A few days ago, Sean walked through the door after work and announced “I know exactly what you should blog about next! Democrats don’t believe that stay-at-home moms work hard!” Of course he was talking about the recent comment made by Hilary Rosen about Ann Romney, and how she “never worked a day in her life”, even though she raised 5 children.
Disclaimer: I live in a house divided. My husband is a Republican, and I am a Democrat. I believe that in order to make our country better we need to start with a few minor details, like making sure that all of us have the right to love and marry whomever we choose. You know, basic civil rights are kinda important. And my husband believes that we should keep all of our money. Maybe it’s not as simple as that. But it makes for some
great arguments friendly debates. And we’d make an excellent reality TV show. Consider yourself warned….
I can’t be fooled. Hilary Rosen isn’t suddenly the spokesperson for all Democratic women. And even if she was, that’s not what she MEANT. That’s not what she MEANT, people! You know it, and I know it, and you bet your morning coffee served in a mug at your kitchen counter while your five kids bicker about what cereal to eat that Ann Romney knows it too.
Hilary Rosen didn’t mean that my life isn’t hard. She wasn’t trying to say that raising a child isn’t work. What she meant to say (and I didn’t ask her personally, but this is my guess) is that women who work outside of the home have different issues and concerns than women who work INside the home.
My concern this morning? How on earth did my (almost) three year old decide that it was a good idea to attach a toy wrench to one of the (fake) blades on his (fake) mixer, and turn it on until the wrench spun around and around and finally flew off?
And what idiot decides to make a (fake) mixer for kids anyway? With blades (?!) that spin around at high speeds?
My life is hard, y’all. Raising a child is serious business. VERY serious business. In addition to molding a human being from a tiny blob of squalling newborn baby, I have to change 10 diapers every damn day. (No, I’m not kidding). Not only do I spend countless hours teaching my toddler how to be kind, use his manners, ask for what he needs without yelling (“But I waaaant to sqweam!” he screams) and how to not drink bath water that he has already peed in, I have to put up with other women constantly asking me “Do you work?”
I cut sandwiches into shapes and kiss boo-boos to make them feel better. I lie on the floor while my kid calls “Fireman Sam” and tries to rescue me. I watch Caillou and the Cars Movie over and over and over. I dream up educational activities that involve play-dough and colored pencils, and then watch as my little student throws everything on the floor and steps on it when I turn my back for 60 seconds to start dinner. Which I’m responsible for making. Because my husband works. And I don’t.
You know what?
I don’t work.
I don’t. I stay home. Sometimes in my pajamas. Watching my child grow from the baby that I cheered on when he rolled over for the first time, to the toddler that I clapped for when he finally learned to hit a golf ball….even if his swing looks a lot like his Daddy’s….
Sitting in the backyard watching Max golf isn’t work. It’s a privilege. Is it hard? Of course. Don’t get me wrong, of all people, I’m the first one to say that mothering is HARD WORK. Driving around for hours every night with a sick kid who didn’t sleep was hard work. Cleaning vomit out of a carseat was hard work. Struggling through post-partum sadness while figuring out how the hell to get milk to come out of my boobs while simultaneously bouncing with my baby on an exercise ball because it was the only thing that made him stop crying for 5 minutes, was hard work. Loving your child so much that your heart is in pain when you think about them ever leaving your side, is hard work. Raising a little boy so that he will be a GOOD MAN, that is hard, constant, challenging work. But it is also a privilege that many moms are afraid to admit. When I offer Max a choice of organic strawberries or home-made muffins for snack, that is a privilege. When I take Max to the pediatrician that my husband’s employer pays for, that is a privilege. When he gets medical care from one of the leading Children’s Hospitals in the WORLD, that is a privilege. When I can afford an amazing Nanny to watch him on a Saturday night so I can re-connect with my husband, that is a privilege. When Max gets to socialize with other children at preschool, or a gymnastics class, or at our brand new neighborhood park that is safe from things like gang violence and drug syringes, that is a privilege. The fact that I can even write about my life on this blog, is a privilege.
