In conversation with a friend and mentor yesterday, I shared with her how much I love my job, and how much that fact means to me. I told her how ever since I was a kid I’d told people they didn’t have to hate their job. That there was no point to working if you weren’t going to look forward to going into the office most days. Sure, no job will be perfect, and you’ll have “off” days doing anything, but my goal was to work my way toward a job I could honestly say I enjoyed at least 80 percent of the time. If you watch the movies it should have taken me until my late 40s to get there, and I would’ve had to fight bigotry and sexism all the way, and being propositioned in inappropriate ways with offers to step up the ladder if only I’d grant a few favours…
But this isn’t the movies. This is my life. It’s a life I love, and it includes a job I very much do enjoy – more than 80 percent of the time, too.
Unfortunately, as a mother, that life is also wracked with guilt. Anywhere I turn I read magazine covers and articles, see internet advertisements, hear commercials, and listen to stories from other moms about what it is I’m supposed to be doing. And it’s also just as much about what I’m not supposed to be doing as what I am.
Now, what I’m about to say will be very distressing to many people – namely, mothers. So please sit down to read this, and take a few deep breaths as you continue to the next sentence. You might want to ask someone to hold your hand.
Every evening I have two hours to myself. Yes, every evening. That’s 120 minutes that I can spend in any way I like, and that most often involves reading (I’m nearing the end of a fantastic fictional series right now), watching TV, blogging, or simply trolling Facebook to see what my friends are up to these days.
And according to the unwritten rules of motherhood, I shouldn’t be doing that.
I shouldn’t have even a minute to myself, even while on the toilet. I shouldn’t be able to have a “TV Night” with my hubby when we sit down and watch our two favourite shows. I shouldn’t be able to go out sans child and get coffee with a friend or two. I shouldn’t be able to keep up with my blog like I do. I shouldn’t know what all my friends are doing and what milestones their kids are hitting. I shouldn’t be able to read Winnie the Pooh to myself. I shouldn’t be able to catch a movie with my hubby. I shouldn’t be able to make my own espresso on Monday mornings (at least without scorching it or giving myself a steam burn). I shouldn’t be able to sit back, kick my feet up, and sip a tasty beverage. Ever.
On the flip side, I should be up to my elbows in dirty dishes and soggy laundry every day. I should spend my evenings scrubbing the toilet and mopping the kitchen floor and giving the dog a bath. I should have the stove and/or oven operating throughout the evening, with a detailed menu on a giant calendar nailed to the wall next to the fridge. I should have reading glasses perched on my nose and a collage of receipts, bills and bank statements surrounding my laptop as I struggle to balance the checkbook for two hours. I should fall asleep in the shower (if I even get one) and when I finally get out and go to get dressed, I should find that all of my clothes are in the washing machine or have snot and food smeared all over them and I should end up wearing mismatched sweats all day.
But I don’t.
My kitchen is always a mess (including as I type this). There are griddles and pizza stones and serving spoons and mixing bowls and baby forks and sippy cups and glass goblets and sauce pans stacked high next to the sink. There is spaghetti sauce and dried spinach stuck to the stove. When you step in a certain spot near the microwave your sock will stick to the floor. And PLEASE, for the love of all that is sacred, do NOT open my refrigerator!
It has also taken us since Sunday to get our laundry done and there are still three loads to fold. One on the floor in our bedroom, one in a basket in the dining room and another in the dryer. (Usually we’re better than that and have it all done by Monday evening.)
And, don’t tell my mom, but I haven’t dusted in about three weeks. The dust bunnies under the breakfast nook table are replicating like actual rabbits and there are toddler-sized finger prints visible in the dust on the entertainment center in the living room. (And on the TV screen because she can’t keep her paws off that thing.)
Oh, and I never make my bed. What’s the point? I’m just going to get back in it 16 hours later, and no one will see that room between now and then, so why bother?
My point is that my house would probably make Martha Stewart (and most likely my mother) go into cardiac arrest, but to be honest, I don’t care. I do clean my house (most weeks), especially when we have company coming, but it’s not the focus of my life. The focus of my life is being happy, and what makes me most happy is a) having a job I love, b) spending time with Little Miss and Husband when we’re home together (which is usually only about an hour and a half in the evenings), and c) being able to relax for two hours every evening after Little Miss goes to bed.
And if you want to send the motherhood police after me, feel free. Just warn me ahead of time so I can clear a space on the counter so I can get some cookies started.