Momhood

Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It's Not Rocket Science but Some Days It Feels Like It

The cruel truth about any job is that nearly everything, whether it's a passion, a calling or just a way to earn cash, at one time or another becomes something that you dread. Even the most gifted surgeons wake up some days and think: "Damn, I've got two hernias and a bowel obstruction. It's going to be a long day." Writers growl at looming deadlines, chefs get bored with menus. At some point, even the coolest jobs lose their attractiveness and then other jobs start to look more interesting.

Because I used to work full-time, I try to think of stay-at-home motherhood as a job. The problem is that I take it so damn seriously. Too much so on some days. It's not as if I'm reading professional journals on the subject (although wouldn't Good Housekeeping qualify?) but I do try every day to do it just a little bit better. Don't gag, but I think about what I'm cooking, how I'm cleaning and how well I'm managing the household. I have to admit to even trying to create warm memories that my kids will rekindle long after I'm gone.

But the truth about stay-at-home parenthood is that it's fraught with missteps, poor calculations and unexpected obstacles nearly every day. Dinner is rarely impressive to anyone but the dog. Clean clothes and shiny sinks aren't great accomplishments, they're just overlooked and expected. Filling out permission slips and writing checks isn't a fulfilling task but the means to an end. Plan a fun outing on a day off of school and you haven't put together an exciting day, you've merely screwed up the social schedule of a typical 13-year old. On a daily basis, it can be a losing proposition. And yet, a well-timed hug can make it all worthwhile.

On the other hand, the stay-at-home part of parenthood is fairly quantifiable, if not totally mundane and thankless. The parenting part is the tricky end of the equation. Here's a job that lasts approximately 18 years, give or take a few, that if you screw up, could send an entire family to therapy. Books and movies have been created on the subject - both comedy and drama. This is a serious business folks, which is why I don't take it lightly.

Sometimes the concept of my parental influence is simply overwhelming to me. Usually that's how it feels after I make an innocent comment during the day and it comes back to bite me during dinner conversation, something like: "You hate me, don't you?" I think of myself as a fairly sensitive person, but I know that I've said things to my kids that have hurt their feelings or have been totally misinterpreted. Crazy as it sounds, it sometimes feels like I parent the best when I'm trying the least.

What makes parenting so incredibly challenging is that just when you think you've got it all figured out - advising, disciplining, consoling, encouraging - another kid comes along who responds completely differently, if at all, to your finely mastered parenting skills. One day you blink and everything's changed and you have to figure it out all over again. It's like the definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again even after it no longer works.

Still, we keep trying even when we look incredibly stupid or just plain lost. I often make the mistake of comparing myself to other moms until I figure out how useless that exercise is. There will always be moms that are more creative, more patient and more effective than I am or ever will be.

Eventually, we all come out on the other side filled with stories, a few regrets and a whole bunch of wisdom. That's more than you can say for most jobs.

31 Comments:

At 10:03 AM , Anonymous Maryanne said...

You're providing a priceless service not only to your family but to humanity as a whole. I understand how "thankless" it can be sometimes, but don't forget that often the results of what you plant can take years to mature. You're doing a great job. Your also a gifted writer who I enjoy reading. Thank you!

 
At 10:23 AM , Blogger Marie said...

You said it! It's absolutely more than you can say about most jobs.

I wonder why I haven't discovered you before now!?

 
At 10:30 AM , Anonymous mar said...

Oh, you wrote it down so well!!! I saw you at Michele's today and thought I would stop by. I am glad I did!

 
At 10:43 AM , Blogger Dirk the Feeble said...

While it's true that it is an emotionally rewarding job, it's not what I would call "top-tier" when it comes to pay or retirement options.

 
At 2:33 PM , Blogger Juliabohemian said...

I think of the saying: Anything worth doing is worth doing, well.

It sound like you are doing a fine job. We aren't always going to like being a parent. Sometimes it stinks! But, sometimes being a kid stinks too. The trick, I guess, is just making sure we all survive it together and that we still love each other at the end.

 
At 3:02 PM , Blogger Anne www.tinykingdom.typepad.com said...

Boy- you just put that into words so well. I used to practice law full time, and i still reflexively try to fill out a timesheet everytime I unload the dishwasher, or ascheddule a n orthodontist appt.

Anne

 
At 9:43 PM , Blogger cmhl said...

EXCELLENT post. you hit it on the head. it is overwhelming, really, the influence we have as parents..

