Give me a poop-stained tee shirt any day.

7 Apr

Know how they say “the grass is always greener on the other side?

Sometimes, it really is.

I’m back to work now. My brief tenure as a stay-at-home-mother has ended, and I’m once again a government drone. Instead of cleaning the crap that comes out of my daughter’s diaper, I have to clean the crap that comes out of students’ mouths.

I know, I know: I signed up for this job. I went to school to do this, not once, but twice. I took four different certification exams for the privilege of teaching other people’s children. In this economy, I should be grateful I even have a job.

But here’s what I’ve learned from my experiences as a Working Mother and a Stay at Home Mom: the “SAHMs,” as we’ll now refer to them, have it better.

Wait! Wait! Before you condemn me and leave venomous comments on the post, read on.

Both sides of The Great Motherhood Divide have their benefits and struggles. I know this. I’m not diluted, and I lost my rose-tinted world in the pool at Frankenfurter’s house.

Mothers who stay at home have zero breaks and no days off. It is a literal 24/7 job. SAHMs exist in a veritable “Groundhog’s Day” of cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, fighting for naps, more cooking, more cleaning, erranding, routines, discipline, and then more cleaning. Staying at home often means making financial and material sacrifices. Fewer vacations, one-car families, fewer luxuries, and thinner bank accounts are realities for many SAHMs. People disparage the job and assume you just sit at home with your feet in Epsom salt. Stay at Home Mothers get little to no credit for their hard work.

Working mothers have to say goodbye to their child(ren) for the bulk of the day. They often miss milestones. They have to trust relatives or strangers at a day care to watch their kids and hope these other people don’t fuck them up. Even if they’re in a meeting where their attention is required, their minds are still on their kid’s diaper rash or slight fever, and they cannot give the same 110% to the job they were once able to.

But here’s where SAHMs win; here’s why, regardless of your personal feelings or the argument you may present, SAHMs have it better: they do for love.

As someone who spends her days serving people she does not love, I can honestly say I preferred the headaches of full-time motherhood to those of the working adult. I love my child. No matter how frustrating her nap schedule became, or how frequently I found Cheerios cemented to the ceiling, I was caring for the most important person in the world. Scrubbing the crap out of a watermelon-stained shirt may have been more difficult than explaining the nuances of Oedipus Rex to a teenager, but the results benefitted the love of my life. The vomit in my hair was lovingly placed there by my baby. The run-away poop on my arm from a diaper blow out was deposited by my favorite person. Most of the dishes I washed until my cuticles bled were a result of feeding my child. To me, that is significantly more rewarding than helping a teenager apply to college any day.

There are aspects of my job I like. When 20 year old, 200-pound young men cry upon learning I’ve returned to teach them, I melt a little. Creating that “spark;” that “epiphany” moment when the student finally understands a concept that previously eluded him is as professionally rewarding as it gets. The reality of my situation is that I’m going to be in the workforce for quite some time. I have spent a lot of money and energy on advancing my credentials, and I have to continue using them. Our financial situation requires that I remain employed. Because of my teaching assignment, I’m among the highest-paid teachers in my area; if I were to leave, there’s no way I’d be able to find another job elsewhere (or at a different time) that could match my current salary. I’m going to continue donning high heels and liquid eyeliner for quite some time. I’m at peace with this.

My only wish is for those of you who have the privilege of staying home with your children to know how truly “good” you have it.

6 Responses to “Give me a poop-stained tee shirt any day.”

  1. Betsy Andrews Etchart April 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Great post. Thanks for this reminder. I think of this every day as I contemplate my imminent return to the Other Work Force–the one outside the home. Studies have shown that people will work for themselves for less money because of the higher satisfaction rate, and motherhood is the ultimate self-employment (even though we don’t get paid). A recent study done in the UK showed that one upside to a mom being in the Other Work Force is that kids–especially daughters–benefit, in the long run, from having a mother who has her own career–she sees her mother earning money and validated in the eyes of society and fulfilled in (and frustrated, of course) in a way that SAHMs unfortunately aren’t. So you’re being a good role model for your daughter!

    • daisyandviolet April 7, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

      We’ll agree to disagree on the whole “SAHM’s aren’t fulfilled” thing, and that girls with working moms will be better off than those with SAHM’s. I’ve done both, and I feel quite validated and fulfilled being with my kids. I don’t need a paycheck to show my girls what a good mother is. I believe that as long as your daughter sees you as a strong woman, at home or in the workforce, you’re doing your job.

      Thank you for commenting. 🙂


      • daisyandviolet April 8, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

        My mother was a stay-at-home mom my entire childhood (and some of that was Work at Home, too.) By the age of 27, I have a mortgage, a Master’s degree, a husband, a baby, and a well-respected career. I don’t think her lack of an outside-the-house-job inhibited my own personal success.

    • daisyandviolet April 7, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

      My objective is to be a SAHM in the not-so-near-future. This experience will serve as a great reminder when I’m whining about potty training or whatever I’m dealing with at that time. Thank you for reading and commenting!

      • NehaMendirattaKhullar April 8, 2012 at 4:53 am #

        Awww! How cleverly have you complemented all the stay at home mothers, including myself. You seem to have pressed my ‘refresh’ button, which somehow had refused to work in the past several days. Thank you, both!

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