Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Matter of Perspective


When my husband and I married, we agreed that we would divide our marriage responsibilities along traditional lines. He would do things like yardwork and take out the trash, I would do cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc. And we agreed that eventually, when we were both out of school, he would be the breadwinner, and I would be the homemaker. And it was easy for me to agree to those terms, because, well, we were both in school and it didn't really affect my life at that point. Playing house sounded fun, and it was fun for the first year or so.

But once we both graduated, things changed for me. I was expected to start staying home and taking care of the people in my house. (What agreement? You mean now?)

I resented it.

A lot.

At various times during my marriage, this resentment has reared it's ugly head. There were months at a time where I seriously resented my husband for getting to leave the house every day. My resentment wasn't so much about what I was going to do, as it was about what I wasn't going to do, ie: dressing up every day, leaving for work, and being Very Important.

It's hard to explain. Of course I love my children and my husband. I do want them to be taken care of. I knew that someone had to run the house. It's not that I didn't want to do it, it's just that I resented being "forced" into it. Not forced by my husband, or my bishop, or really any external person or group, but forced by my own expectations, I guess. I have always known that caring for children was extremely important. I have a college degree in the topic, for crying out loud. I guess I just felt like my life's path had sort of been laid out FOR me. Predestined, in a way - no matter how I felt about it. Like I said, it's hard to explain.

"Just a homemaker" "Just a stay-at-home-mom" I would bristle if anyone else used those terms, and I would vigorously defend my job to anyone. But if I was honest with myself? I spent a lot of time wondering if what I was doing was really all that important.



Fast forward 20 years.



Last month I got the chance to work "full time" for about 3 weeks. And when we say "full time" I am completely aware that the Substitute Teacher's 7 hour day does not even come close to the normal "full time" day some people work. On the other hand, you have to give me credit for heading into a new and hostile situation every day, which is more than a lot of people do. Unless you work in Iraq. But anyway...

For the first week, I felt Very Important getting out there and having to be somewhere on time every day. But I could see things around the house starting to deteriorate, and I didn't have the energy to do anything about it. I came home with both my brain and my legs aching. (I swear I would rather have been paid by the mile!) Shopping? Cleaning? We would just have to all pitch in and make these things happen. I mean, other families do it, right?

The second week went downhill fast. I was exhausted. (Hey, you try keeping track of 30 hormonally imbalanced, yet physically charged 12 year olds for a week. And get them to do their homework, too. ) Sure, my husband and kids pitched in some, and had been pitching in right along, but every day I still came home and wished I had a personal assistant. Would a personal assistant make dinner and clean floors? Oh, and run the kids to all their lessons? Ok, what I really wanted was more like a slave. But I don't think I'm allowed to say that.

The third week, we were kinda hitting a groove, and I don't mean that in a good way. Let's face it, the bar had been set pretty darn low from the past week, and we were having trouble even reaching that. Looking back on it now, I think the problem was that there was just nobody in charge. I was way too tired and too inexperienced at this to remember that someone should be doing that. Dinner? I couldn't think about tonight, let alone plan a few days out. Of course, since I never assigned the task to anyone else, nobody was jumping right in, either, so we either had peanut butter or everyone just kind of foraging for themselves.

Toward the end of that last week, I had to run over to a friend's house to pick up some cinnamon rolls she had made for a youth activity. I was in her house maybe 5 minutes. But after I was back in my car, I burst into tears.

Ok, this may sound really dramatic, but here it is:

Walking into her house was like walking into heaven.

The house was warm. It was clean. There were smells of cinnamon rolls wafting in the air (which bordered on heaven all by itself!). But it was more than that. Her dinner was cooking, her table was set, two of her kids were sitting at the counter in the kitchen, arguing over a math problem, and another was whimpering on the floor. It wasn't perfection, in fact, my friend looked a bit frazzled (And hey, she had just made 5 dozen cinnamon rolls - - she was entitled!), there were dishes in the sink, and the usual stacks of paper on the counter and whatnot. But for the couple of moments I was in her home, it felt so good. And familiar. It was a little like walking into the temple.

Now, I'm completely open to the idea that the cinnamon roll smell could have been impairing my brain, but I swear to you I could actually feel love in the air. And it occurred to me that this was what it was like, to come home from a day of people just hammering on me, to a place where I could rest my soul.

