I think today is the perfect day for me to share this, as its been exactly one year since I started my life at home with J. It’s quite a different sort of post than what you usually see here, as its quite personal and truth be told, I’m more than a little nervous to share this ranting diatribe.
Don’t worry, new recipe coming tomorrow.
I’ve been just assaulted.
No, I’m not saying that I deserved it. I didn’t say that I’d just been assaulted. I’m saying that I’ve been assaulted by the use of a dirty little four letter word- the word “just.”
Namely, the word “just” becomes dirty when its used in the following context:
“Oh, so you just stay at home?”
Ouch. I didn’t realize that word could cut me to the core like that.
The first instance where I was slammed with this innocent and supposedly innocuous word was before I actually even started being a stay at home/work at home mom. I was standing in the operating room at my old job, and we were all discussing my upcoming move. One of the surgical assistants said “So Jacqueline, are you going to work down there or are you just going to stay at home?”
The second instance occurred after I had been living down here for a few weeks. I had met someone new in the grocery store, and our sons were about the same age, which as any mom knows, means that you are socially obligated to try and be friends with this person. This was the third time we had hung out, and she was discussing how she was trying to go to go back to work full-time. And she says to me, “I could never just stay at home. My husband says that I would be so bored.”
The third time, which was probably the most incredulous that I’ve ever been in my entire life, occurred just a few weeks back, when I went to go get a much-needed haircut. The girl that I go to was way behind, and I had been forced to bring Jonathan with me for the first time. I had already waited about half an hour, and couldn’t wait anymore- I was cutting it close on J’s tolerance level. I asked if there was someone else there that could just do it. I have long hair, so it’s pretty hard to screw up the cut. There was a guy standing at the desk who said that he would cut it. We started chatting, and it turned out that he was from Indiana originally as well, AND was a Notre Dame fan. I told him that, having gone to school there, I was a Notre Dame fan as well. He looked at me and said, “boy, I bet your parents are SO happy that they sent you to Notre Dame so that you could just stay home and write a food blog.” I was so taken aback, it took me a few solid seconds to get my bearings (and for those that know me well, know that I am undeniably quick on my feet with a comeback). The fact that I was left entirely speechless should show you how the whole thing made me feel.
The final recent instance came via my mother- she had gone out to a social function and had an unfortunate run in with a total stranger while she was there. This gentleman started talking to her and my father, and as with all older retirees/semi retired people, they were discussing their “working lives.” This man, who had met my mother only a few minutes prior, turn to her and said, “so what did you do? Or did you just stay home and do nothing all day like my wife?” I feel as though it’s important to point out that he was still married to this woman, the fact that I find so unbelievable it makes me want to go and find out who she is and tell her that her husband said this about her.
Now, I’m not sure if people are actually just this awful, just this socially inept, or just that rude, but WOW.
So let me break it down for you. Not that I need to, or should ever have to, but here’s my “just”ification, most of which I dished back to the hairdresser:
“Well, actually, I had a extremely wonderful and successful job that I had to leave behind when we moved here so my husband could finish his medical training. I looked into doing the same thing here, but the opportunities that were available required me to work even more hours for less money. Considering I was already struggling with being away from my son on a daily basis, feeling like I missed so much of his first year, and being unbelievably stressed whenever I would get called in while I was “on call,” which was happening with increased frequency, and my husband was also on call or at work, we decided that I would stay at home and see how it went.”
“I supported both of us through four years of med school and 3 years of residency, which allowed him to work on paying off his student loans that total more than our mortgage. I bought us our first house. So. Yeah.”
The thing that I actually find interesting is how the gender opinions on the matter seem to have changed. In my generation, most of the outward judgment comes from other women, while the men are faster to say “I could never stay at home.” Dave, in fact, will say it quite often. It seems in older generations, its men that seem to carry the opinion that stay at home parents don’t do anything… or anything worthwhile, anyway. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again- I would never judge other parents for going out and working, so why should I be looked down upon for being at home? Hell, there are plenty of days where, frankly, I yearn for the ability to be gone from here for 8 hours, accomplish things the first time I set out to do them, and talk to other adults, most of whom won’t argue with me 12 times a day, and occasionally have someone tell me that I’m doing a good job.
So what is it? Is this another manifestation of the “mom wars” competition and condescension? Jealousy? The grass is always greener? Rudeness and disrespect?
Now that I’ve been at home for a full year, all I can say is “wow.” This new role is the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on in my life. I’ve never been in a position where I have such high highs, followed by moments of the most intense frustration. I have my patience challenged daily. I feel elated when I teach him something new, like his ABCs, or how to color, and like I have accomplished so little when he throws a tantrum over not being allowed to have doughnuts for dinner. I work my ass off all day, every day. I am often the first one up, and ALWAYS the last one to bed. There are days where I second guess my decision, as I think that many other people automatically write me off or assume I’m much less interesting. That has actually been the hardest part of all of this for me.
But trust me. There’s no “just” involved. Except for this: Like all parents, I’m “just” doing what works best for our little family at this moment in time.
I’m a little unsure as to why I felt compelled to write all of this down, as I am typically not one to get so personal, other than to share amusing anecdotes of the chaos that surrounds me on a daily basis. I almost felt as though I had to use my platform here to defend myself, which is unfortunate. I shouldn’t feel that way. I shouldn’t feel like I have to justify what I’m doing.
I suppose the biggest thing I’m saying is that I shouldn’t have to post this. I shouldn’t have to hear that I shouldn’t have gone to one of the best colleges in the country, because my toddler won’t care where I went to school (yes, that was actually said to me by a human being) or that I should hang my degree above the washing machine (said to someone I know). I’m not even posting this to make myself feel better. Its more to say, “WTF, people? Whats your dealio?”