A lot has happened since I last blogged on thephdmommy. A lot of life happens in four months. We moved from Atlanta, Georgia to Narragansett, Rhode Island. Four months after the move, and there are still rooms (garage, basement, attic, closets) filled with miscellaneous STUFF. Perhaps by the time we are ready to move again I will have tackled those piles. Another major transition was from working full time in Atlanta to staying home full time to take care of housework, cooking, and my (now) 2 year old, Miles. It only took a few months of that to realize that I being a homemaker is not for me…at all. THE END. So I want to describe why it is I feel that way, and why I might go ahead and do it anyway now and again.
First, I’ve never owned a small business, but I would imagine it is similar the experience I had ‘running’ a household (*that should probably read ‘running a household into the ground’). You are basically the boss. This has its perks, though not as many as it should. You set your own hours (unless you have a toddler that wakes up at 5am…then he pretty much decides when your day starts). You set the agenda (i.e. what food will be in the house, what’s for dinner, will anyone have clean underwear, I had a brief 10 days obsession with coupons that I could not sustain due to utter boredom). You decide the rules (these are the things your family members ignore and roll their eyes at you for reminding them). Oh, and the final thing – you don’t get paid. Homemakers and small business owners tend to have this in common.
I’m am sure many go-getter organizational genius types are GREAT at running a household. I am much more of the spacey academic gets-lost-in-thought type. I found the endless organizing of our moving boxes, endless cleaning, endless laundry, endless cooking to be WAY too much reality for me. I started to miss abstraction.
When I worked full time I thought that stay-at-homers had all the time in the world. I didn’t. I don’t know where the time went though – which was/is SO frustrating. I would be on my feet all day – cleaning this, organizing that, preparing lunches or snacks or dinners, or after dinner snacks (hmm…are we eating too much?), and then…I don’t know. At the end of the day I never felt like I had accomplished anything. I knew the next day I would do it again.
For me, I found being a housewife, stay-at-home mom depressing and unsatisfying. Of course, I then felt tremendous guilt as well for not relishing in my “great opportunity” to stay home with my son. This was my big chance to be there for him, and I felt like I was blowing it. I would think to myself – am I a terrible mother because I find this exhausting and I want to do something else? Probably not. But I know that I am a much better mother now that I have some other things in my life keeping me balanced. The time I spend with him and my family is richer because I am not the emotional equivalent of Eeyore (you know, the sad donkey from Winnie the Pooh).
So what has changed? Gradually, the piles of stuff were organized to an acceptable level (and what I couldn’t organize, I hid). I got a gig teaching statistics at the University of RI starting in January, so I now interact with adults two days a week (yippeee!). Recently, Miles transitioned to staying at school until 3pm – which gives me enough time to make tangible progress on projects instead of treading water! Case in point – I am writing this blog post!
I’ve been grappling with a lot of emotional issues and social issues during my somewhat brief tenure as a homemaker. I wanted to value my work at home in the same way that society values my husband’s work at his job. But it wasn’t society that was devaluing my time at home (although society didn’t send me a check in the mail either). I did that to myself. Whether because of my implicit biases on being a housewife or my explicit bias against laundry, I just did not feel useful. It was particularly difficult to come off of the experience of getting a PhD – which in some circles garners some amount of respectability. For months after we arrived in Rhode Island, whenever I met someone I was introduced as ‘Miles’ mom.’ It’s a hat that I wear proudly, but it’s not my only one!
I think it’s fair to want balance in your life. If I were suddenly asked to work full time and never see my family, I would rebel against it. I need to find the right balance – and I am still working that out.