I walked down the cereal aisle of the grocery store and something about the way it smelled suddenly brought me back to 1985 and being in health class seated next to my best friend. Every visceral….

20 minutes go by.

20 minutes. During this time, I have abandoned all hopes of writing in lieu of chicken nugget and french fry preparation.  This gourmet meal will most likely not be eaten. The ketchup will disappear and possibly a few fries but that’s about it. “But Mommmm, I’m so hung-wy! I litewally could eat 20 hundwed nuggets” (eats one……and don’t get me started on the use of the word literally) I take a load of wash out of the dryer, fold it and start a new wash. I begin to add more than one sentence to a possible new story when Miss 9 suddenly decides that in the 20 minutes since I previously suggested lunch, she NOW wants toast. She is totally capable of toasting and buttering a piece of bread, but my ever-present quandary now rears its ugly head.  Mister 7 IS NOT always capable of simple food preparation so I must do more for him despite always striving to make him more independent. Seriously. I. Am. ALWAYS. Trying. Doing everything for your kids helps no one in the long term, but it is most times easier when you’re trying to just fit it all in. Miss 9 never sees the failed attempts at facilitating Mister 7’s independence and always plays helpless to get some of what she understandably sees as him having more attention. I sometimes (mostly always) oblige. Yeah, yeah. Bad Mom choice. Little battles.

I stop what I am doing and put the bread into the toaster. Mister 7 has finished his food, so I clean it up. Yes, I should make him do it. Long story. We are working on it. ALWAYS….. Usually. I set out to write again. Despite using headphones to drown out any distractions, I could still hear my son’s constant running dialogue on Pokémon characters. I can also still see my daughter zipping around in my periphery on her electric scooter. Yes. An electric scooter in the kitchen. I’m distracted. Cannot for the life of me understand why.

I walked down the cereal aisle and…. (the something about the way it smelled part sounds weird. What’s a better descript….)

“You can only eat a fry if it’s symmetrical but this one isn’t symmetrical. Mom. Mom. Look at my fry. You can only eat a fry if it’s symmetrical…..Did you think it was really one big symmetrical fry, or did you know that I bit the end off of one and stuck the other fry into the [bitted] off end?”

I walked down the cereal aisle of the grocery store and I was suddenly transported back in time (who am I… Marty McFly? Wtf? No. Just no.)

“Mom! So. On Monday we will see……” (stares off into space) “Mom! So. On Monday we will see…. (more staring) Monday. Mom! Mom! Did you know that when you put something into water, it looks bigger than it really is?” 

I walked down the cereal aisle….. (does the word visceral even make sense here/ I need to look that….)

“Uno, dos, tres, cinco, seis. UNO, DOS, TRES, CINCO, SEIS. UUUUUNOOO, DOOOOOOSSSSSS, TRESSSS…….Mom! Mom. Mom! Mom. Mom! MOMMMMMAAAAAAA! Mom.”

Miss 14 appears from her 16-hour slumber and 2-hour preening session announcing “Mah! It’s time to drive me and Hannah to the mall.”

I give up.

One week goes by.

One week goes by before all the housekeeping, school and after school-related activities are complete enough for me to feel justified to sit down again and write. Throw in both of my daughter’s birthdays, just for shits and giggles. Forget my attempts to illustrate. I have always wanted to illustrate a children’s book and have recently been given just that opportunity. It never pans out. I will always put my own interests and desire for “more” aside when faced with: mounds of laundry; undone dishes; field trips; school paperwork, therapies and IEP meetings; after school Uber services; maid, grocery shopping and chef duties. Don’t forget to jam in some quality time with the kiddos! Make sure that well-spent time is also Pinterest and Instagram worthy too, or you are a complete failure! The thing is…… those duties are NEVER COMPLETE. I am driven partly by guilt because I am lucky to be a SAHM and shouldn’t my kids and family be everything to me? This is MY JOB and I always have strived to do well at anything that I take on. I can blame that perfectionist thing partially on Catholic School. Sister Mary “Draw One Line Through It” would be proud. The other motivating factor is that NOBODY ELSE WILL FREAKING DO IT and I just can’t live with clutter and disorganization!

