But hey, first let me name the ways being a stay at home mom kind of stinks in itself. First of all, it stinks, literally. All day long the scent of poop, pee and under arms that need another layer of deodorizer just builds. It’s repetitive. I’m pretty sure knocking down towers of blocks and then begging mommy to build them up again for you has to get old for a kid at some point. No, it doesn’t? Okay then, hand me the blue block again. Also, what is it about Dora the Explorer that is really that entertaining? Sure, I love the bilingual nature of the show and my kids really do learn from it. And yes, it’s definitely better than Spongebob Squarepants. But her voice annoys the daylights out of me after I’ve seen the same episode for the fourth time this week.
And probably not last, but this list could go on forever, why on earth do children not ever want what you fix them for lunch. Yesterday it was “Mommy, I don’t want peah buh-er and jeuwy sanishes, I want hock docks and taytos.” And todays it’s “Mommy, I don’t want hock docks and taytos, can we pwetty pwease have peah buh-er and jeuwy sanishes?”
“No you pwetty pwease may not.” And then twenty minutes later I’m cleaning up the empty plates from their baked potatoes and hot dogs and realizing their picky brains don’t generally translate into picky tastes and I wonder why I have to go through this lunch time banter every day. Every. Single. Day.
But in the end, it’s really not the experience of spending every waking moment bathed in sweat and drool and wondering when I last bathed with water was that makes me sure I’ll never become a stay at home mom again. It has nothing to do with them and everything to do with financial independence and what happened when my husband left me.
The technical term is “displaced homemaker.” It’s the definition of any woman who up until the recent time was married and didn’t work outside the home for a living. It defines the woman who is recently separated or divorced and now has to rely upon her own hard work to make a life for herself and potentially her offspring. Although I didn’t learn the term until about 9 months after my separation, it’s something that would’ve been applied to me during that time after he left.
Having spent my entire adult life up until that time being a mom to my children and not working except for once a month or so with a direct selling business I didn’t have a lot of working experience. That job with direct selling happened to be excellent for my resume and I got hired after for a data entry position at a really well known bank by a temp agency in Des Moines. What was unlucky for me was that I didn’t have any personal savings for the divorce, the moving, my own place and quite simply the “starting over.” About two months before Jon left I had actually started taking courses at a community college in Omaha. I knew our relationship was on a downward track for a little while and between trying to fix my marriage and caring for our children I really wanted to have a career. Not with the intent of any financial independence, simply the intent to live out my career goals and dreams. When he moved out he stopped watching the kids during the days I had classes and I couldn’t find childcare quickly enough so I had to drop out.
I found myself penniless with a new lump of student loan debt and the sadness of a failed marriage, a broken family, a failed semester and the realization that unless I did something relatively fast to get myself out of the hole I was about to slide into, I would have to start at square 0 (Mom & Dad’s in Northern Minnesota) as opposed to square 1 (dependent on income that was going to end in the near and uncertain future.) And I really wanted square 1.
I moved to Des Moines, with the help of a friend and my half of the tax return my husband agreed to split with me, and accepted the position with the temp agency. Square 2. I made it. I still had to deal with a divorce. I still had to find permanent child care. I still had to find success in my personal career goals and I still had to feel emotional joy again. But I could provide for my babies, barely, and I had my own place.
All this happened about a year and a half ago. Right now I’m in a pretty different place than I was then, in every way imaginable. And instead of working 40 hours a week to make ends meet I’m working even harder 30 hours a week at a lower wage to make ends meet. But I’m doing to things that make me believe I haven’t really taken a step back at all, but possibly a few forward. And I’m in school again, with really ambitious goals again. And I get 2-3 full days at home with my kids which make me think, for just a second, how much I would love to just be a stay at home mom again.
But for every second I think about it, there’s a reasonable reassuring voice inside my head that reminds me why I won’t even if I have the opportunity. As much as I know my future marriage will be better than my first, as much as I know I’ll always nurture my relationship into a long lasting one, I will never forget how scary it was to be a “displaced homemaker,” and I could never allow that to happen to me again. Not to mention, and I love you kids, but being an editor at a publishing company and a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist sounds a lot cooler than watching you knock down that tower I worked so hard to build for you.