WHITNEY: Staying home is work, but it’s not a job
“Is it easier being a stay-at-home mom or was it easier working?”
That’s the question my grandpa asked me last time we went to my parents’ house for the weekend.
On that particular day, I was exhausted. Olivia was going through a phase of “please hold me all night in the rocking chair.” At that exact moment, she was whining and refusing to eat dinner. I was near the brink.
“Work was easier,” I snapped. “At least I could go there to escape.”
He was kind of taken aback, at least in part due to my tone.
“Work was easier…” he repeated contemplatively, as if he was measuring his own surprise to such an answer.
And maybe that will surprise you too, readers.
I haven’t slept in lately. I haven’t been lunching with the ladies or eating chocolate while lying on the couch watching “Real Housewives” shows. That many times. And no one ever invites me to play bridge, whatever that is.
All the trappings of the stereotypical stay-at-home mom have somehow evaded me in the months since I left my full-time career at the Pioneer. This week marks six months since I walked out of the office for the last time.
Things are mostly fantastic. There are plenty of unhurried (but still early) mornings filled with cartoons and coffee. Lazy story times and breathless outdoor exploration. More home-cooked meals. I even went to my first play date this week!
All that takes work, though. If I get off my feet before 9 p.m. each night, I consider that a blessing. Parenting a 2-year-old is kind of like herding cats, and I’m usually herding cats, too.
Maybe that’s why some people take their parental gap year (as I’m calling it now) in the first year of their baby’s life. (But hey, did you know Sweden gives 480 days of maternity at about 80 percent of a woman’s former salary, and that time can be used at any point until a child’s eighth birthday? Crazy.)
There also are plenty of days when I wonder if I did the right thing at the right time, or if I’m even qualified for this line of work. I mean, I held my own as a reporter, but as a mom, I can’t seem to get my kid to stop saying “dammit” and start getting interested in potty training. Sometimes it seems like I should head back to the office, because at least there I had control of the words people were using.
What I’m doing at home — playing, cooking, cleaning, wrangling one small human and three dumb cats — it’s not a job. It’s labor intensive, but it’s not a job. And I definitely want a job again in the not-so-distant future.
Six months in, I’m still trying to depart from my high-strung tendencies enough to just … blow bubbles or swing in the backyard. While I’m working on that, at least you’ll know where to find us. Stop by. Bring wine.
Whitney Gronski-Buffa is the Pioneer’s parenting columnist. After four years reporting and editing at the paper, she’s stepped back to spend more time with her family. Read more here each week and reach her at email@example.com.