I’m a SAHM and that title somehow has me in a position where society views me as either vital or lazy, depending on the source.  I am non-stop and neglect my own interests and self-care, yet nothing is ever really completed. There is always more and there is inevitably always something that I have forgotten to do. I have lost count of the many times that I have bolted upright at 3:00am, spewing expletives upon realizing that I have forgotten some deadline or item needed for a school event. My husband is particularly fond of that little habit. Now cue numerous working Moms who would argue, “yeah, try doing all of that AND working a full-time job.” I get it. I completely agree with you and I applaud you because I have no idea how you do it. Regardless of my understanding, am I not allowed to want for more? Am I allowed to feel unsatisfied? Am I also allowed to be recognized and appreciated in the way that I appreciate you? I often find this is NOT the case. In my experience, women seem to be the most critical of one another.

I recently made the mistake of reading the comments to a joke posted by a friend on Facebook. The post was a stereotypical jab at a Dad who worked all day and then came home to a squeaky-clean home with dinner, dishes and laundry done……kids alive, dressed, happy and fed. The Dad commented something to the effect of “but I worked all day and you got to stay home and do nothing” when help was requested of him by his wife. I believe that the wife commented back “how about you stay home and do nothing all day and I can go off to work all day?” I am lucky to have a husband who helps whenever he can, despite having an unrelenting work schedule but this exchange was funny. It WAS funny. It was a joke, people. The joke may have been a stereotype that is not at all indicative of many of today’s actual Dads but it was amusing. (On a side note…..I seriously could not have ever survived as a 1950’s housewife when the idea of helping a woman with household chores was considered unthinkable. Just having to wear a dress, heels, and pearls all day while cleaning is enough to make me want to vomit profusely). The vast majority of the commenters had nothing positive or humorous to say. The comments had nothing to do with defending Dads though. The comments section was alive with SAHM bashing.

The very first comment that I read was from a woman who had decided that Without a doubt, the SAHM gig is way easier. Those were her exact words. She explained that she had done both and now could say that being a single, working Mom putting herself through school was much harder. Well, her personal experience MUST mean that nothing about other Moms lives could in any way also be tough, right? It’s not like we ALL have challenges of our own or anything. (insert sarcasm here)  “Momming” is hard. I agree that single Motherhood, school and work is beyond tough. THAT is a feat to be recognized with awe. THAT is a strong, motivated woman. THAT is a woman I would be happy to be friends with. THAT is a woman I would be happy to be friends with …….. IF she could just get off her judge-mental soapbox long enough to see beyond her own story wherein she is obviously superior. Superior, or disgruntled in disguise? Heck, I would be first in line with an offer to watch her kids on a snow day. I would probably even make her some coffee in a to-go cup. Perhaps, a breakfast sandwich too. Damn, I don’t even do that for my husband but that’s mostly because he leaves at 5:00 am and I’m a bona fide insomniac who usually has only first fallen asleep at 3:30 am. I can wake at 6:30 after 3 “refreshing” hours of sleep but 4:00 am is not going to happen……not ever. Sorry honey. I love you.

I was dumb enough to believe that I could have an intelligent exchange with this woman and commented that we are all in this Mom thing together and that her assumption really isn’t fair. She responded with WE ARE NOT ALL IN THIS TOGETHER because some of us HAVE TO WORK and are not lucky to be PRIVILEGED. The word privilege is used way too liberally these days and it is a word that generally makes me cringe because it has come to be used as an insult; an insult that insinuates the person on the receiving end lacks general insight into life and is unaware of their blessings. I am not an unaware asshole. I am not without gratitude. Please don’t assume otherwise. Thank you very much.

I mentioned that I didn’t want to leave a job that I had struggled to obtain through years of working multiple jobs while putting myself through Graduate School. I often had very little money, biked to work to save on gas, barely paid my bills and my weight dropped to about 97 lbs. at one point from the sheer exhaustion of it all. A 25-year-old woman should not weigh 97 lbs., in case you were wondering. One manager at the restaurant I worked in at the time said to me “you look good now that you lost all that weight.” That’s a story for another time though because…..so much wrong there. Naturally thin (ahh, youth) I hadn’t exactly been a heifer at maybe a size 4 prior to being an overworked mess.  I was an anxious, panic attack of a waif, whose body and mind were often being pushed to its limits, but I kept going. I was working hard to get myself into a career with an upwardly mobile future. Forward to the present and my husband’s job has exhausting hours that required one of us to be home, especially as our two youngest started to show signs that they both needed early interventions of speech and OT therapy. Just as my middle child made great strides, the littlest began pre-school and I began my job search only to find that he had possibly more pressing and long-term issues than his sister had experienced. Work would again be put on hold. What had I worked tirelessly all those years for?

