I’m a true Jamaican. I’ve worked many jobs in my short life. Maybe because I’m the daughter of immigrants, I’ve always witnessed my family working and working hard. My first job, that I can recall, started when I was ten. I was working as a secretary for my stepfather in his basement office. I didn’t have work clothes, so the summer of my first job, I would put on my “Sunday best”, take the long daily commute downstairs to the basement. I learned how to answer phones, fax, and file. I remember receiving my first “pay” of $40 and being absolutely perplexed about what to do with “all this money!”
Since then, I worked as teacher’s assistant, “mother’s helper”, nurse aide, practical nurse, research assistant, engineer and ESL teacher. Also, at times I’ve read books onto tapes for students with learning disabilities, helped deliver babies, managed a vegetarian kitchen, tutored, and maybe some other tasks I don’t remember. I guess self-sufficiency has been a big part of my consciousness. I remember at some point I was holding onto my tap shoes, just in case I became homeless and had to tap dance for money. Too much city-living I presume.
What has me thinking of my “employment” history as of late is that Lil’ Z is now three months. If I was committed to full-time work right now, I would probably be returning after my maternity leave. It’s at this stage that I would have to surrender her to the primary daycare of another, not my own. Hmmm. Could I do it if I didn’t have to? How much would I miss her and her doings? While many pity the one who stays home to rear her children, I pity the one who’s forced to return to work before she’s ready or willing.
As you can probably tell, I’ve always been a “busy body”. I can only recall several months since my first job that I was neither in school nor working. Even when I was waddling into Oman while seven months pregnant, I had anxiety about the stay-at-home life. I wanted to go out every day with Urbndervish but as my eight month of pregnancy crept in, I was thankful to have nowhere to go in the morning. I could sleep in and go through my day with leisure. I had time to visit new friends, make green smoothies, do yoga, and nap as long as I wanted and I’m sure that my birthing benefited tremendously by means of it.
Now, that I’m actually a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), I’m discovering what a privilege it is. I have a choice. I have skills that I can use to “earn a living” and papers to prove it, but I’m glad to be directing my energies primarily to the development of my child. As a not-yet-mother friend told me recently, “I know that I can multi-task but I don’t want to multi-task a child.” I feel similarly. I’m glad that I’m giving my 9 to 5 to my daughter, not my 5(pm) to 9(pm). Raising a child is no small task; at least not for a parent who has the kind of ambitions that we hold for ours. While many belittle SAHMs and they themselves feel pressure both internally and externally to return work, prioritizing one’s child is an important task that has much further implications that we can imagine.
On my 25th birthday, my mom told me that I’ve done a lot and should feel “accomplished”. I’m certainly grateful but feel strongly that the satisfaction of knowing that Urbndervish and I did our best to leave the planet with good, noble people will be a more worthwhile accomplishment than any CV can encompass. We want to raise children who love the Creator intensely, love humanity selflessly, and love the creation responsibly. We want to raise children who are our heroes- those who restore our hope when dismal times challenge our optimism. We want to raise children who are so much better than ourselves! Children that we love AND like; children who can teach us what we haven’t learned ourselves. There is nothing menial about the work of mothering. By far, it’s the most important and daunting task I’ve taken up to date but I’m sure it will be the most rewarding.
Some find it a waste for “educated” women to just be moms. Mothers are human beings that carry the sum total of all they are to whatever task they face. I’m not committed to never holding a job again. However, I am committed to prioritizing my energies and efforts for my family before others. I may do part-time work, volunteer, or whatever else arises, but it’s very optional and I certainly don’t want to do so at the expense of our home and family life. When Urbndervish and I were both working full-time, there was little time to enjoy our home and enjoy our family. Now, I have more time to nurture our little unit and the space we indwell, and it feels right. Weekends can be weekends, not “catch-up” days to do all that we couldn’t during the week. I have time to cook whole, nourishing meals, keep the house clean and pleasant, volunteer to do meaningful projects, make soup and visit the sick, have tea with my neighbors and keep our lives flowing with beauty and ease. There’s time for reflection, prayer, and play and this makes our life feel very whole, alhamdulillah (praise be to God!).
Maybe the term SAHM needs a face-lift for those who rise to the challenge with purpose and passion, not just as a default or culturally-imposed role. I see myself as a primarily-present mom (PPM). (Do I need to copyright this?) My priority is to be the best I can be on all levels, so I can be fully present while meeting the needs of my family. We’re not sure about the details of Lil’ Z’s future but we are committed to putting her needs first and positioning ourselves to do so accordingly. Even if one day she doesn’t appreciate or agree with the choices we’ve made for her, our prayer is that she’ll know how much we love her and sincerely tried to do our best.