagine what working moms think of us SAHM's because I have never been a working mom. I have said, many times over to many people everywhere, that I totally respect working moms. They have it so hard! Getting kids off to school or daycare and getting themselves to work, all before 8 am, plus doing all the regular household chores. I don't know how y'all do it. But I am pretty sure I couldn't do it. I don't criticize the WM's because I know they are giving their kids something great too. Like I said, I guess the things that Pig said just hit a nerve with me. Like, I wouldn't choose to be a working mom, but I see the benefits of it. Why can't Pig see the benefits of SAHM's? The things she said were, in my opinion, no different than if I'd railed on working moms, then said, "oh but I don't mean you. You're different, of course." Yeah, I don't think she'd have bought it either.

Baby, I can completely understand why you work. Given your situation, I would probably do the same. The main reason I stay home is because it works for us. If we were in debt, or something terrible came up (which it might... we're not sure what will happen with my husband's Lyme Disease diagnosis) then I'd be right back out there, only I'd probably have to be at Kroger's or WalMart or something because you can't just get a teaching job in the middle of the school year.

Thanks for your comments. They meant so much.

Cindy said...

Whatever floats your boat and tickles our pickle. In other words, do what works for you and your family. You don't have to answer to anyone or justify your decisions. Dif'rent strokes for dif'rent folks.

dddiva said...

You don't have to justify anything to anyone.
I think people who feel the need to belittle the choices others make are insecure and feel the need to defend their own position.
I am unapologitically and unashamedly a sahm and my youngest is in high school. While I have the excuse of having a recurring illness, I never, ever say that when people ask what I do- I proudly state I stay home and play with my kids and my dogs and my grandson.
Not only is it none of their business, but I don't begrudge any of their choices and if they are shocked at mine, it is their problem and I don't even pay attention any more.
Glad I found you through SITS- loving all the great blogs.
Adding you to my blog list so I can read more when I am not about to run pick up the mini diva. :)

MeadowLark said...

Perhaps PIG is like me... passionate about everything she believes in, to the point of sounding somewhat 'fanatical', but not necessarily caring if you agree or not.

Come to think of it, I'm probably so passionate because I am trying not to be judged! And I figure if I sound confident, people won't bug me about my choice. Hmmm... I'll have to ponder that one.

Which is harder? Whichever one you're stuck with when you want to be doing the other.

Anonymous said...

Babe, if you're at peace with where you are, then it matters not what the rest of the world thinks. No need for justification or explanation.
It's not about Pig. It's about you being at peace with you.