And I had a glimpse of how desperately I needed to rest my soul. And how desperately every person in my family might need to rest their souls.

And that was a job I really wanted. To make that place for the people I love. To really make it a home. That's right. I desperately wanted to be a homemaker.

I think we who are so incredibly lucky to be stay at home moms, sometimes forget what it's like to be out in the world every day. At least I do. I'm not talking about the occasional snotty cashier, or the guy who cuts you off in traffic, I mean the every day pressure and temptations and expectations of being at work - and (since I've recently been there) at school. Our big school kids are constantly pounded from the time they show up until the time they leave the building. Immorality, incredibly foul language (even if it's just in the background), cheating, dramatic relationships; they're all a part of the daily experience. But even our little kids have daily interactions with those evil things on some level. Believe me. It's real.


I realize that this is just my little life talking here. I don't mean to make judgments or proclamations for anyone but myself. But speaking for myself, I guess I never realized how important my "real" job is until now. And now that I've had a glimpse of what it can be, I'm kind of excited about it and wondering if I'm up to the challenge.

I haven't been running around this past month frantically baking cakes (or cinnamon rolls) or desperately cleaning closets, trying to recreate the feeling. Far from it, in fact. But I have been a little bit happier in my job.

And I think maybe for the first time in my life I've been truly grateful for the opportunity.

84 comments:

Kimberly said...

Randi, this was beyond beautiful. My eyes are welling with tears as I think of my husband coming home from work each day and wondering what kind of rest do I offer him?

What a lovely perspective to have found. I'm so grateful to you for sharing it.

kristen said...

I want that job!! Too bad I can't find any openings. ;-)

This was so beautiful....and genuine. I hope that when people ask you what you do, you can proudly say "I am a stay-at-home mom", because you should be proud. Your kids and your husband are the beneficiaries of all this, and not that I know them or anything, I have no doubt they are great individuals who are contributing members of our society (which is a lot more than we can say about a lot of families....let's be honest).

You are such a good example. Thanks for sharing.

Heather O. said...

I. Love. This.

The Millers said...

This was such a great post! Thanks you so much for sharing your wisdom on this topic. You've inspired me!

The Motherboard said...

Shazaam!
You hit it out of the park with this post! I can relate to every single word! Thanks!

Mary said...

What a fantastic post. I have to say I really needed that one today (thanks MMW for the link). I wish you lived next door, we would totally be pals!

joanna said...

"Stay at home" moms are LUCKY and BLESSED and extremely IMPORTANT. You don't realize how great it is to have a husband that knows what he wants to be while he is "grown up" and who does it faithfully every day to take care of your family.
However, no matter what circumstance we're in, we want to be in someone else's shoes, until we actually get in them, right?

Having two full-time jobs is HARD WORK and it never ends. I have to remind myself that even though I can't stay home right now, I have to be grateful for my experiences (and also grateful I don't have more than one kid...because, good grief!) No wonder I'm exhausted all the time.

gurrbonzo said...

Thank you. I am in law school and a new mom and often feel conflicted about my own expectations. This was nice to read.

heather said...

oh so true. I love how you show so much respect for the working mom. Even if I'm a SAHM. I really do admire the sacrifice it takes for friends of mine to live that working and mothering life.

Since this parenting thing is all about sacrifice, I love the reminder that all of it matters. To be that place of refuge, a place of safety and renewal for my family, now that is a brilliant position. I do love that aspect of my job. I really do.

Thank you. Beautiful post, lady.

Scuttle said...

Hey,


Thanks for your post I needed that.

I sure have missed you while you've been working.

Ramona

Annette Lyon said...

I needed this too. Great reminder.

Yvonne said...

What a beautiful post, randi. Thanks for the great reminder of how important this work is.

With my first child I had to work from the time he was 6 weeks old until he was 12. I have enjoyed each and every minute of my time as a SAHM. It truly is a blessing to be able to be home.

Maddison said...

Brand new to your blog, here from a link on MMW, but just had to leave a comment. This post is so beautiful. Not only the writing, which really painted the picture clearly, but the honesty about your feelings and experiences. I agree with you that it can be easy to take for granted our positions in life, trying as they may be at times. So thank you, this was warmly inspirational.

mormonhermitmom said...

