Defining “Work”

15. Eavesdropper: Create a poem, short story, or journal entry about a conversation you’ve overheard.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

This morning, while my boys were having their breakfast, I overheard the following conversation:

“Papá went to work.”
“And mamá went to work.”
“What? Mamá doesn’t work!” (Laughter.)
“[Giggles] Mamá doesn’t work, yeah!”
“Mamá doesn’t do any work!”
“No, mama doesn’t do any work!”

Uproarious laughter. As if they had said something extremely witty.

I had been slicing an orange and I appeared (somewhat menacingly) next to them at the table, orange and knife in hand.

The dark, glowering look on my face (paired, perhaps, with the knife) must have been enough to tell them that Mamá was not happy, because they immediately fell silent.

“Let me make one thing very clear,” I said through clenched teeth. “Mamá does work. She may not get paid. She may not leave the house. But let me assure you that your mother does, in fact, work.”

Awed silence.

Then, a tentative question. “But Mamá… What work do you do?”

What work do I do? What work does any homemaker do? The list of the tedious, thankless jobs I do ran through my head. Scheduling, meal planning, shopping, cooking, tidying, cleaning, washing, folding, ironing (occasionally), wrangling, finding every lost item in the house, activity planning and coordinating, and so many, many more.

So in answer to my son’s infuriating question, I said, “I am CEO, operations director, head chef, chief medical officer, and various other positions, all in the home.”

Puzzlement. I added, “If anyone asks you what your mother does for work, you can tell them, ‘She works in the home.’”

Another little voice piped up. “Mamá, you’re not going to poke me?”

I looked at my younger son in confusion. Then I remembered the knife. I dropped my hand to my side.

“No, of course not my love.” Sweet smiles spread across their faces.

As I went back to slicing my orange, I couldn’t help but feel that I had inadequately addressed the situation. How does a homemaking mother teach her male children to value and appreciate what she does? How do I help them understand that what I do is not to be taken for granted?

How do I teach them not to assume that every mother does what I do? Not to assume that I work at home because I am a mother?

Heavy questions. I sighed. “Just another Thursday morning,” I thought to myself.

Lockdown Mode

It’s official! Our governor has joined many in imposing a stay-at-home order.

Other than grocery shopping, medical care, going to essential jobs or getting exercise, we have to stay inside!

UNTIL JUNE THE TENTH.

June 10th. JUNE TENTH.

That is… Let me see… MORE THAN TEN WEEKS FROM NOW.

That is just mind-boggling. We’ve already been home for two weeks, and just the thought of not being able to leave the house for any extended purpose for that long is enough to set me nervously twitching.

What can I say that you don’t already know?

This is HARD. This is BORING. It’s CONFINING. It’s ANXIETY-PROVOKING.

It’s so many things in ALL CAPS.

Learning to live with it

This situation has brought forward so many insecurities I had about myself as a mother, a spouse, a housekeeper, a knitter… Even as a reader.

(Yes, you can be insecure about your reading skills, choices, tastes…)

I’ve had a lot of time to look long and hard at my insecurities. And as I look at them, they gradually lose some of their frightening power. It’s like I’m getting to know them all, one by one.

I’m becoming more aware of insecurities I didn’t know I had, and little by little coming to understand them.

That’s not to say I’ll come out of social distancing cured of all my ills and ready to take on the world like She-Ra.

Though I can still dream…

But perhaps this time in social isolation will help me to better accept my insecurities and understand how they play on me.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll figure out how to face one or two of them.

back-to-school-feeling

That Back-to-School Feeling

Ah yes indeed, there’s a nip in the air and the days are shorter. I’ve got that back to school feeling!

There’s always a wistful feeling in September. Summer is over, it’s getting colder, and the year is winding down. But it’s also a time for a fresh start.

Figuring Things Out

Since my mother died, I have learned a lot. Without her to motivate me and encourage me, I have found myself coasting somewhat aimlessly through life.

As you may surmise from other articles I have written, I enjoy being a mom. My Bug and my Bear are delightful people, but as children they are not the most intellectually stimulating folks I know.

It’s taken me a while, and I’ve had to beat down some guilty feelings about this, but I have come to the conclusion that I am not meant to be a stay at home mom.

I don’t get much satisfaction from running the household. I’m not much interested in cooking (baking is another story, and my waistline is paying for that). I get bored and lonely being at home all day.

I need to get back to work. The only problem? It’s so much work getting back to work.

Lighting the Fire (under my butt)

After more than 4 years of either working very little or not at all, it’s not easy to find the energy required to get back to work.

Job hunting is a tiring, discouraging and slow business. Alternatively, building up my freelance business has its own challenges. I have to go out and look for clients, market myself, and throw in lots of time and effort.

