I took my kids to the museum today. It is a whole lot cooler than it used to be! Also twice the price. Anyhow. I met this grandma who, at first, made me think, "When I grow up, I want to BE her!" She seemed so intellectual and challenging, but kind to her grandkids. She was in great shape and in her 60s, but she had her natural grey hair and purple glasses and hiker-type shoes. She took time to read about the exhibits out loud to her granddaughters (who by the way, got along just great with G)...personally, I was struggling to pronounce all the names of the prehistoric eras and all the scientific classifications for the dinosaurs. She told me she had stayed home when her kids were little, and then taught elementary school for about 15 years. I asked if she thought it was a good thing to do while her children were growing up. She called the job "thankless", because you are always always working and worrying, and if you work in an economically depressed area, there are tons of factors kids deal with that they have no control over. And neither do you. So she's going on and on and I'm getting more and more impressed, and then the following comment stopped me in my awed tracks:
Purple glasses: "I used to volunteer one day a week in the classroom of the teacher I team-taught with. But after she had her second baby, it was like she just wanted to be home, and she was just doing the minimum. And then, we were at lunch one day, and she was talking with some other people about watching one of those dance programs...I can't remember the name...and I was like, 'Why am I photocopying for you when you're doing that at night?'"
Me: "Oh, because when you taught you'd be busy photocopying at night?"
Purple glasses: "No. Because when I taught, I'd be reading at night, or something. Like, now, I make baby quilts at night. How can somebody do THAT at night? I know I sound like an intellectual snob, but COME ON. So I quit."
REALLY purple glasses? I think I said something like, "Well, you're allowed." In my heart, I was thinking, "Way to judge! That is amazing. Proving that, like a whole lot of female dominated areas of employment, eating your young is still in style."
Ladies, I can't take it. I just cannot. Here is this pressure to be everything to your family. Strong and good and unafraid and unselfish and rock-like. To that, add the pressure of taking on a job where you care for other people's children. As if being a parent to your 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 isn't enough, become a surrogate parent, to like 25 kids at a time. The very thought sends shivers down my spine, if I think about it. How is that job even a real thing? So heaven forbid you actually enjoy yourself for half an hour. Escape into a mindless haze of tacky sequins and flowy movement. As an educator of our country's youth, you should be dedicated to improving your role model status constantly! And what about your role as a parent? Perhaps you should be making freezer meals or cleaning the bathroom! Volunteering at a soup kitchen! Brushing up on your Mandarin!
In social work, and I'm sure in teaching too, we talk about self-care. Take time for yourself! Be good to yourself or you are useless to others. In motherhood, we talk about it too...spend time with the girls once a month! Go on a date once a week! Get your hair/nails/eyebrows/mustache done! But who are the ones who get the awards in the arena of these altruistic careers? Who do we all admire? People who nearly kill themselves backward-bending. People without boundaries. People whose houses are scrubbed and buffed, and whose children read by age 4. People who never watch reality TV and then BRAG about never watching it because they are too busy READING.
Personally, I will never get an award. I already know. I love "Project Runway" too much. If I read, I love novels. Not the classics...Jane Austen is about as challenging as I get. I love memoirs and realistic fiction. No textbooks of any kind, even when I'm totally interested in the topic. I like my rest. Because life is short, none of it is guaranteed, and although I'll admit I've never met anyone who said they specifically wish they'd watched more TV, I have definitely met people who said they wish they'd taken time to enjoy themselves more.
I'm glad that Purple Glasses seemed utterly content and happy with her life. She was very very nice and I loved her grandchildren and I would love to see them, and her, again. Her 6 yr old asked us for our phone number over and over, and Purple Glasses just said over and over , "No, honey, that's OK!" Perhaps she sensed my inferior drive for perfection. I KNEW Lifetime had a smell!
I have a new friend named Sarah. She, too, is a stay at home mom with a blog. But her blog isn't about her children. Well, not directly about them, anyway. It's about her thoughts and her feelings, even when (gasp!) they happen to fall outside of the "Mother Hood" (Katie, that's for you!) I think this is a powerful idea. It lets me write sort of anonymously, it allows me to omit pictures of my children, and it makes me feel much better about a public blog. Many thanks to this lady for sure!