Off-ramped and Unbalanced

I think people assume that when you quit your job to stay home, time suddenly appears out of nowhere like that annoying hair on your chin. Oh! You’ll have time to go to the gym, get your nails done, keep the house immaculate, dry your hair and pluck your eyebrows (and that errant chin hair).

But reality says, uhm, yeah, I’m staying home, not working, not commuting, but I still have A CHILD to look after. Which takes a lot of time. Loads and loads of energy-sucking, mind-bending time. I’m not saying being a SAHM or working is harder, but I will say that sometimes being a full-time mom is a bigger time suck.

I know that when I worked, I didn’t work from 7 am to 8 pm, but now that I’m home, I’m on the clock most days for at least 13 hours. This is not counting up at night, awake earlier than the sunrises, and general “I need the covers mommy” at 10:30 pm.

Now I know that when I worked, I’d have to be a mom for 2 hours in the morning, a professional at the office, and then a mom again for a few hours at night, but I remember at least being able to close the door on someone if I didn’t feel like talking. Now, there’s always Dora to help me do that at home, but I can hardly leave the room for too long.

As much as I’m making asinine comparisons, this post isn’t for trying to figure out what’s harder, what’s more stressful, what’s better for your kids or anything.

I would just like it to be known to the general public, or whoever comes to my blog via the search terms, “the smart way to quit your job” (now you’re talking!) or “signs that your boss is interested in you,” (uhm, run!?) or “old people,” (because some days I feel like I’m 90 by 6 pm), that there is no balance at home either. We, as moms, are unbalanced either way we try to do it.

A sure sign I need to get a job

I had a meeting today. Like a real business meeting with real managers at a real company.  Which meant that I actually took a shower, put on a button-down shirt and then attempted to put on “work pants” which didn’t exactly fit like I remembered. (It’s probably from all the sitting around and eating bon bons all day.) 

It was like the good old days. I left my son screaming bloody murder (same scene, two years later), hurried out the door (forgot a notebook), and worried about my babysitter’s competency for the next two hours.

When the meeting was over, and because my old friend guilt came surging back to me, I rushed home so that I’d be around when my son got up from his nap. When he awoke,  he was more startled by my outfit than by my presence. And now that he’s three, he can articulate as much.

Mommy, will you go put on a comfy shirt and sweatpants?

Why?

Because I want you to.

It was my worst nightmare come true.  My son only thinks I wear sweatpants.

Have I been that lazy? Was it my undying love for lululemon? The fact that on most days I am not in “normal clothes” with makeup until about 12:30? (It’s not like he remembers I go to the gym when he’s in school. Those lululemon aren’t just for loungin’, folks.)

Whatever it was, I knew that I had to act fast.  Even though mommy doesn’t have a real job, I can sure fake it every now and then with a good shirt and khakis.

So I rebelled and stayed in my “work outfit” all afternoon. (Boy, are button downs uncomfortable during bathtime.)

Young minds are certainly impressionable.  And no kid of mine is going to think his mom belongs in sweatclothes.  Every day.

Notes from the off-ramp: The six-month itch

No matter where I go, people inevitably ask me what I do or if I work.  They ask me at the doctor’s office, in the grocery store, at fancy dinners and during playgroups.  I don’t fault people for wondering such things.  We, as humans are a curious bunch, and moms ever so much more.  Everyone wants to know what everyone else is doing.  If Sally works and loves it and Susie stays at home and is bored, Mona is glad that she is working.  There’s comfort and safety in numbers.

Now that I’m off-ramped, I’m not entirely comfortable with my non-working status. I don’t really have much safety in numbers. I love not working, but I hate answering the “what do you do?” question.  Telling everyone that I quit my job in January is going to start getting old soon.  And ever since the mommy blogging panel, I’ve been thinking a lot about what Traveling Mom said: write about your life and transition to not working. Your stories are funny and people will want to hear it.  A friend of mine echoed that when I saw her Friday night. She’s going back to work, and is dealing with those hosts of issues. No matter your status there’s always a conversation to be had.  Working vs. not working.  Leaving your job vs. getting a new one. No decision is easy and all of them are personal.

But it’s hard for me to be entirely honest about my status as SAHM or non working mom or whatever.  In my world, if I talk to Sally, I’m jealous, but I don’t mind the boredom that Susie complains about.  I never want to admit that I’m a full time mom.  My answer is, well, yeah, I stay at home but I’m doing “little things.”  Like I have to justify the argument that running to Target two times a week isn’t considered a “little thing.”

When I was chatting with the friend who’s going back to work about her change in status, we both agreed that while we love the $10.99 shoes and $12 frames, there is something inherently unfulfilling to us about filling our days with returning baby gifts.  And, in the last week, I’ve been asked to work on various new projects, some paid, some not. I think part of me is ready to move on from watching “The Hills” during naptime.  Like all humans, I’m curious to see what’s out there for me in my new, post-corporate life.

I think it’s the six-month itch of the off-ramped.  Month one and two of not working, and you feel free as a bird.  By month three you actually start paying attention to the world around you.  Month four, and you’ve actually started regularly checking your emails again. Month five and maybe you’ve actually done a small project.  Now I’m in month six and I think I might be ready for more.

I can’t wait to see what month seven might bring.