Amen and Amen

mother_of_pearl said...

Thanks for sharing this. It really struck a chord with me and the idea of creating a safe haven for my family is definitely motivational. Thanks MMW for the link and thanks to you for the post!

Lillian said...

Thank you for the perspective! I needed that, too.

A. said...

Thank you so much. I realized earlier today that I need to (once again) re-organize my priorities, and what you've shared here has helped me understand how important my "real job" truly is. So thanks!

Jumbo Shrimp said...

What a great post! Thank you for this.

the MomBabe said...

This is exactly what I needed to read tonight. Love you!

Janell said...

Fabulous writing!

Valerie said...

Thanks MMW for the link, and I don't want to be a "creepy stalker" so....

This is really beautiful, and I need to remember that life outside the home is harder on the soul than my job as a SAHM with three little ones, even if my husband has been gone for 3 weeks with 1 more to go.

Kalola said...

Great post! I found your blog through Kimberly. I plan to visit frequently, and will post a comment or two.

Heather B. Moore said...

Great post. It's been a tough road to stay committed to being a SAHM, but I love being home when my kids walk in the door from school.

Mrs. M said...

I'm a new reader - thanks for this post.

Sara and Family said...

Well said! It sure can be tough but worth it, (and I know I've got many years ahead of me) but as the door-to-door sales lady told me, "Domestic Engineers work very hard."
Amen indeed!

Amy said...

ok. I guess I don't want to be a blog stalker, but this is my first time on your site, and I liked this article. I might revisit sometime, you just never know.
Thanks for the inspiration.

Chell said...

That was such a stunning post!

My mom was a stay at home mom when I was growing up and there was nothing better than coming home from school and having her there. I loved that if I was sick she was there to take care of me. I loved all the things that a stay at home mom does. I pray that one day, I have a husband that allows me to make this choice for myself.

Help I need a user name! said...

Randi-

What an honest, soul-searching, great post. I don't stay home with my kids because we can't afford it, and it is hard every day to go to work. There are lots of aspects of my work that I enjoy, but what I really miss is more time to devote to truly making a home.

But, we bloom where we are planted, I guess. Thank you so much for sharing this.

SusieH said...

Awesome, awesome post, and a great renewal of my own perspective for me. Thanks!

Corrine said...

thanks randi! beautifully written, and so needed today and well yeah great reminder of what my job is, and think I need to flag this post because I am sure next week or even in the morning i will have forgotten the lesson learned.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lovely post.

--another MMW day-tripper.

Whitney said...

I am going to admit something sort of terrible. Sometimes I just skim over posts because I don't have enough time to read every single word. Shhh. I really TRY to take time to read everything, sometimes I just can't though.
But I was reading every single letter of this post. I loved it :) Partly because I someday will be in that same situation, I hope I will be able to be a stay at home mom, too.
Sometimes we need to lose something to realize how much we love it.
I'm glad you got to try the working thing, I'm glad you can be a stay at home mom, too. I'm glad you found that it made you happier!!! :D

Nancy Face said...

Your post made me cry...in a good way! :)

I worked full time until I had my first baby...no problem! Then I worked 3 days a week for the next 10 1/2 years. I pretty much hated it. The work days were long, sometimes 10 hours. I was required to work Saturdays. I missed out on so much with Ty and Lauren when they were little, and it made me feel guilty and sad. After Zach was born, I just couldn't do the day care thing anymore. I cut back to just working every other Saturday when my hubby was home, and I'm still doing that. I'm a stay at home mom with just a teeny little taste of getting out into the world, and every single day I am so happy and grateful for my full time "job!"

Linda said...

Thanks for your lovely post, Randi. I've been a stay at home mom for thirty-plus years now and while I haven't always enjoyed every minute-far from it!-I have always been extremely grateful for the opportunity! Thanks again!

Sara and Family said...

randi:
the collage is done on picasa, which is s free google picture program. you just select a folder and make a collage :)

Em-Cat said...

