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The Joy of Working – Proudly … as a Full-time Mom

The Joy of Working – Proudly … as a Full-time Mom

By Sylvia Forrest

My husband told me excitedly about a book by Hob Lipson, a robotics expert who predicts that within one hundred years, technology will have made human work obsolete. “Why is that exciting?” I asked, horrified.  “Where will people get their sense of purpose?  What will make them get up in the morning?”

While we’ve all occasionally fantasized about living a life of total ease, in reality, it might grow dull very quickly.  The fabulously wealthy on television don’t seem particularly happy or satisfied; in fact, we seem to watch them mostly because it makes us feel better about going to work.  Few people can truly imagine life without a vocation of some kind to structure their week.

This may seem an odd assertion coming from a housewife and full-time mother of two children who will soon enough leave the nest.  People think I have it easy.  Many started asking me, as soon as my youngest entered kindergarten, when I would return to the workforce.  Between morning and afternoon carpool, I must be eating bonbons and watching soap operas!  Surely I could find a more productive way to spend my time.

Well-meaning cashiers at the grocery store ask, “so, you have the day off of work today?” as they check out my purchases.  I feel temporarily guilty that my husband makes enough money to give me this “leisure time,” during which I clean the house, run errands, and yes, even read books and enjoy long walks.  Just because some women work in stores or offices all day, and then cram in cleaning/cooking/parenting between the hours of seven and ten pm, should I be doing that, too?

I left the workforce for full-time motherhood when we moved in 2001.  Being new in town, and no longer having business cards to pass around, I ordered calling cards announcing my profession as “Chief Cook and Bottle-Washer.”  Whenever I had to fill out paperwork asking for my occupation, I never wrote “none.”  Instead, I wrote “full-time housewife and mother.”  I resented being asked.  It made me question my identity, which had always been bound up in what I did all day at the office.  It made me feel dependent upon my husband, rather than like part of a team.

Most of all, I despised the question, “Do you work?”  to which I replied bitterly, “Very hard at home, thank you for asking.”

I thought to myself, “A mother’s job is never done. Don’t feel defensive!”  And yet I did feel defensive, for years, until finally, I didn’t anymore.  I felt proud.  Proud to have made a conscious decision to devote myself to hearth and home, and to be productive in both housework and “me-time” during the day, so that afternoons and evenings could be spent energetically and enthusiastically tending to the ones I love the most.

Then just over a month ago we moved across the country, and once again the question began rearing its ugly head on paperwork: “Occupation?”

I hesitated. This seemingly simple question loomed like judgment day.  My answer will tell me how comfortable I am with my life as it is, and set the tone for my future in this new city. Andrew is in high school now; in a few short years, Caitlin will follow.  How much longer will I be a full-time mother and housewife?  Is that how I want to be seen? Don’t I need something else to focus on, a fresh start for this new phase in our lives?

“Writer,” I wrote, uncomfortably.

Merriam-Webster defines occupation as: “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation; or a principal calling, vocation, or employment.” Though I am truly passionate about writing, it cannot be my principal calling while my children still live under my roof.  I picked up the pen and scratched out my response.

“Full-time mother,” I crammed into the tiny space that remained.

Just as there was only a small space to fit in those words, I have only a few short years left to enjoy this demanding and exhilerating full-time occupation.  When the kids go off to college, maybe I will put “writer” on those forms.  Maybe I will return to office work, or maybe not. For now, I will proudly declare to all who ask, “I work very hard at home – thank you for asking.”

About the Author
Sylvia Forrest holds a BA in Philosophy from Wesleyan University and a MBA from Emory University. Forrest currently lives in Denver, Colorado where she is happily married, a mother to two beautiful children and a dear friend to many.  “A View from My Window: REAL STORIES FOR REAL WOMEN” is her debut novel.