I still miss my career that I had worked so diligently for and my past few years of life have mostly been filled with menial tasks like finding the matching socks on laundry day. I also talk to my dog. I talk to my dog WAY TOO OFTEN. My brain could really benefit from some stimulation. I have been worn out by the daily mundane stuff, but I have also been lucky to be present for many of my children’s upsets, successes and daily events. I am beyond grateful. My point was only that we all have our “stuff,” and that I was often sad to not be working. I wanted some stranger who was unworthy of my effort to know that I had tenacity. I wasn’t some bobble-headed SAHM unaware that shit can get hard. Why did I care?  I needed more, that’s why. The Facebook renegade’s comment back to me was Kudos on having worked so hard to put yourself through school. It must have been SO difficult when you were single and didn’t also have three children like I do. Someone beneath her commented in her support saying Well, looks like you touched a nerve. You never said being a SAHM was easier. Someone shouldn’t be so sensitive. All you said was you did both, but ummm, whatever.

But ummm, whatever. Such compelling language. Also, her reading comprehension left something to be desired because the first line of the original poster’s initial comment was Without a doubt, the SAHM gig is way easier. But, ummm, whatever. (insert eye roll here) I could have taken the low road and assumed to know the initial poster (as she had done to me) by commenting on her poor life choices of NOT getting her career in order prior to marrying and having children with a man who wasn’t fully committed to her. I could have ASS-umed that I knew her entire story. I decided it was wasted and petty, so I just bowed out. I’m 100% Italian. Quiet and non-argumentative is not something I am genetically pre-dispositioned to be. Me, ever shutting up….it’s kind of a big deal. Just ask EVERY person who knew me growing up and they all could confirm this as pure fact. They would probably also add that I was socially inept and never really knew the appropriate time to pause and allow reciprocal conversation. I vividly recall that “OhmiGod, do you ever shut-up?” where the first words ever spoken to me at the end of my first bus ride to Kindergarten. My poor friends and fellow classmates. I really was annoying. If I could go back in time, I would hand out Tylenol and ear plugs; maybe even a rolled-up newspaper to swat me with. Spray bottle of water anyone? They could have trained me like a cat who won’t get off the countertops.

My desire for more does not negate an awareness of another’s hard work or struggles in life. My desire for more also does not negate my awareness that I have been lucky to be able to stay home. When did this whole working Mom vs SAHM thing become such a “pissing contest?”  Am I allowed to be both grateful AND to want more? Am I allowed to believe that women need to support each other? We SHOULD all be in this together.

I never did get past the first line of that initial story BTW. I never did work on any of my illustrations. I haven’t showered in days and just burned dinner but hey, at least my life is easier (once again, insert sarcasm). My privileged butt is going to eat some PB&J on fancy paper plates now. Maybe I will also nibble on some bon bons after. Oh wait, my personal shopper (me) didn’t buy any. Even if I had bought some, let’s be real……the kids would have already eaten them all. No bonbons for me.

Jenn Miele Leslie lives in Woodbridge, CT with her husband, three kids ages 7, 9 and 14 and a stubborn but cuddly bulldog who likes to fart and snore.

Originally from Long Island, N.Y. (yes, that IS how you say it – if you’re from there you just understand) she misses being able to find a decent bagel or breakfast sandwich.

Once an Art Therapist specializing in working with adults with various developmental disabilities, Jenn now spends her time shuttling her minions to: school; playdates; dance classes and competitions; occupational therapy; coding classes; and what feels like a million additional places, on a daily basis.

In her occasional downtime, Jenn enjoys photography, painting and an iTunes playlist that boasts way too many 90’s alternative songs.

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