I have a job with no name.
Those three call me Mom. My husband calls me his wife, and our congregation calls me a pastor’s wife, a job that is difficult to define. When people ask, I say I’m “Just” a Stay at Home Mom. The internet shortens this to SAHM.
I like to think of myself as the center of gravity around which everything and everyone in our family’s little galaxy orbits. I set the appointments and buy the groceries and return the clean clothes to their drawers. I make sure the toilet paper roll is full and the dishwasher is empty. I declare it to be nap time and lunch time and movie time, and make it so.
Before I quit teaching last fall, I wondered what it would be like to take on this new job. I wasn’t sure I was qualified. I’m still not. But I knew our family needed me at home.
To be clear, I think we pulled off the two working parents thing pretty well. Paul and I work well as a team. I make dinner and he cleans it up. I do bath time and he does bed time. On nights when I couldn’t be at home, he needed no instructions from me. On nights when he couldn’t be at home, I could handle it all alone. We didn’t fight. We functioned. But we were all so tired. And I was feeling very fragile, like I had been spread out so paper thin that I was constantly at risk of being torn.
For the last 6 months I’ve been struggling to come up with a way to explain what it feels like to become a stay at home mom after being a working wife and mom for so long. I’ve decided it sort of feels like going to the beach wearing my swimsuit.
Because for the last 7 years, I’ve been trying to get up every day and dress for two worlds–one underwater and one on the land. Every night I would come home from my job on dry land and realize I had to (metaphorically) roll up my pant legs while I waded in to my duties at home. I tried to go only as deep as I could without getting wet. I tried to straddle the two worlds, but on a day to day basis I had to be more invested in my teaching. I felt like instead of enjoying my time at home, I was just doing what I had to do to survive the evenings so I could get back to work after the kids went to bed. Parenting felt really stressful because I was always trying to keep myself dry.
Now, I feel like I wake up every morning and just put on my swimsuit. It’s okay to splash around and get a little messy because I’m dressed for it. Go ahead and hand me a baby. I’m already in the water and I don’t mind getting a little more wet.
I borrowed this idea from Jim Gaffigan, who always makes me laugh when he says:
(I haven’t had a fourth kid, but I’ve made it to three and it does feel a little like being in over your head in the water. Then adding a baby.)
Perhaps like I was a year ago you’re wondering: Should I be a stay at home mom? Will I regret it? What will I do all day?
I can’t answer this for anyone else, but I can answer it for me. I have no regrets–I can always dry off and join the working world again later. For now it is nice to be swimming.