I'm a blog-stalker when I come upon a blog I don't know. I usually read and move on or maybe stalk it for a few months, but I read you're "comment policy" and knew it was my ethical responsibility to comment. I really enjoyed this post...especially since I'm on the cusp of being a mother and staying at home with the little bugger after almost a decade of being in "the workforce." It's definitely going to be a change, but you give me hope...I'll have to stalk your blog again soon!
Love,
Em-Cat

Melissa said...

Fantastic post! Isn't it amazing what a little dash of perspective can do?
I too was like you at first... and sometimes, when the kids are really whiny and crazy, I still feel a tad resentful that I'm not the one out in the world. There are days when work sounds like a lot more fun... but I wouldn't change where I'm at now!

*Merrianne* said...

AMEN SISTA! I am so glad I came across your blog & was able to read this!!! :) I ♥ it!

I'm a Fellow Stay-at-home-Mom, too....and proud of it! :)

Anonymous said...

It looks like you've caught the vision of what stay-at-home-moms are all about. I'm very grateful for that, because I've been struggling for a while with the idea of the "shelteredness" of it, worrying that it would let competitive skills go to pot and all of that... But now I see that the shelter aspect is actually an important role in an of itself.
Now if you could get some insights into how we can get just a little of the achievement zing without completely forsaking the sheltering and nurturing roles, that would be nice, because we all have the need to achieve something.

Arin said...

Stopped by for the first time and I was truly touched. Thank you for sharing this. I often forget what an important "job" I really do have.

Heather said...

Wow, look at you celebrity! This is such a great post, I don't know how I missed it. Oh wait, I was enjoying my family. :)

aliciadiane said...

Thanks for this post. Wow! It really made me think, I am actually a "slave" or a nanny and in a way I am a lot like a SAHM, but not at all. One day maybe I'll have a family of my own and I will remember your post and be grateful that I get to be at home too.

Mama D said...

Another one coming from MMW and grateful for the link. I have been lucky enough to be mostly a SAHM over 20 years, and currently am working about 30 hours/week. I have experienced that lack of control on the home front because of being exhausted from work.

Thanks for sharing your perspective. Creating that safe haven and sense of stillness is what I want for my family, and you have motivated me to make sure it happens within our current framework!
- Michelle AM

mindyluwho said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you Randi for this post. I have felt many of those feelings over the years, feeling like I have no choice in my lot in life, but I realize that the choice lies in what I do with my lot in life. Thank you for this perspective.

RT said...

Thank you ever so much for your precious insight. I appreciate you explicit recognizance of this and you cogent assessment and expression of it.

Karlenn said...

Hey, Randi, I'm a first-time visitor. I totally agree that comments are one of the love languages! Very true. My friend, Arin, linked her blog to this post - I totally agree that home can be a place of rest for our families. My husband is always asking me, after I've had a hard day with my tiny kids, if I want to go back to work, and even if my kids drive me bonkers, I'd rather be at home with them. I taught junior high for four years, so I know what you mean by teaching hormonally-imbalanced 12-year-olds!! I don't blame you for quitting the substitute biz. That age is really tough.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm crying. Giving it another shot for another day. But I don't think "heaven" is a good description of our home. It's a worthwhile goal. Heaven is worth trying for.

TheDillon6 said...

I have been through a very similar time in my life over the last couple of months. I have never had such an appreciation of being a stay at home mom.

I realized that I am defined by my 4 beautiful children and by my husband. I am totally fine with that!!! :)

Rebecca said...

Came over from Kimberly's.

This is so poignant. I just love this post. You actually brought tears to my eyes.

I have a few things to think about, providing rest for those I love.

Thank you so much.

Lauren said...

What a beautiful post Randi. I absolutely loved it. Having my mom gone a few days out of the week when I was little wasn't hard at the time, but when she became a full time mom, I noticed the differences in having her there. SAHM are God's gift to the world :)

Alison said...

Some people out in the world will, and already do, look strangely at me but I look forward to this new career (it is a career even though we get paid with a different currency) that I'm about to embark upon this coming December and it's nice to see others reaffirming the positive and important aspects of being a stay-at-home-mother. Home is a Heaven on Earth that Mothers can create.

tricki_nicki said...

Love love love love love loved this.

