I am sitting in a bustling Coffee Bean in Montecito, Calif. My husband, son, mother-in-law and step father-in-law have all gone exploring Santa Barbara. But I am here alone, writing.
And I love it. I have never been able to write where it is quiet. I need sound and other people’s energy. Perhaps it is a by-product of the school I went to where the classrooms were opened, separated usually only by blackboards and bookshelves. So here I am. I felt a little tinge of guilt while my family went off for some vacation fun. I love my family and do truly love spending time with them, but honestly, I was really excited to get to do my writing, my work.
My work. That is a complicated thing now that I am a stay-at-home mom. My son once, who was 2 or maybe just turning 3 at the time, was leaving the house with his father who was dropping him at school on his way to work, turned back to me on his way out the door and surveyed our home and with one big swoop of his hand said, “this is your work.”
I laughed and thought it was cute, but truthfully I was a little taken aback by the comment. He was right. The house is my work. He is my work. And thank goodness for him because if the house were my only work I would have been fired long ago. I am a terrible housewife. I am a good mom I hope, but I can be honest about my homemaking skills. I don’t really know how to cook. Cleaning is taken care of mostly by our housekeeper. And if it weren’t for my husband’s chef abilities, we would starve. I do see the pride one can take in keeping a home, the problem is I am just not that skilled at it. It is not in my DNA.
I grew up with a single mother. She worked odd, crazy hours and when I could fend for myself, I did. So I never learned to cook besides what I wanted in that moment (mac-n-cheese with the powder not all the way mixed through or cereal) and I watched too much TV. But I witnessed my mother working and striving and succeeding, all while taking care of me too.
I am completely my mother’s daughter because I remember being so proud to sit and watch her at her computer typing away working on her book, but was even more excited to see the actual book, to hold it in my hands and to see her name and picture and know that other people could walk into a store and buy her book. I thought she was really famous. And to me she was. Not just because of her byline, but because I never felt shorted for the other things she wanted to do. In fact, it made me want to do things.
So to be home now, to “not be working,” is a surprise to me. That is why my own writing has become so important to me. That is why this column is so important to me. It is not just to document what is happening in our lives or to entertain those who are following my trials and tribulations as a mother, but it is so I can have something that I can work and strive and hopefully succeed at. But most importantly, it is so my son can see me go out and do something else, to know that Mommie is out writing.
I want my son to be proud of the effort each of his parents has put into raising him, but I also want my son to take great pride in the work that both of his parents do, that includes my having the house and him being “my work.” But it also includes his seeing that each of his parents has other interests and pursues them.
I am lucky enough that I can choose to stay home. And when I get bored or on the other end, overwhelmed, I remind myself that this was my choice. But there was a part that was not my choice. Because of my son’s special needs, I needed to be around more to take him to his therapies, to be the overseer of his care.
So now that I am home I need my son to see me doing things besides caring for him or his father or even in my terrible way, caring for the house. Hopefully it will spark a work ethic in him that he can be proud of.
This is not about staying at home versus working moms. Because we all work quite hard, but sometimes going off to “work” while your family takes in the sights, can feel like a well-deserved vacation.
Rachel Zients Schinderman lives in Santa Monica with her family. She can be reached at Rachel@mommiebrain.com.