Ramblings of a Working Mom
By: Shannon Ralph
I have discovered something mildly disturbing about myself this week. Something I did not expect. Something I am not sure how to process. Here it is…I am a male chauvinist pig. Okay, actually, that is biologically impossible. Rather, I am a female chauvinist pig. I always considered myself a raging feminist. But now…I am not so sure. And I don’t know how to handle this new self-enlightenment.
It all began when Ruanita ironed my shirts. I came home from work one day last week to an announcement from Ruanita that she had ironed seventeen of my shirts that day. Seventeen?! These are shirts that I have simply been avoiding wearing to work because they needed to be ironed and I simply had neither the time nor the inclination to lug out the old ironing board. But Ruanita, without being asked to do so, ironed my shirts. When I asked her why, she responded, “I noticed you hadn’t been wearing them, so I ironed them for you so you can wear them to work.”
Ruanita’s deranged ironing spree got me thinking. It was a lovely gesture and one that I greatly appreciated. I began to think about all of the other things Ruanita does while I am away at work. The dishwasher is loaded and emptied every day. The laundry is all washed and neatly put away (though she still has no clue when it comes to our socks versus Lucas’ socks or Sophie’s jeans versus Nicky’s jeans, but I can forgive her that small blunder). The children are fed and happy. She turns off the television and limits their computer screen time. My carpets are vacuumed. My children go to the library and the park. My dog gets walked every day.
When I was a part-time stay-at-home mom, I absolutely sucked. If I made it to the end of the day and no one had inflicted bodily harm on anyone, I considered the day a success. Laundry sat in piles taller than me. We simply grabbed dishes from the dishwasher when we needed them. I did not, and still do not, know how to turn on the vacuum cleaner. The kids watched television and played video games and stared at the computer screen all afternoon. I was an utter failure as a stay-at-home-mom.
As a working woman, however, I rock. There is something inherently thrilling about putting on nice clothes and shlubbing off to the office every morning. I love suit coats. I love checking email at my desk while sipping my morning coffee. I love meetings and conference calls. I adore being part of work groups and committees. I am happy lugging around a laptop all day. I love having lunch with other adults. I even like working against deadlines and feeling under the gun. I simply enjoy working. It makes me happy. My desk is littered with pictures of my children that I stare at all day. I do not, however, feel a longing to be home with them. Does that make me a bad mom? Though I love coming home to their smiling faces in the evening, I am content to have them in Ruanita’s safe keeping during the day.
So what does this say about me? I love being married to a housewife. Not being one. I love that Ruanita takes care of our home. I love that I walk into the house in the evening to the smell of candles burning and the sound of kids’ laughter and sight of smiling faces running toward me to tell me about their day. If Ruanita had a glass of wine and some slippers ready and waiting for me, my life would be damn near perfect. Is that a horribly chauvinistic thought or what?!
I love living with a stay-at-home mom, but would probably have to fight the urge every day to flush my head down the toilet if I were one. Don’t get me wrong. I still cook dinner every night and do homework with the kids. I don’t come home and plant myself on the couch and veg out. But I certainly don’t do as much around the house as Ruanita does.
What kind of mother happily leaves her children to head off to work every day? What kind of mother would prefer working late to complete a project rather than going home to her family? I have nothing but complete respect and adoration for stay-at-home moms. These women who can be loving and nurturing 24/7 amaze me. I simply do not have it in me. I think working makes me a better mom than I would be otherwise. A more patient mom. A more appreciative mom. I wish I could be the hands-on, 24/7, pearl-wearing, cookie-baking mom of the Leave It to Beaver era. Alas, I cannot.
Luckily for me, however, I can live with one.