I have a tiny sign in my laundry room with the title of this blog written on it. Initially, I bought this sign to cheer myself up years ago, after watching the movie Sing. For those of you who are allowed to watch grown-up movies and aren’t regularly forced to view only animated children’s movies, I will further explain. In the movie Sing, numerous animal contestants are vying for positions in a talent show that could possibly make them an overnight singing success. Apparently all animals have big dreams of success in the musical world and have the Broadway worthy singing voices to accompany those ambitions. Momma piggie Rosita has 25, unruly piglets to care for and appears frazzled, overworked, and slightly sad from the beginning of the movie. It’s almost immediately obvious that Rosita loves her family, but she has talents that have gone unrecognized and unfulfilled, and she yearns for more. While watching the movie, my then ten-year-old announced “Mom, you’re Rosita!” I smiled and laughed………ON THE OUTSIDE. Inside, I was dying a little, knowing that she was correct. Why couldn’t she just be an oblivious child and was my hatred of never-ending housework, Uber, and chef duties THAT OBVIOUS? I also quietly worried that perhaps she also saw that I didn’t always love being a stay-at-home mom.
My silly little sign was a way of justifying that my dissatisfaction was not about being a stay-at-home mom, because that could somehow appear by extension, as being a negative feeling towards my kids. It was 100% about the seemingly endless housework. Saying otherwise would have been considered blasphemous by social expectations on how a mom should be. I was upset at having a master’s degree but being relegated to use any previously learned expertise on maximizing the allotted space while filling the dishwasher or making the mounds of laundry smell extra fresh. And don’t even get me started on how the socks never seem to match up. I guess that I should have pursued a PhD. Housework WAS the indisputable evil that was bringing me down.
- I can already hear the horrified gasp from selfless moms everywhere, yelling in unison “but those babies are a blessing and how dare you not cherish every millisecond?” (Relax. I do cherish my time with my children. I am fully aware that I am lucky to have healthy children to care for. I am also allowed to feel frustration and some occasional disappointment over my own dreams having been put on hold. EVERY woman has a right to always aspire for more and this doesn’t diminish her love for her children.)
- I can also hear the indignant protests of working moms everywhere accusing me of being an unappreciative ‘B’ for not realizing how lucky I am to be able to stay home with my kids. (Again….relax. I am aware that it is a privilege to remain home with my children, especially when they were small. I am allowed to feel a need for more; to BE more. EVERY woman has a right to express such a need. This also does not negate a mother’s love for her children.)
With the above disclaimers out of the way, please remember to always raise up the other women in your lives. The above explanations should not even be needed. We should never be solely defined by the confines of the gender we are assigned at birth. Just because I was born with the ability to carry and birth a child, doesn’t mean that the job of a mother must my ultimate, singular goal. Despite knowing this at my core, I still clung to a belief that I absolutely HAD TO BE an infallible, Betty Crocker type with an immaculate home who always knew the correct things to say and always had well-behaved children. Anything less would have been unacceptable and a sign of my own personal failings.
My little sign declaring the evil nature of housework, would recently highlight how I had been basically lying to myself. It would best be described as smacking me in the face out of nowhere. My sign would become more motivational and less of the joke that it had started as years ago. My family and I had returned from an amazing vacation with friends and on my first day back, the laundry piles were massive. All day I had felt slightly sick and extremely lethargic. I kept forgetting EVERYTHING throughout my day and at one point while making dinner, I forgot how to use my can opener. Completely did not remember how to use it. HOW? It’s a can opener. Not exactly rocket science. I stared down at the now foreign-looking kitchen appliance incredulous and fighting back anger ….. because WHO forgets how to use a darn can opener? My younger daughter googled it for me to lighten the mood, but my mind was immediately going to a horrible possible explanation such as Alzheimer’s. Surely something must be wrong with me: devastatingly wrong. Thanks to the all-knowing Google, the can of chopped tomatoes was eventually opened and added to the dinner that was simmering on the stove. (Yes, I used canned ingredients. Deal with it.) What kind of mom would I be if not multitasking, so I ran into the laundry room to use whatever spare time that I had. In the middle of trying to fold laundry before it became wrinkled and before dinner burned, I looked up at my sign. There it was. My little sign that read HOUSEWORK IS EVIL. IT MUST BE STOPPED. Something “clicked” in me. I immediately googled my local elementary school to look for job vacancies. Thanks again, Google.
It was never the housework. It was never the kids. It also was never my brain showing signs of illness. Lack of stimulation perhaps ….. but never any illness. My daughter had been correct five years ago. Mommy was unfulfilled. I had been Mama Rosita all these years. I applied for my first job in almost 12 years that day. One week later I had a job offer. Two weeks later I was back working. It is exhausting but I love it and do not doubt my decision. The house miraculously hasn’t imploded. The kids aren’t re-enacting Lord of the Flies……..yet. Everything still gets done. I’ve even learned to just let some things go. Genius concept. My energy levels are back up and I once again remember how to use the can opener.
Jenn Miele Leslie lives in Woodbridge, CT with her husband, three kids ages 8, 10 and 15 and two bulldogs 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 down time, Jenn enjoys photography, painting and an iTunes playlist that boasts way too many 90’s alternative songs.