Why? Because there are so many moms out there who are WORKING their asses off to take care of their children. Not the kind of work that I’m doing. The kind where they get up before the sun rises and walk in the biting cold to the bus stop. The kind of work where they clean other people’s houses and watch other people’s kids. The kind of work where they piece their tips together to buy used winter jackets for their children and use food stamps to supplement the crappy free lunch that the elementary school provides. Moms who fight to understand their kid’s homework because it’s not in their native language. Moms who care for more than one kid, with no partner and no support system. It is a different kind of work. The kind that Hilary Rosen was talking about so stop pretending that you’re offended and bitching about it at your privileged playgroups and your privileged mommy websites for crying out loud
When I was in my early 20’s I attended a school meeting with one of the moms that I was counseling. Her son was 7, and he was due for a review of the IEP that governed how he would be taught in his special education classroom. I sat next to his 25 year old mother and acted as her advocate, as she defended her son’s right to extra support services. She had never finished high school. Her son was one of four children, all from different fathers. She was living in a shelter and surviving on the crappy donations that strangers dropped off. As the meeting progressed, I was blown away with the power of her love for that boy. It was nearing 5 o’clock, and she had almost gotten everything that she wanted out of the meeting. But we had a few important things left. When the principal asked if we could keep going instead of postponing the rest for another day, I eagerly shouted out “Oh of course! Yes!” After all, things were really in my client’s favor at this point. “Miss Kim” the mama said, and glared at me. “You might have all the time in the world, but I have three other kids at home who need dinner, and baths, and bedtime stories. I still need to take the bus to the grocery store, go home and cook, help with homework, and sit in the laundromat for an hour waiting for my last load of wash. You might have time to stay, but I have work to do.”
It was the first time I had truly been confronted with my privilege.
She was right. At 24, I didn’t have a husband or children to care for. My biggest worry at that point was whether or not I’d make it home in time to watch The Bachelor with my Roomie. And who would pick up dinner from Fiesta Taco.
It occurred to me that this mothering stuff was hard work. And it was even harder if you didn’t have the resources that so many families do. A car to carry your groceries in. A washer and dryer in your garage so that you can do laundry while watching your children play. An extra hour at night to do whatever the heck you want while your husband takes care of paying the bills and taking the trash out.
I’m not mad at Hilary Rosen, because she wasn’t talking about me. And let’s be fair, she wasn’t even talking about Ann Romney. She was talking about all of the moms who do what Ann and I do, AND THEN DRIVE TO WORK EVERY DAY.
I’ll be the first one to admit that some days I feel like I’m not tough enough for this gig. When it’s 4 pm and my eyes are glazing over because you can only build so many lego towers and my son was up at 6 am (and did I mention he doesn’t exactly nap?), I do find myself dreaming sometimes about wearing cute Editor pants and my trendy pink blazer and stilettos and
walking to Starbucks with my colleagues having a business meeting. I miss the adrenaline rush of working for the police department, and the energizing buzz of a great Q&A session after teaching a workshop for adoptive parents. I miss having a nice office that was within walking distance to the best French cafe in San Francisco. I miss coming up with great ideas that don’t involve dinosaurs and spaceships, and laughing with friends over happy hour cocktails about our bosses and our dreams.
Then I remember that every day I spent sitting at my desk, checking my email,
reading People.com working my ass off, I was dreaming of having a family. I was patting my expectant belly and sending my great expectations to the little boy who was growing inside of me. I was looking longingly at the mommies pushing their strollers down Fillmore, the ones who were cuddling their babies while they grabbed a cup of coffee and walked right back into the sunshine….at 1 pm on a Wednesday. Every day, I prayed so hard that I could ditch my pencil skirts for yoga pants and my smart black work purse for a diaper bag. I would walk back to my office with my heels clicking like typewriter keys against the sidewalk, and daydream about what my toddler would say to me as we walked together hand in hand. I wanted more than anything to be a mom, and this little boy who blessed our family is even sweeter than I ever imagined he would be. It is my privilege to mother him, from home.
The view from here is gorgeous y’all. And it’s the easiest work I’ve ever done.