Just because I like being a working mom doesn’t mean I don’t fantasize about how the other half lives. When I picture myself as a full-time stay-at-home mom, I’m……baking fresh bread in the mornings and taking my (impeccably dressed) kids to the park or the fancy aquarium in the afternoon, having packed a nutritious but also delicious and adorable lunch for us to enjoy picnic-style on the lawn (on a blanket that matches our earth-friendly cloth napkins, of course). On rainy days we keep busy creating awesome but educational crafts, and in the evenings, my children enjoy nightly rather than fortnightly baths, and oh, the amazing dinners my husband comes home to. I’m Donna Reed in flip-flops.
Missing from these fantasies (by definition) is the reality of what it would really take for me to be a stay-at-home mom. First off, I’d need to hire a housekeeper because I haven’t yet figured out how to clean the house while there are other people in it; as soon as I put something away, something else gets thrown on the floor, and after a while I just give up. Housekeepers are not allowed to give up.
Secondly, I would need to increase my patience for small people by about a thousand percent because, man, I love my kids but there are only so many times I can say “Put on your shoes” before I want to put on my own shoes so I can run out the front door into traffic.
The complication of the situation, however, is that if I’m a stay-at-home mom, I’m not bringing in a paycheck, which means there’s no extra money for a housekeeper. And there’s also no money for craft supplies or aquarium admissions or deluxe cuts of meat for dinner. And we all know you can’t buy extra patience. (Get on that, science.)
Meanwhile back in the real world, ours is a messy house, but our messes are happy messes of toys and books and cast-off shoes full of sand and a kitchen in evidence of letting the three-year-old help make dinner again. And who needs fancy cuts of meat when we love tacos and tacos taste best with ground turkey bought in bulk for 50% off? And pretty picnics are great and all, but sometimes being out and about without a basket full of healthy snacks is the perfect excuse to ignore the diet and have a hot dog. And I don’t know about you, but when this mom gets to go to work and spend time on grown-up projects with other grown-ups? It does wonders for my patience at home. Absence makes my heart grow fonder, and also more lenient about how many books we can read at bedtime.
I guess it’s fun to fantasize about living in that greener-grass other-side-of-the-fence-land because I can pull out all the stops and make it as ridiculously picture perfect as my imagination allows (with much credit to Pinterest). I know I probably won’t ever be in a position to actually live that life, so there’s no pressure to live up to it either. In that way, the grass will always be greener there, but I can see that while also knowing our grass is green enough here, and it’s also riddled with dandelions that my son insists are not weeds but flowers beautiful enough for a hand-picked bouquet to be displayed in a mason jar in the middle of our messy kitchen table. I like it here just fine.