 
At 7:52 AM , Blogger kenju said...

Karen, this is an excellent post and ought to be required reading for mothers, whether they work outside the home or not. I was a SAHM for 20 years, through the childhoods of my 3 kids, and while it has its rewards, it has plenty od downsides too. You have captured both in this. Well said.

 
At 7:53 AM , Blogger -xtessa- said...

hi! michele sent me...

wow! what an inspiring post... i'm a young mom and i'm still "winging it" when it comes to parenthood. one thing i know for sure, you plan and you plan but make room for some surprises...

 
At 7:53 AM , Blogger kenju said...

I gotgot to say that Michele sent me.

 
At 12:48 AM , Blogger Terry said...

I have to say that your perspective inspires me Karen. No matter how I look at it sometimes, in the end, it seems very much worth the effort when we give it all at home. After all, family comes first. Thanks for stopping by. I'll show my husband your comment and your blog. :)

 
At 5:30 AM , Blogger Marie said...

Michele sent me back again, Karen!

Have a great day...

 
At 1:24 PM , Blogger InterstellarLass said...

Excellent post! And so totally true. Thanks for stopping by yesterday!

 
At 8:14 AM , Anonymous Thaleia said...

Being a parent is the most beautiful 'job' in the world :)

Here via Michele's

 
At 9:37 AM , Blogger Indigo said...

Excellent post, and I agree. :-)

 
At 1:04 PM , Anonymous Angela said...

Wow, how wonderfully put! My mom was a SAHM for all of my "growing up years", and completely devoted herself to her children. I don't think I ever appreciated her enough for all she did, and I'm still trying to make up for that now. I love reading posts from a perspective like yours--thank you for what you do!

Here from Michele's :)

 
At 3:49 PM , Blogger choccycherry said...

I agree with angela - I don't think mum's get appreciated until long after the hard woek has been done. Usually when the kids are grown and raising their children!! It's a tough job for working and stay-at-home mum's alike!...btw, Michele sent me!

 
At 5:54 PM , Blogger rashbre said...

Great post, well written. And all about being incredible.

 
At 10:00 PM , Blogger Carmi said...

I couldn't have said it better myself. It's the most important job any of us will ever have. Your kids are so lucky that you take it as seriously as you do.

Greetings from Michele. I've got to go read more of your entries.

 
At 10:17 PM , Blogger Erin said...

Hi Karen! Michele sent you to me, and I thought I would come visit you. I have been here before via BusyMom.

Well said. Being a mommy is hard, but the most important job in the world.

 
At 12:17 AM , Blogger Michele said...

What a wonderfully inspiring post. I imagine that being a parent is one of the most difficult and yet rewarding things that anyone could do.

I have never been blessed with that role. I admire anyone who does it well.

 
At 8:01 AM , Blogger The Mistress of the Dark said...

Happy B-day!

Here via Michele's

 
At 8:03 AM , Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said...

Motherhood is a great service, with far more job satisfaction than office life could have.

Michele sent me here

 
At 8:24 AM , Blogger Courtney said...

Happy birthday! Michele will send (trust me, I know)you lots of visitors.

 
At 8:27 AM , Blogger Bec of the Ladies Lounge said...

parent the best when you try the least, here, here! I've felt this way often and my eldest is only 7, younger two are 3... and I do my fulltime job as well so need the confidence that parenting doesn't have to be a science!
thanks for visiting, here via Michele!

 
At 9:56 AM , Anonymous mar said...

I was here earlier this week. Saw you at Michele today and noticed you said something about a birthday...I LOVE somebody else's birthday, have a HAPPY one!

 
At 11:53 AM , Blogger ribbiticus said...

great post! i always hear about motherhood being a thankless job from friends and family. no one seems to appreciate all the things a mom does yet we can't seem to imagine life without having them around. doncha worry, am sure you're doing a great job. :)

michele sent me today.

 
At 9:13 AM , Blogger Janet said...

An incredible story, and believe me, your kids WILL appreciate it, if not now, then when they're older.

 
At 9:15 AM , Blogger Janet said...

I forgot to say hi, Michele sent me!

 
At 9:43 AM , Anonymous colleen said...

I started writing seriously when I was a full-time mom because for the first time I had a natural lifestyle rhythm...doing my "own work."

Also, raising my sons was the highlight of my life.

 
At 4:36 PM , Anonymous Pearl said...

Yes, parenthood is life on a smaller scale. Learning and relearning and unlearning to relearn some more.

 

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