As I’m writing this post, Evie is asking me if we can go outside and play with her friend Nate. I have told her no, that Mommy has some writing to do. A few months ago, we would’ve already been outside.
My biggest worry about taking Evie out of daycare and moving to a place where we knew no one was that Evie wouldn’t have the constant social interaction she’d had in the past. In an effort to ease the transition for her, I joined a mom’s group and began talking to total strangers with kids. I became sort of obsessive about this. One poor woman we met in the park was forced to give me her cell phone number after I saw that Evie liked playing with her girls. I bet she was so upset the random woman with the redneck accent who spent a good 15 minutes trying to wrangle her own poopy-pantsed daughter never called to schedule a playdate. I bet her husband was upset, too.
I wanted to make sure that Evie had a lot of friends, that she never for one moment felt lonely. I also wanted to make sure she was constantly busy, that she never felt bored. Over the summer, we attended a moms’ group activity several times a week, went to parks, went to the pool, went to the beach, went to the liberry, went to the movies, went to the mall, went, went, went. I had something special planned for Evie every day. On the odd day we did stay home, we played with her doll house, watched every Disney movie at least once, danced, cooked, played hide and seek and printed off enough coloring pages from the Internets to wallpaper our house. Evie and Bored or Lonely had little to no acquaintance with each other.
Plus, I was a brand-spanking new stay-at-home mom who had finally landed her dream job and who had a whole new world to discover. I think a part of me also was afraid that if I didn’t spend every single minute all up in Evie’s grill, the gods of stay-at-homeness would deem me unappreciative and send me back to work.
Then, preschool started. After I dropped Evie off at her first day of preschool, I for realsies drove aimlessly around Clearwater, looking for something to do and wondering what Evie was doing. I missed her. After I dropped her off at the second day, I went back home, drank a second cup of coffee, did some laundry, cleaned a little and checked my email. I kept my eye on the clock so I wouldn’t be late to pick her up. By the end of Evie’s second or third week of preschool, I looked forward to my three hours alone in the morning three days a week. And, as is required by me as a mom, I felt guilty about it.
Then I thought about my schedule as a stay-at-home mom. My day begins at 7:30 in the morning and ends around 9 at night. I work seven days a week, 365 days a year. My boss doesn’t give me sick days, vacation days, and she gets very perturbed when I’m late. I also am allowed no privacy in the bathroom or to have anything to eat or drink all to myself. Finally, I’m always on call to manage wet beds, bad dreams and middle of the night onsets of stomach flu (I actually managed that last one as a working mom, but I’m expecting many repeat incidents).
All you working moms are rolling your eyes at me now. “Try doing ALL of that AND working outside the home, sister,” you’re thinking. Dudes, I know. I did it for three years. I know how hard it is. It’s exhausting, never ending and there’s never enough time for…anything, really. But, see, the thing is, as a working mom, when I did have some time to relax or popped in a movie for Evie to watch instead of playing Barbies, I felt very little guilt about it. I was a working mom. Everyone knows a working mom deserves any free time she can find.
Being a stay-at-mom is different. Because I don’t earn a salary, I feel like time I spend during the day on anything other than cooking, cleaning or taking care of Evie is stolen time, time I don’t deserve. It’s funny, but after I put Eve down for the night, I usually have about three hours to myself. I don’t feel guilty about taking this time, because it’s time everybody takes, right? I also feel guilt about leaving Evie to entertain herself. I’m a stay-at-home mom! I should at least have a craft laid out on the table for her, right? This was my dream — to spend more time with Evie! How dare I not take her outside today! (My friends Justification and Accountability told me to tell you that Evie stayed in extended care at preschool today and was outside there at least twice. My other friends Flagellation and Shame told me to tell you she stayed in extended care because I was getting my hair done.)
I tried thinking about the little moments I took for myself during the day while I was working. Truth is, on some days, like a Friday before a holiday, those little moments weren’t so little. Still, I make a mental list of everything I’ve done during the day now in order to feel like I can take a break and receive my daily dose of haughty condescension from Martha Stewart.
Ahhh, guilt. The bastard. I thought it would go away once I started staying home, but it’s just changed shapes. One thing, though. Whereas during my working days I was wracked with guilt when trying to enjoy a night out, i.e. MORE time away from Evie, I practically sprint for the car on nights out now. Love me some Moms’ Nights Out, y’all.