Being a mom is a hard job. It’s hard whether you work outside the home or not. I’ve done both. I worked outside the home when my kids were babies – up until Brian was 5 and Adam was 3. I had a full-time job and a full-time nanny. I didn’t have to deal with day-care, and I had someone who took care of the home front. She made many, if not most, of the playdates, kept things organized and clean. She gave my kids baths. And by she, I meant, whomever was my nanny at any given time. Not that they were interchangeable because they certainly were not.
I always felt lucky to have both the kids and the career. I felt that one gave me perspective for the other, helped me appreciate whatever it was I was doing at any given time. I managed my time wisely. I was efficient. I made the time for working out at the gym. I made the time for phone calls and maintaining a social life. I made the time to shop for myself and keep myself in fabulous clothing.
I feel lucky now that I don’t have to work. I have more time for myself. I could never maintain the yoga practice that I maintain if I were working while mothering. Mothering school-age children/pre-teens is quite different from mothering babies. With the babies, my essential task was to nurture. That came quite naturally to me.
With schoolage kids, my essential task is to stay organized while juggling numerous small, not-engaging tasks. Given my propensity for compulsiveness and add to that a difficulty transitioning from one task to another (as a big-firm corporate lawyer, I usually worked on one transaction at a time for months and months on end), well, let’s just say that I find myself swimming in the undertow zone. And I have never been even remotely a strong swimmer. Essentially, this job I currently have is not one that emphasizes my talents.
I just spent nearly two agonizing, angst-filled hours organizing my family’s schedule for the next two months. Baseball practice for each kid once per week, baseball game for each kid once per week. Not always on the same day and certainly not always in the same place. Baseball clinic for Brian once per week (in addition to regular practice and games). Lacrosse practice and games for Adam, sometimes more than twice per week, and almost never on the same day or time, and all the hell over Westchester County. Religious school once per week for each kid. Tennis lessons once per week for Brian. Tae Kwon Do once or twice per week for Adam if there is ever time to squeeze it in. Don’t even ask me why there is such an emphasis on sports in my household. It wasn’t my choice. It just is the way it is. Then there are birthday parties, choir practices, choir concerts, class trips that I need to remind the moms about (since I am a class mom for Adam’s class), pediatrician appointments, orthodontist appointments (twice in June, but usually every six weeks).
In all of that, I need to allot time for gardening; notwithstanding that I have a gardener, there are daily tasks that I need to do myself. For example, until the danger of frost passes here in the great green north, I have to cover my annuals with tarps at night and uncover them in the morning so they can get fresh sunlight. I’ve been shopping for perennials too, because perennials come and go, and you have to buy them when they’re available. Luckily, most of the perennials I’ve been looking for have already been available, so I am almost done with the task of filling the garden beds, hopefully for a long time to come. Almost, but not quite.
Then there is keeping a social calendar, which I almost cannot bear to do, since most of the time, I am too exhausted to even talk…about anything but yoga.
And I don’t have a maid, and except for me, everyone in this household tends to leave the toilet seat up. My younger son is currently grooving on the notion of being dirty. And by dirty I mean disgustingly putridly dirty, as in, taking his socks out of the laundry to wear the again, just because he likes to make them as smelly as he can. Don’t even ask me how he managed to go an entire week without changing his underwear, unbeknownst to me. But I figured it out when I did his laundry yesterday. Nothing like seeing that there is not even one pair of underwear in your nine-year-old’s laundry to make you feel like a totally inadequate loser of a mother.
My nails are bitten to the quick. I discovered today that I have been given the gift of osteo-arthritis in my fingers (pray, pray, pray that it will remain in my fingers ONLY), or at least in both of my ring fingers, and therefore, it sort of doesn’t matter what my nails look like because soon my fingers will be all gnarly and gnarled anyway.
I haven’t had my hair cut since last summer.
My husband thinks that every day is like a day at Canyon Ranch for me.
It’s not. It’s hard. Because no one ever thanks me for anything. And no one even realizes that I’m actually working. And no one would probably notice if I didn’t do the work. But I would. And even so, sometimes, I can barely do it. And sometimes I do it badly, like today, for example, when a mom called me to tell me she was rescheduling her son’s birthday party from tomorrow to next Saturday, and I realized that I hadn’t been aware of the fact that there was supposed to be a birthday party tomorrow in the first place. Just a few minutes ago, I dug out the invitation from the abyss that is my inbox. Or the abyss that was my inbox, until that little reality check.
I know that if I had a job outside the house, thus creating a need for a nanny, thus creating a situation where I am thanked for my hard work, thus creating perspective on either side of the equation, I’d be way less stressed out. Even with working. Even with having a boss. Even with practicing less. But I just can’t. I just simply can’t. It would be better for me. But I won’t.
And that, my friends, is the definition of “neurosis”.