It is so much easier, once the boys are out of the house and I’m on my own, to slip into habits of inaction or switch on autopilot. Laundry, meal planning and prep, cleaning, grocery shopping… All these things need to be done anyway, and they’re easier to do than job hunting.

But they’re driving me mad.

So I’m Heading Back to School

My long summer holiday is over. It’s time to gather my qualifications, my experience and my talents, and actually do something with them.

I’m going by baby steps here. As my little Bear goes through his “Eingewöhnung” process at daycare (a four-week period of settling into daycare routine), so must I go through my Eingewöhnung of getting back to school, and gradually increase my working time as the Bear increases his time away at daycare.

Hard to do it Without Mom

Mom didn’t let me be lazy. She would offer advice and motivation over FaceTime, or show up at my home to take over with childcare so that I could do what I needed to do to get back to work. She rode in like the cavalry to rescue me from inertia and idleness.

It’s hard to find the same motivation to do it without her. But now that the umbilical cord has been so definitively and abruptly cut, I’ve got to.

For my sake, and for my family’s health and happiness, I need to figure out how to push myself to do my best, with only the echoes of my mother’s voice to nudge me along.

The Guilt of a Stay-at-Home (Expectant) Mom

Mom_guiltYou’ve heard it before: working moms feel guilty they’re not spending enough time with their kids. But did you know that stay at home moms share that guilt? And what about stay at home EXPECTANT moms? Yeah. The guilt of a stay at home mom is pervasive.

I finished a contract position, went on holiday, and came back pregnant. Parental leave in Canada can last for up to a year. By the time I was showing, I knew that no would-be employer would be willing to hire me only to have to find a replacement for me six months later.

And you know what? I was okay with that.

I was alright with taking some time to figure things out, do a little training on my own at home, some freelance work, and get ready to welcome this little person into our lives.

It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

That’s when guilt strikes.

It’s like being a woman is a black and white thing. You’re a mother or you’re not. You’re working or you’re not. You’re staying at home with the kids or you’re not.

No matter what decision we make, we’re judged for it. We’re judged by society, by other women, and, most devastatingly, by ourselves.

“I should be at work. I should be contributing. I should be saving money. I should be a productive member of society. I shouldn’t leach off my Chico…”

“I have a master’s degree. I should be using it.”

Those are the kinds of thoughts that enter my head some days. The days when my to-do list seems too long. Somehow I manage to spend hours doing something else entirely, and I ask myself how on earth I managed to get anything done while I was working.

Then I remember the money my parents paid for my university education, and the money I invested in my master’s degree. Has that all been wasted? Why did I take an MA if it wasn’t to use it in a profession? What am I doing with my mind, my talents, and my time?

So what am I doing? Am I just lazy?

No. I’m not lying around all day eating bonbons (though, I have to confess, I have been baking a bit more since being unemployed…).

SAHMHow to get out of the funk

When I’m on the verge of tears because I’m feeling like a total waste of space, it’s time to sit down and think about what I AM doing, rather than what I’m NOT doing.

I am: Learning new skills like knitting and sewing.

I am: Reading incredible books in three different languages.

I am: Keeping up-to-date on current events, news in my industry, and listening, watching and reading news analysis from various media sources.

I am: Making an effort to keep writing, no matter how sporadically, and keep that creative muscle in shape.

It may not sound like much, and if I’m honest I’m still judging myself pretty harshly for being so seemingly idle (and for still hiring a cleaning lady).

You gotta let go of the guilt.

If I don’t let go of it now, it will eat me up when this baby arrives. Because if I feel unproductive now, just wait until all I have time to do is change diapers, feed, and devote all my attention to a tiny little person. You can bet we’ll be caught without any milk in the fridge on a regular basis when that happens.

This image isn't entirely relevant, but I loved it.
This image isn’t entirely relevant, but I loved it.

No matter what decision you make when it comes to raising your children (or, in my case, making your children), the important thing is to make it freely and with understanding. Read about other women’s experiences and ask yourself how you would feel in their situations.

Understand what you’re getting into, and then take steps to make sure that you continue to push yourself in ways, no matter how small, that will keep your body and your mind open and in shape.

And when people raise their eyebrows after you’ve answered the “What do you do?” question? Well, what can I say? Haters gonna hate. Own it. And tell yourself that in some, small way, they’re probably jealous of you.

Give yourself an intellectual challenge.

The pitfall about staying at home is the lethargy and inactivity you can slip into (unless, of course, you are an exceptionally motivated person). Keep yourself engaged. Keep writing, keep reading, keep listening and searching. Go out and meet people, or learn something new.

Whatever it is, do it to ward off the guilt. Because our children, especially our daughters, need to grow up free from the unreasonable expectations of perfection that society puts on us that cause this guilt.

And most of all because all any of us can really do is our best.