Monday, July 16, 2012

The Job

Recently Gianna asked me if I had a job "like Daddy." I told her, "Yes, I have a job, my job is taking care of you guys and keeping the house from going to shambles and cooking dinner most of the time. Um, though no one pays me."

She regarded me with narrowed eyes for a moment...contemplating. And she said, "But......"

And I thought, here we go. She's going to call me out. She's thinking, "I know you haven't showered in days and that those pants look suspiciously like the ones you wore yesterday and the day before that, and you spend your days constructing the Melissa and Doug Underwater Giant Floor Puzzle with Easy Clean Surface overandover again for a demanding toddler punctuated by sitting in the backyard reading a book while your children frolic in the kiddie pool. This is not a real job. Daddy showers. Gets dressed. Drives away in a car not filled to the brim with car seats and discarded baby dolls and sippy cups and oozing with unknown sticky substances. He watches the stock market and has adult conversations that are not about whether or not it is possible to remove raisins from a cinnamon raisin bagel. Daddy gets paid."

Except that's not what she said. She said, "But....your job is longer than Daddy's job." I had to smile just a little. She might be five, but she is already thinking about men, and women, and what they are made to do.

I heard an interview on NPR recently with the author of an article entitled, "Why Women Still Can't Have it All." I didn't hear the whole thing because I was in and out of the car, but after reading the article I wanted to tell this poor woman that nobody has it all. Whatever that even means.

I sure am glad that I have the ability to choose to enter the workplace or to stay home, I'm glad about that aspect of the "feminist revolution" but I guess I am too young to feel like I am somehow doing a disservice to my sex by having babies and being the one to care for them. The woman spoke of her colleagues killing themselves on long hours and agonizing over spending quality time with the children because they "had to be an example to other, younger, women that is is possible to mix career and family the same way as a man does."

What they ran up against was this teensy little problem of biology. Whether you see it as straight up evolution, God's commandment, or a messy mix of both, it's hard to escape the fact that women come wired up to make and take care of babies. We can do a lot to even the playing field....we can make artificial baby milk so anyone can feed the baby, we have high powered breast pumps and machines that simulate a mother's heartbeat. We have daycares with video monitors. And we have the pointless battle of who has it harder....the stay at home mom or the work outside the home mom?

I suspect it's all hard. Grown up time is a lot of work any way you slice it. I suspect that no woman is 100% happy with the state of things 100% of the time. I suspect that most stay at home moms have at one time or another looked longingly after her husband's vehicle...wishing to escape the sometimes mind-numbing boredom and isolation of running a household with small children. I suspect that most career moms have at one time or another looked longingly at their baby as they make a daycare drop off. I suspect that most men who have children miss their families intensely even as they work to provide for them. Nobody has it all.

So what is the answer? I don't really know, other than to say that we don't have to feel so oppressed by our biological realities. Yes, puking your way through a pregnancy is not a good time, and no man has ever had to put up with that. But no man has ever felt the incredible flips and tumbles and hiccups of a baby nestled sweetly in their womb. Yes, labor and birth can hurt a lot, and men have been spared this "curse." But no man has ever had the opportunity to know, in the deepest sense, they couldn't go any farther, and then discover in the next moment that they can reach down and pull a soft, wet, wrinkly baby to their chest in the most mysterious, miraculous event on earth. Yes, it can be tiring to be the sole provider of sustenance for a newborn, and a man has never felt that responsibility in the way a woman does, but there's never been a man who has had the opportunity to look down at a velvety baby nursing peacefully in his arms in an incredible dance of hormones and love.

We sometimes get to do these things, we women, along with almost anything else we desire. Lest anyone think that I believe in women's work as being more important than anything a man might do, I assure you this is not the case. That is the problem with trying to make men exactly like women, or women exactly like men. As the author of the article cautiously admitted in her interview, men and women are different, however, she insists if our society can make certain changes, we can all "have it all" and leave biology and centuries of socialization in the dust. I agree with the author that it would be an improvement for parenthood to be seen with the same sort of gravitas as a high-powered career, but if you continue to disdain those who choose to have babies young and not try to combine family and're perpetuating the same myth that you are trying to eradicate.

What I have come to see is that I might not "have it all" but as a woman I have an opportunity to do some unique and unrepeatable things that exist solely for the sanctification and growth of me and my family. And I get to call these things, some of momentous import and some the most mundane of mundane, a job. I'll take it.


  1. I LOVE every word of this!!!

  2. Love it too. You are such an amazing writer. Best response I have read to that article so far.

  3. Love this! I've been a stay at home mom and a working mom and you always think the grass is greener. I guess its different for every woman and you've just got to follow your heart. You never really know whats the right decision. I did gain a whole new respect for what stay at home moms do. Its the hardest but most rewarding job you'll ever have.

  4. This is fantastic! Exactly how I feel. I am so thankful for the time I got to spend with my kids, and I can't wait to get back to it!

  5. bravo! i had an opportunity to apply for a 15 hr job - so very flexible i could have one or both kids with me. its only 15 hours...but i hesitated and pulled back because i knew where my kids needed me now. at home. maybe in a few years when they are in school and i'm not needed as much. but for now i'll stay home. washing diapers and bottles. folding clothes and putting them away. taking them to the pool in the morning. coloring with isaac sprawled in the floor, teaching him the ABCs and how to count. soothing them back to sleep when teething or bad dreams wakes them up. making memories. in a blink of an eye they will be gone.