THANK YOU. Your work is done now, you can go to heaven knowing that you've just helped all of us gain eternal perspective. Amen.

The Fear Fam said...

Hi Randi - found you via MMW and wanted to say thank you for this heartfelt post. I had a very hard time as a SAHM, and then I went back to out-of-the-home work for 2+ years while my husband did the stay-at-home stuff. For the first year I thought, yeah, this is working out just fine, I could work FT forever. Then... well, then something changed and I don't know exactly what. All of a sudden, I had a strong desire to be back home. We made it happen last October, and it's been a much better experience than the first go-round. I've never been able to pinpoint what it is that I enjoy about it, but you just did. Creating a place of rest from the outside world for our loved ones. Wonderful.

Sorry for the novel, this just really touched a cord with me. Thank you for the wonderful reminder of what it's all about.

"Vern" said...

A-MEN!

No Cool Story said...

YAY!!!! Woo hoo! Good for you.

Foraging vs love @ home.
That's what it is all about.

N.F. said...

Oh my word! 55 comments! HOW do you do that?

(Granted, being private probably doesn't help...but STILL!)

ganelle said...

Well said.

*b said...

WOW! Thank you so much for this post. I really NEEDED this so much today. I appreciate your wisdom and honesty. This post was in support of the inspiration I just received on making a similar decision.

Thank you.

emily said...

thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you ... i loved this post and the perspective it gave me. i'm glad to read that it has helped many of us find that feeling again. and i agree with tricki_nicki - your work here is done! thank you!

Cyndy and George said...

I stalk your blog because it is so awesome. I think we were BFF's in another life. I love your list of 100 things and I think we share at least 90 in common. Thanks for keeping me entertained!

ELASTICWAISTBANDLADY said...

Blogger ated my very long comment. Dangit!

Anyway, you deserve every single one of these 60 comments. In fact, you deserve 160 for writing such a fantastic post!

Ashlee said...

thanks. i needed this tonight!

Mrs. Organic said...

Here from Summer's Nook. Thank you for the attitude adjustment and beautiful reminder, it was greatly needed.

Summer said...

And obviously you know I thought this post was amazing. :)

Becky said...

Thank you for taking the time to write out your experience and thoughts. I've never wanted to do anything but be a homemaker, but I've definitely lost sight of the importance of the environment that I'm "in charge" of creating. You offered me a little glimpse of how my husband must feel at the end of the day, and perhaps, his frustration when I haven't done my job very well at all. Your post encourages me to try a little harder today, and the next day, and the next.... so thank you.

And oh yes, I'm here from Summer's Nook as well.

I am Boymom said...

Thanks for being so candid about your experience. I garnered strength from your post to keep fighting the good fight here at home...regardless of how boring or frustrating I may find it somedays. My family deserves a better effort from me and certainly a better attitude about the job I really want to do, I just don't always love.

b. said...

jr, thanks for sharing this.

I am struggling so much right now-having just went to a 5 day a week job (I've always worked shift work to be home for my babies). I am loathing it. Not just disliking it, hating. I don't hate.
I'm not sure what I'll be motivated to do, or why I'm even writing this....but, just know...loving and caring for your family full time is THE single most important thing we can do. I believe that with everything I am.
Keep up the good work!

Maraiya said...

Fabulous post and too, too true.

Brittmae said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts, came over from MMW--I'm not a mom yet but am looking forward to it. You gave a very refreshing perspective to it all--work, home, family--what it is really about, which isn't the dishes or the dusting.

sogratefultobemormon.wordpress.com said...

thanks randi ~ just what i needed to read today. i have been hating my job/career lately because i am not happy with the latest position i said yes to. it is too much project workload and i am drained and frustrated much of the time. i wish i had not said yes to this position. i hope i can get a replacement/better one soon. it is sucking the life out of me. my family depends on me to work and be the breadwinner. i could so relate to your mention of walking into your friend's home. i experienced almost that same thing friday after work when i went to a card making class at a sister from the ward's home. right when i walked in, it felt heavenly and peaceful to me. and it was so clean and perfect. everything was perfect. and she and her hubby always make me feel so welcome in their presence. i was just so at home in her home. thanks for the grateful post today. peace, kathleen

Macy said...

Thank you for a new perspective.

