I have thought about my job a lot over the past few years. Or over the past seven years which is how long I have been a Stay At Home Mom. I still call myself a stay at home mom even though I work part time. But it has not been all soap operas and bon-bons. Not at all. (Although I have snuck in my fair share of daytime Frasier and Golden Girls and wolfed down some Reece’s cups!)
I’m not the most structured person in the world. This is probably a big reason why I have always loved school – you arrive and the schedule is set for you already. No thinking involved. I know a lot of moms who do laundry on Monday, go to the park on Friday etc. But I never really had a systematic plan like that. We had a pretty good groove when Sammy was little – Bundles of Joy breastfeeding group, Baby Signs class, Gymboree playgroup, but we switched it up whenever we wanted or needed to. But no matter what I did, I always felt at the end of the day that I hadn’t actually accomplished anything. How exhausting! And that was just with the first child!
By the time I had one toddler plus one baby I felt even less accomplished. I suppose I had completely unrealistic expectations. Why should an adult expect for a child to put on their Velcro shoes in under six minutes? And why would I expect to successfully go to the grocery store and cook dinner in the same day? It was enough of a struggle just to keep the kids content enough that they wouldn’t scream and yell during shopping so that I could read my list clearly hopefully return home with the key ingredients for the intended dinner. (There were a lot of postponed meals replaced by frozen Bertoli pasta dinners.)
Along the way I had a few job opportunities fall into my lap. I volunteered as a “guest speaker” to help out a high school German class for a week, I served as a long term sub at my kids’ preschool for a semester, and assisted taught for another semester. I did open my mouth to the right person about wanting to teach German Enrichment to preschool kids which came to fruition. That job worked in part because my father-in-law was able to stay with my three-year-old for an hour and watch my older daughter get off the bus in the afternoon. I knew I was craving these little chunks of “real life,” but kept trying to sort out if it was really what I needed or was just an escape from my Stay at Home-ness to give my life some added validity.
Later I worked as a second grade assistant. The kids, school, and staff were terrific. It felt so good to wake up and leave the house with a purpose. (But as a former teacher, it is less satisfying filing papers than writing up and executing lesson plans.) I quickly learned that the effort of that job was outweighing the benefit and was glad to be relieved of relying on friends and family to pick up my four year old from preschool for me.
So what was all this job switcharoo about? I sensed that I was trying to run away from my Stay At Home Mom job. I still wanted to be a Stay At Home Mom. I wanted to get my kids off the school bus, help out in their school, shuttle them to dance class after school, but aside from completing those tasks, I felt that I was otherwise a pretty mediocre Stay At Home mom. If you add in cooking and cleaning I was for sure earning a C-minus (at best!)
If you think about “real jobs” there are performance reviews, raises, bonuses, a paycheck … all these things that indicate you are making some kind of forward progress. When you are home with your kids, you are happy when they get tucked into bed safe and sound at night but it’s not like you gave a test and had your two rugrats make A’s to show how great of a Mom you were that day. And usually, by bedtime you just don’t even care anymore. Like Samuel Jackson said, just go the *@#$ to sleep!
One day I received a text from the preschool. Would I be willing to be the preschool foreign language teacher? Yes! Yes, I would! NOW we’re talking! I work two days a week teaching Spanish to teeny tiny toddlers. And I love it. They move the correct body part when we sing songs; they memorized the words to a song I made up; they help me look for little mouse! It is pretty dang rewarding to ask a two year old, “donde están las piernas?” and see him pat his legs in reply!
So am I “fixed” now that I am loving my new, perfect part-time job? The real answer is no. And I only just opened my eyes to it the other day. My new job makes me feel good. It is the line of work that I am passionate about. But it is only part time. I am still a Stay At Home Mom the rest of the time and I still don’t see a paycheck or a performance review to let me know how I’m doing. And guess what? It took a giant football player telling me that to finally see what I was doing. When Benjamin Watson came to speak at UGA last week, of course I had to hear him. I was his academic advisor his senior year at UGA and I followed him on the field at UGA and on the New Orleans Saints (yeah I missed a team or two because let’s face it, I’m not that sporty.) In his leadership speech to the Terry College of Business students he said something that brought me to tears: Your self-worth is not tied up in your job. Well, holy crap! That is exactly what I have been doing for over seven years- Trying to feel good about myself through my new Stay At Home Mom job. Inherently I know that I am still me. Still Jody. And that I have value. But for all this time I had been valuing myself based on my Mom job. I’m sure I will still struggle with my Mom duties and probably still give myself a C-minus (have you ever seen my clutter?!) But for right now, thanks to my listening ears and some wise words, I feel freed up from all the cobwebs of value I had tied myself up in. Thank you, Ben!