I was sitting in the doctor’s charting area in the Emergency Room a few days ago. Not because I broke in, pantless, as patients are oft to do, but because I’m a Physician Assistant and was there in the ER seeing a patient with some part gone bad.
Chatting and joking with a few of the PA’s and MD’s, we talked care plans, caught up on charts and drank coffee. (Coffee is what runs the hospital. You think it’s the giant power grid, the brainy innovations or the computer matrix, but nope, it’s coffee).
Talk of blood products somehow reminded one of us of something our kid did, and soon there we were, moms sitting around sharing cell phone pics and ridiculous tales of the small people who run our homes.
It got me thinking. We’re all “working moms.” We’re trying to be good providers to our patients, assets to our employers, and also great moms. We share a common grief and relief at being away from our kids for parts of most days. “It’s hard” is commonly agreed, but almost all of us do it very deliberately.
This topic, and even the phrase “working mom” has been criticized and bantered around the internet a lot. It seems dismissive to the shit-ton of work the moms who stay home do. It seems old-fashioned, too, conjuring images of skirty business suits with tennis shoes and determined, big hair.
Moms get picked apart for everything, all the choices we make. All too often we’re doing the picking (for shame, lady folk!) I just want to point out real quick that there’s no term “working dad.” There is the term stay-at-home-dad, or (most offensively all around, nice one, Michael Keaton), “Mr. Mom.”
I certainly don’t mean to jump with both feet on the big red button, but I’ve been giving it a lot of thought lately, because for now, for the foreseeable future, I’m the breadwinner and Robb is staying home.
We’re not the first to go through this transition. I know many friends and family members who have had to figure out resource management and have ended up with one parent home with the kids and one out making the money. Every family has its own best way to keep the lights on and the fridge full, while giving the kids their best care and keeping the house managed.
Single parents have to do all of it, all of the time, which is why they are the uncredited heroes of the world who get the cushest of all the cush gigs in heaven when they’re done, I’m just sure of it.
Robb being home has been complex for me. I knew it would be. Although I always planned to work, I guess I always assumed he would, too, or that if anyone was going to stay home, it would be me…because traditionally the woman has, I guess?
He’s starting a business, so now his week is divided between actioning that small business and wrangling the kids. The kids are now in daycare just a few days a week instead of full-time.
I have always wanted to work. I am proud of being a PA and being a social worker before that. I love my current gig with a two-armed hug. I am proud of what I do and I do it well and I positively impact my patients and practice. The kids are too little to know how hip it is that I work in surgery, but for now, they know Mommy works at the hospital and she “helps fix tummies.” (Eventually I’ll have to break it to them that I’m talking pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding, not real hero stuff like the plastic surgeons do. I’ll let them have their dreams a little longer).
Starting a business is slow, grueling work. Robb is handling it well, but it comes with a lot of uncertainties and forced lessons in patience. There are the dreams, and then trying to build a bridge to carry you from now to those dreams. It’s a lot of planning and re-working, learning constantly. What you gain in excitement and personal growth, you lose in dollars in pockets.
I feel the responsibility of having the only income, health coverage, etc. Somehow the same job that I have been voluntarily doing with zeal for a long while, now feels like a bondage of absolute necessity. I still choose to show up and I truly enjoy it, but I also really, really HAVE to show up.
On my best days, I like this situation. I’m happy Robb and the kids get to have this time with each other. Henry starts real school next year and this is a precious window we’re in. I’m excited about the business. And I feel like the ultimate feminist power house that I can support my family of four (kinda sorta) at the life style to which we’ve grown accustomed (so much fancy food).
On my bad days, I’m bitter and jealous and feel like this isn’t fair. He gets to hang out with the kids and go to the park and the zoo and make cookies. I have to wake up early, work all day, then come home and still mom. I know he could write a parallel post about how much more exhausting it is wrangling the two minions and trying to score small business loans than it is going to an office (or hospital).
Fortunately for him, he has some good allies and mentors who can help through it. Blessedly for me, I am surrounded by good role models in female MD’s and midlevels who are the money makers in their families. It’s becoming another version of normal. Also, his being home has afforded me more time to write. Somehow the laundry is always done and there’s fresh, good food…being tossed off the side of the table by Anna.
As I type this, he’s folding laundry (and watching this bitchin’ BBC series, ‘Africa’ on Netflix. That’s Netflixing and chilling, right? Laundry and warthog documentaries?)
I like that I get to be a PA and a mom. I miss them and sometimes wish I had more time home with them, but I don’t want to change much. And I want to give Robb the space and time to make his dreams happen. We can do it. We will do it. It’s just scary and new today. It doesn’t even bug me that Henry now calls me DADDY-I-MEAN-MOMMY when I get home from work.
Doesn’t bug me at all. I need more coffee.