Eliza said...

Love the post; I have been commanded to comment and so here I am. I'm winding down on my pregnancy and feeling the nesting itch big-time--unfortunately, it's sometimes kind of to the detriment of my poor husband and son.

In theory (I tell myself) I am obsessed with organization and cleanliness so that they and the new baby will have a nice home, but I think I just realized that it's part selfishness; I'm giving in to my hormonal obsessions and not always being a pleasant person about it! Even if the house is sparkling, it doesn't matter if I'm constantly getting after my husband for not helping me lift such-and-such.

So...I'm going to try to remember that I provide a rest for them by creating a good spirit in our home, not just by cleaning and organizing. (Although a little of that is important too, I think!)

stephi k said...

Thanks for your posting. I'm a SAHM who's having a bad day and reading this helped.

Deanna said...

Thanks so much for your post, Randi. Reading the first part was so refreshing - to know that someone else feels the EXACT same way I have. I still struggle so much with that resentment of not feeling like I've ever really been given a choice in what I'm doing. I appreciate the perspective you've given and the reminder of the haven that I can make my home for my family and others who come here. Thanks for sharing!

Jer said...

I'm here from Light Refreshments and can pretty much say ditto to what everyone else has commented. Thanks for a great perspective!

Reed Stone said...

A husband/Fathers/bread-winner perspective

When at work If the subject comes up I always tell them how my wife has the more difficult and important job. Usually they agree and often if they have dual income they will do one or more of three things, try to justify there current way of doing things, exhibit much respect for our choice, or become slightly envious.

The Coolest Allen Family said...

Found your wonderful post through Light Refreshments. Since I am rule follower, I am leaving a comment. I don't want to offend my new friend. :)

I really appreciate your post. I knew early on that I wanted to be a SAHM. Little did I know it would take over 8 years to become a mother. You would think that since I am finally doing what I always wanted to do that I would be so content. I am finding it so hard to make my home that heaven on earth. It can be discouraging. I just try each and everyday to do my best. I just hope I will get the hang of it soon. Thank you for the reminder of the great blessing it is to be able to stay at home.

shauna said...

Beautiful! Thanks for putting things back into perspective for me. I really needed this!

Lisa W said...

Thanks for sharing. This has been on my mind a lot. When we define homemaking as cooking and cleaning, we will never be satisfied because that work is never done. I broke my ankle recently and wasn't able to cook, clean, shop, etc. for 4 months. While those things still got done by others, it was not the same because I was not the one doing them. The meals and the cleaning and the errands and the homework help and everything else wasn't done by me, the home maker, and the feeling was not the same. It really made me value the role that I play in creating that peace and that refuge through the homemaking tasks that I do in my home.

melanonymous said...

I don't know if you'll ever get to this comment number 80 (or so) any time soon- but thank you! No, it is not just you. I'm looking around at my truly cluttered house and wondering how I'm going to keep up with everything coming up in my life- and my kids are only 5 and 1! Your post reminded me of when I filled in for the receptionist at my hubby's company for 6 wks (she had a baby). Before this I was a bit resentful that he got to leave and I was stuck (and by stuck I mean in a new city with no vehicle) at home. After leaving *my* baby from 6am to about 6pm every weekday though, I told myself I was always going to appreciate being a SAHM. I guess I needed a reminder 5 years later that the moments you get it right are worth it.

I also now want cinnamon rolls. :)

Beeswax said...

I've been thinking along these lines a lot lately. My friend is a rabbi and stays home with her girls because she feels she should, but really wants to get out to work and pay off her student loans. She wants to use her skills, flex her rabbi muscles a bit, see if they are atrophied. I didn't know what to tell her, because I agreed that staying at home can sometimes be tedious, and you get no applause from the world for doing it. I am going to share with her some of your thoughts. Thanks!

Kathy F. said...

This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. You don't know me--I found you from the "Light Refreshments Served" blog. I appreciate your perspective, as I too sometimes wonder if what I do at home matters. Thanks.

Carrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

One of my dear friends sent me a link to this page and what you have written really is so very touching. I think about it almost every day as I struggle with my little ones and all the demands that entails. Thanks so much from me and my sisters!
(sahmsisters.blogspot.com)