I’m not going to lie – the decision to leave my job of 10 years to stay at home with Ellie was way easier than the actual act of staying home with Ellie. Most days, like when I’m strolling through the Botanical Gardens at 10:00am on a Thursday or listening to my former co-workers talk about their dinner plate-sized bleeding ulcers I feel so lucky that I’m able to do this.
Other days, like when it’s 3:00 and I’m still in my pajamas, staring off into space, thinking about how I worked my ass of in my grad school stats class while Ellie is on hour two of banging my car keys on the table, I second guess myself.
I’ve had lots of jobs in my life and they all came with at least little training. Even when I worked at the Zebra Cone stand at the State Fair the owner took over an hour to teach me how to create the perfect cone. Her lack of teeth and not lack of stomach confirmed that she was indeed the expert.
But being a Mom, being responsible for raising a mentally stable, healthy, productive member of society who won’t someday open fire on her classmates… you know, the MOST IMPORTANT JOB IN THE WORLD… came with nothing. No boss, no quarterly reviews, no training manual, no one calling hourly to make sure I didn’t accidentally feed her firewood… nothing.
On the first day of my new job as Mom it snowed about 300 feet. I looked out the window, then over at Ellie, wondering what I was supposed to do now. I stood there for over an hour trying to figure it out. Ok, it was seven hours, but I did take breaks every 15 minutes to call Nick to ask when he was coming home.
I had lunch with my former boss a couple of weeks ago and was discussing my Mom challenges when as usual he offered some very insightful words of wisdom: our jobs are more than our jobs – they are our identity.
Before I quit my job I knew exactly who I was. I was a brand manager at an advertising agency. I was a good brand manager. I knew how to develop strategy and manage a campaign. Clients liked me. Well, most clients liked me. I worked from 8 until 5 and then I went to happy hour and then I met Nick somewhere for dinner and then I came home and watched Cops and then I went to bed.
Now my job is Mom. But what the hell does that mean? Who sets the bar that I’m working toward? What do I have to do to get a promotion? When do I get a raise? Where’s my martini!?
I started with the obvious – cooking and cleaning. Two weeks of eating chicken that tasted like dirty socks reminded me that I’m a horrible cook. I need someone looking over my shoulder at all times telling me that baking powder is different than baking soda, and crushed red pepper is different than red pepper flakes. Oh, by the way I know what you’re thinking right now and I don’t want your “easiest recipe in the world.” Do you know what a failure someone feels like when they’ve botched every one of their friends’ “easiest recipes in the world?” No thanks, I’ll order take out.
I also suck at cleaning. I thought I was doing an okay job until yesterday, when I went to put Ellie in her high chair and saw it was covered in ants. As I followed the trail of ants they led me to a prehistoric chicken nugget that was hiding under the dining room table. Bugs at the table = epic fail as a parent and probably warrants a visit from the state. I might as well put Ellie in a little Moses basket and send her down the Nile.
I know, I know. All you working Moms out there are thinking “boo hoo.” And I get that. I was a working Mom for five months and it was impossibly hard. I was working 1000 hours a week and saddled with unbelievable guilt every day when the nanny would email me videos of Ellie rolling over for the first time, or pictures of their first visit to the zoo. Or even worse – when I tried to work from home and had to put Ellie in front of the TV for a four-hour Baby Einstein movie marathon or leave her screaming in her crib for over an hour while I ran a conference call.
When I was little it took me a really long time to learn how to ride a bike. After I finally figured it out I still needed what I dubbed “The Start Off” – someone holding the back of my banana seat steady until I could get the petals going. Once I got going I could go forever – actually I had to go forever because if I stopped and no one was around I was screwed.
If only I could get a start off – someone who could move in with me for a month or two or fifteen and explain to me with painstaking detail what this Mom job is all about.
Like most jobs, though, each passing day brings experience and experience brings knowledge and knowledge brings comfort. It just scares me a little that my (very expensive) knowledge of marketing statistics is slowly but surely being replaced with songs from Yo Gabba Gabba.