The words I’ve always dreaded, but never heard. At bedtime last night, Lark said “Mommy stay home with me. No more babysitter.” I told her Mommy has to go to work, so I can earn money for our family. So we can have a house, and food, and special treats. She wasn’t convinced by this proposition. And frankly, neither was I. The hazy nighttime thought bubbles appeared above my head, and as I began to doze off in the throes of a three year old cuddle, I wondered. What if I could not work? What would my life be like as a stay at home mom?
I would be in great shape
That’s right, I went right there. One of the biggest differences I find between me and the stay at home moms is our bodies. I often find myself repulsed by my doughy, smooshy, body parts, and vowing that if I ever got the luxury of being home, I’d be so hot I wouldn’t recognize myself. So many of the moms in town are skinny, muscular even. They’re fit, they’re tan. They do double spin classes at Soul Cycle. They play tennis tournaments. They go to Barre class. They have trainers at the gym. Being in good shape is a perk of their difficult job, and they wear it proudly. They have time and freedom to be good to their bodies. (So what if they don’t eat that much- they look amazing!)
The house would be spick and span
Sunday afternoons as I’m raging through the house cursing everyone and everything that has ended up where it doesn’t belong, I mutter under my breath that if I were around during the week, clothes would be put away and everything in every drawer would be the right size and the right season. The insides of the cabinets wouldn’t be covered in crushed cereal and sticky goo. The refrigerator would be organized and nothing over a week old would ever be forgotten in the back of the middle shelf. The surfaces of tables and counter tops would be not only clear of paper and debris but also glistening. Everything would smell like lemon verbena, there would piano music playing, and birds would be clamoring on the windowsill to just get a peek of this home that belongs on the glossy pages of a magazine.
I would finally learn to cook
When we lived in the city, I blamed my lack of motivation in the kitchen on the lack of legroom. I swore to Gull that if he were to ever allow us to leave our little rabbit hole on the upper east side, if I were ever lucky enough to have stainless steel appliances and- fingers crossed- an island in the kitchen, I would become a domestic goddess and whip up gourmet delicacies every night. Once my wish came true, I realized I was neither barefoot nor a contessa and time for cooking was still on short order. But if I were home, I would commit to the kitchen and the kids would no longer eat leftovers or frozen smorgasbord food, and takeout menus could finally be tossed and replaced with tossed salads and fine fare for the adults.
I would have friends!
If I had a nickel for every time a mom I see once every 2 weeks asked “how’s work?” I’d be richer than a hedge fund head honcho. If I were home, I’d be in the loop instead of out of it. Decisions on what sports to play, or what dance class to take, or what teacher to request (because shouldn’t moms always hand pick their kids’ teachers?) wouldn’t be made without my children involved. I’d be abreast of the kid drama, and the mama drama, and the two-faced text chains, and the full-on fights, and the….
But then the questions started popping my delicious dream bubbles one by one…
Would I get tired of it?
I steam when judgmental moms suggest I would never want to stay home with my kids. Of course I want to spend every waking minute with my favorite little people. I want to put them on the bus, and pack their lunch, and oversee snack time, homework, shlep them to activities. I want to devour every mundane moment in their lives. But are they right in that judgment? Would it get old fast? Would a week even go by before I sent out resumes? Would the hot bod, and the clean house, and the delicious meals, and the social network still not fulfill my soul?
Would I crave intellectual communication and challenge?
Would I start switching from Sesame Street to CNBC without thinking about it? Would I bring up stocks in conversation about dance recitals and soccer schedules? Would I strike up conversations with strangers about current affairs and the market to make my mental ends meet? What if I actually missed all the minutiae that gives me migraines every week?
Would I want to contribute more?
How would I feel about my indulgent shopping sprees when I wasn’t earning the money to pay for them? What kind of exotic vacations would I plan when we were living on one salary instead of two? What kind of ownership would I take in our financial decisions like home improvement and retirement savings when the money wasn’t at least in part being driven by my contribution?
Would I take it all for granted?
If this post comes off diminishing of what stay at home moms do, it wasn’t meant to be that way. I am not afraid to say the winner of women are those who don’t have to work. They have the time, they have the control, they have the choice that I simply never will. But sometimes I wonder if I had it all, would I squander the spoils, and not appreciate the gift that not having to work is? Would I be on my phone too much, or squabbling over meaningless drama, or worrying about my children’s future when really they’re managing just fine without me? Would I still be dreaming of something better even if I was so lucky?
In my particular situation, next time Lark snuggles against my less than rock solid stomach and asks me to stay home with her, I’m going to have to respectfully decline, then trip over her toy ridden carpet out of her room, before I eat my takeout dinner, find someone for tomorrow’s carpool, and then fire off some work emails to my colleagues. And occasionally, I’ll keep dreaming.