Dear working mom,
I got your letter today. To be honest, thoughts have brewed in my head for so long to make you a part of my life. But then I get busy and I forget. You know how it is!
I think it’s a good thing that we ran into each other at the mall. The mall is where you will find me usually because it’s the closest place to swim practice. So if you ever want to find me during weekdays, you know where I am between 2 and 4.
Weekends are slightly busier. My husband is home so on Saturdays I volunteer at our local school. In another life, as you know, I was a physician. The school folks are one of the few people who see me as a physician still and like me to counsel preteens and teens about sex education, career counseling, healthy eating and age-appropriate health screening. It makes me feel like the doctor that I am. It makes me feel like a part of something besides home and kids. Would you like to come along sometime? I can assure you that it’s rewarding and stimulating. It will be worth your while.
I have wanted to strike a conversation so many times. But I was always deterred by my own self-consciousness. “What would I talk to her about?” I wondered. “Why would she want to talk to me?” I asked myself. “She has so much going for her. She must have friends who share her life and her conversations like I would never be able to. Why would she wanna know about the novel I’m working on?” I decided for you.
You are right. I don’t know how you do it. But to be fair, I don’t know how I do it either. The constant repetition of the same motions can be a little hard. After sending my older kids to school in the morning I want to crawl in bed and stay there for a good hour but the baby is always up. I know not always but that’s how it feels.
There is just enough time in a day to feed my kids and my husband. Many days I’m running on an empty stomach with caffeine being my carb, protein and fat portion. I’m being facetious but not really.
And that darn sweater! That sweater has become my obsession. But I wish I was so frugal as you give me credit for . I can’t buy it because the baby is teething and throws up on everything, without warning. I have been living in my sweats for the past so many weeks. All my lovely clothes are at the back of my closet now. Don’t think I’m not a teeny bit jealous of you looking like a fashion model yourself each morning you set off to work.
But I’m glad you noticed my effort to save money. I do think I short change myself for not working to earn. I’m a physician and when I was in medical school I had never thought of living a completely domestic life. But when my daughter was born after just a year of me being married, we couldn’t afford a nanny. And therefore I had to put all my plans on hold to pursue a career. Then I had my second just two years later. And what had started as a trade-off of sorts became my passion. I started loving staying at home with the kids and becoming a fixture of their lives. I am not sure how much my kids benefit from my staying at home but I love it and this is how I’m enjoying my life. I do hope to return to patient care someday. My education is such a huge part of me even though some people can’t see it. It has made me the mother and the wife I am today. I know you get that. I know you understand how sometimes my worth is measured by how “driven” I am. I want to tell people that I’m just as driven as anyone, just may be my drive is more visible to mothers who have little children everyday and who have to work through a cold on their house chores. But all in good time. Part of my frugality, as you can surely guess, is also because of how much I’m expected to account for every penny I spend. My husband is the dearest man but thinks that I can’t value his money like he does because I don’t earn it. I have gently reminded him many times that I treat our money as a our communal property and that I’m very careful with it. I know you’ll tell me to not explain anything to him. I know you won’t agree with giving him a breakdown of how I intend to spend the hundred dollars he handed me this morning for a few kitchen items. I know you’ll tell me to act like the queen I am. I know you’ll be disappointed to see how subservient some aspects of my existence are. But I know you’ll get it. We don’t get complete charge ever. Whatever autonomy you earn with your husband by being a financial partner, you lose at work by being in someone’s employee. Sometimes I don’t feel empowered enough either. I get it. We both get it.
I do marvel at how you make time to entertain so much. I understand how having so many family members living so close can be a blessing and an ordeal sometimes. I’ve heard great things about your food. You have to swap recipes with me someday. May be we can cook together someday while our husbands watch the kids. I know that’s a little bit of wishful thinking but may be…. someday.
I heard you’re taking care of your ailing mother-in-law. In the spirit of commiseration and not to sound like I know your hardship, I took care of my father-in-law a few years ago when he was recovering from a fracture. I didn’t have time to wash my face, let alone anything more extensive. Between his therapies and the amount of time needed to cook his carefully-flavored food, I lost myself somewhere and my kids suffered a lot too. How are you holding up? If anything, you have more fronts than me to take care of. I’m available for help if you ever need it. I’d be happy to.
Life isn’t easy for either of us. I do look up to you now like you looked up to me once. I do envy your life and know that I envy it because I don’t live it. Don’t think I haven’t seen the haggard look in your eyes when you come back from work and know that there is more work waiting.
Don’t think I can’t imagine the light going out in your eyes when your husband tells you that he has invited his family over for dinner on Sunday. The day you were looking forward to spending with just him and your kids.
Don’t think I haven’t seen you wistfully looking at my children showering me with kisses before they board their bus.
Don’t think that I haven’t seen you rushing into your kid’s school in the middle of the day, right on time for the PTA. I marvel at that. You do it like a pro. I know you take on a lot but you don’t let it show.
But it shows. Sometimes. When we are standing across from each other and my kids are boarding the bus as you are getting your kids in your car to drop them off at the day care. It shows when I wave at you and you give me a half smile with a longing in your eyes to hold your baby as close as I’m holding mine. It shows when you stand still looking at me, comparing yourself to me, evaluating our lives, asking yourself why our roles are so diverse. I know you try to understand how I could be so different and still feel like your kindred spirit. I know you want to hug me. I want to hug you too.
I know you love your life. You want all of it just the way it is. But I know you want a part of my life. The part where I get to hold my baby longer than you do in a day. The part where you get to spoil your children if they have a cold. I get it. And if it was up to me, you would never have to choose between work and life. But it’s not up to me. Or you. Someday it will be. Someday when I won’t have to get used to staying at home. And you won’t have to leave your children behind. Until then, we will just have to run each other’s worlds alongside each other, together, from across the street.
Hope to connect with you soon
Your SAHM friend.