Monday, October 18, 2010

WAHM Bam, Thank You, Ma'am

Millie writes:

I've been a little bummed since I started writing professionally. Don't get me wrong, I am still amazed every single day that someone is willing to pay me actual money to write things down. In this economy and with the job market being what it is in our part of the world, I feel extremely lucky; there's also the little, internal “WHOA!” moment when someone asks me the “What do you do” question and I can say casually, “I'm a writer.”

It's a change, because I've identified myself as a Stay-at-Home-Mom for the last quarter of a century. Being a mom/ housewife was my vocation and my avocation, too. I am not one of those women who was doing her duty by her children until she could re-join the workforce; that was my career. I loved it and I was very good at it. Of course, as with any job there were parts of it I didn't like much; I hate cleaning the bathtub, dusting is boring, and nobody likes back-chat. Still, I found it a tremendous creative outlet and was very, very fond of my co-workers.

Now that is over.

Oh, I'm still at home. The phone is nearby so I can come to the rescue in an emergency, I'm here to answer the doorbell and nag people to do their homework. There's a difference, though. The dust doesn't get polished away every day, it builds up for a week until I give it a swipe with a hand towel on my way to do something else. There's a lot more pizza and stir-fry and a lot less Beef Stroganoff and homemade yogurt. I didn't do anything at all in the garden this year (though the kids kept it weeded) and there are still some decorations up from the high school drama cast party we hosted last spring. After-school cookies are far more apt to come from a package than from the oven, these days.

This wasn't how I pictured my kids-at-home years finishing up. There were supposed to be a few more hand-sewn prom dresses, a few more family vacations, a lot more outings to chat one-on-one over a milkshake before I had to turn in my badge for good.

When that pink slip showed up in our wage-earner's envelope, however, “what I'd pictured” was no longer relevant. What was relevant was that I had a skill that could make the difference between not-quite-making-it on unemployment and Coasting By. I leaped gladly into the breach, grateful that there was something concrete I could do.

Still, there was that small, small part of me that wept, “Now I'm not a SAHM any more!” - that part of me that misses the seasonal decorating, the home-cooked dinners, the spotless house.

Then I realized something: I haven't lost my identity after all, it's only morphed a bit. I've graduated from SAHM to WAHM. Sure, most days everything gets short-changed except the work and the family; the kids and Lance have to pick up more slack than I would like, and I imagine the volunteer coordinator at the high school wonders if Sassy and Jack even have parents. Instead of dropping into bed each night with the feeling of exhausted satisfaction, I drop into bed each morning with the feeling that I've been hit repeatedly with a six-foot 2x4 and the conviction that they should abbreviate Work-At-Home-Mom as WHAM instead of WAHM.

My “job description” still has an “M” for “Mom” in it, though . . . so I think we'll all survive.

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