August 30, 2004

The decision that had to be made.

It happened sometime during the elementary school years, the years where some mothers bring cupcakes to class to celebrate a birthday, where parents often accompany their children on field trips to museums or the zoo. “Mom, why aren’t you in the PTA?”

“Because some Moms have to work,” my Mom said to me. It wasn’t exactly an explanatory tone, but a tone normally used to end a discussion. I didn’t pester her; my Mom had worked for my entire life and I didn’t plan on her quitting her job as a nurse so she could bring pink iced cupcakes to my class come November.

In a family of constant underachievers, I have always considered my Mother a standout. Although she started out as a registered nurse, she quickly climbed the ranks until she became a nurse practitioner. She was a career mom in the strongest sense, having been absent for three days due to work while I sat at home with an untreated broken wrist.

“I raised you, you know,” said my Grandma. “I raised all of you.”

In fact, you could say that I never respected the Stay-At-Home-Mom. I was never snotty or rude to them but secretly I felt that they squandered their lives away instead of doing something valuable to society. So what if they made cupcakes? My Mom could pump your stomach when you overdosed on painkillers.

“I’ll be gone for three weeks,” said my Mom. “You’ll be staying with the neighbor.”

So when it came time for me to go to college and choose a career, the thought of staying at home with a baby did not cross my mind. Instead, I arrived at Texas A&M University with an intended major in meteorology, only to discover at my last-minute transfer orientation (Welcome to A&M! Would you like us to use lube as we screw you up the butt?) that they actually expected you to take both math and science courses in order to obtain that degree. What? Math? Science? Hello, can’t I just look at the sky and say “Here comes that tornader!” No, that’s not a typo. Tornader is just so much more fun to say than “tornado.” Try it, you won’t be disappointed.

“You should consider a career in writing,” a friend tells me. “I love to read anything you write.”

In order for a typical student to receive a transfer to a different school in the University, said student must spend a semester there and then apply to the school. However, I quickly learned upon meeting my advisor that the phrase “I can’t do math to save my life and I will fail out if left here” is a good way to have said advisor shuffling you to the Dean’s office so they can get you out of there before you taint their halls with your liberal arts mind.

“Perhaps you should consider a different college,” my high school math teacher said. “I don’t think you’ll be able to get in there.”

I did graduate. With an actual degree and a full ride scholarship in journalism for my senior year. Yes, you stupid nay Sayers. I had a scholarship Because I Could Write. The rest is history. I get a job, go to work from eight to four and quickly realize how much I hate sitting behind a desk.

“You’re one of the best journalism students we have,” my advisor tells me. “I’m nominating you for a scholarship.”

As of July 12, 2004, I find myself with a new title: Stay-at-home-Mom. Domestic Goddess. Caretaker of the Wee-One. I love getting to spend time with my daughter, learning little tidbits of information about her that I can later dispense to any random stranger.

“I’m glad you’re staying home,” my Mom told me. “It is such an important job.”

However much I love my daughter, I find myself in mourning for something that is no longer. I now sit at home every day, I know what is on Oprah and I wipe more butts than should be allowed by law. While I adjust to this new life, I find myself envying my friends and the exciting things happening in their lives. Some are my age and bringing in $60K a year. Others are preparing for grad school and cross-country moves to exciting cities. Still, some have well-paying jobs and fancy new cars that definitely do not have dents in the door or major cracks in the windshield.

“I just paid $700 for football tickets,” she said. “I put them on my credit card.”

I love my husband and daughter. Love them more than anyone could ever know. I’m happy to have them and would give up anything to keep them in my life. At the same time, however, I find myself mourning for that which is no more. Grad school is out of the question with a newborn. I feel burned out from journalism and I have no desire to go back to a desk job.

“She’s just a bad writer,” says the anonymous internet person.

Sometimes I wonder why women who choose to stay at home don’t get a better compensation. If I had a job and I did a good job, I would be rewarded with a higher paycheck, perhaps a corner office or a glowing recommendation. Now I’m rewarded with a pair of cloth shorts that has breast milk, afterbirth blood spots and a chocolate chip smear on them. Even though at 24, I’m having a quarter life crisis, I do not want to leave my daughter. I may have to wipe her ass instead of kissing it, but she is a much better coworker than I could imagine.

“Think of what we could afford with two incomes,” he mused.

It doesn’t seem to matter what I do. The topic of staying home verses working is such a hot one that it brings the most mundane soccer mom’s claws out on any parenting message board. Truth be told, I don’t want to work. Why should I, considering I don’t know what I want to do and I prefer to stay with my baby. I’ve had the fights, I know how high the stakes and emotions run.

“You’re just being selfish,” she said to me. “You would rather have a nice life than take care of your daughter.”

As time goes on, I’m sure the tears will stop as I learn what is in store for this little family of three. I’m sure watching my daughter learn to walk will make me feel a lot happier than a “good job” said in passing from a boss who doesn’t stop for more than two seconds on his way to the bathroom.

Posted by Rachel at 10:29 PM | Comments (12)