Monday, July 28, 2008

"Good For You, Honey!"

Have you ever wondered about the responses you get when you tell people you're a stay-at-home mom? I have come to believe these responses say so much about the person giving them, and so little about you.

For example, there's the fierce, "Good for you! That is so awesome!" which always makes me suspect the person I am talking to thinks I'm a right-wing homeschooler (I am not), or that I am doing something righteous (I am not). I often feel the person is about to embark upon a long speech about the selfishness of women these days, how they don't understand that what a child needs is his mother, etc., etc. My response: a small smile. (An interesting aside: most of the people who give me this particular response are men.)

Another one I get is this: "How fun! You're so lucky to have that option." I believe this person wishes he/she had that option, or that his/her parents had that option. If they asked (which most people don't) I would tell them that part of the reason I am a SAHM is because my mom never was and I always wished she could be. So I understand this response, but I also think it could be very wrong when applied to someone else. Like, someone who doesn't really have the "choice" whether or not to stay home with the kids for whatever reason. My response: a small smile.

When people find out that I used to be an English teacher, they will sometimes ask, "Do you think you'll go back when the kids are older?" My response: Hell, no. When they're older they'll be playing with matches and sipping off my liquor bottles after school. (Well, at least my daughter and her friends will be while my son is at the chess club meeting.)

Here's one that I heard recently, from three or four moms: "Oh, God! I could never do that. One week I had to stay home with my kid because he had the flu and I almost killed myself. I was so bored. I mean, hats off to you, but..."

One of these women also complained that even though she and her husband both had important jobs, his always trumped hers because he's a doctor. She was totally over it. "So I'm the one who has to come home early if the kid is sick because some patient tried to commit suicide. Like I care!" I don't think she meant to be callous, but her point was taken. It gets old when your life is always the one being shunted aside "for the children."

For my part, I don't like the "Good for you, Honey!" response because what the person giving it doesn't understand is that I'm commitment-averse and I hate working for a living. I am a much more productive member of society now that I am raising kids and gardening and cooking and being a good friend and sending flowers to my grandma and teaching the odd yoga class than I EVER was as someone's paid employee. Some people might think I am a loser for this reason (my ex-boyfriend's smirking face comes to mind). Maybe I haven't lived up to my potential. I'm not sure what kind of potential that might be, but I've a feeling being a 7th grade English teacher wasn't it.

This is my potential right now.

Good for me.

(And another thing. How do these "good for you honey" people know that I'm not a big old princess who hires out 60 hours of childcare a week so I can play tennis and paint my nails? Hmmm? Is it the pasty skin and scraggly fingernails that give it away?)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What's the Real Altitude?

After giving it a lot of thought - say, about ten years - I finally went to a naturopathic doctor. Enough was enough with the meds, already. I could handle them making me stupid, but I could NOT handle them making me fatter. I've been very patient with this over the last two years, but really, I want to wear my old clothes again.

I sat on a padded Ikea chair in the naturopath's waiting room and tackled her multi-page intake form. What were my bowel movements like? Had I ever been raped? How often did I drink and had I ever been treated for it? All easy to answer. Then came this one:

How would I describe my general emotional state?

Well, I'm here about depression, right? So hadn't I better write some word that describes me at my worst? Like, "spent" or "overwhelmed" or "seething with rage"?

The truth was that another, very different word had immediately sprung to mind. But I didn't trust it. Yet if it wasn't that word, then what word would it be?

"First thought, best thought," says my teacher, Denise. All right , I thought. And I wrote the word "contentment."

Immediately I left my body and viewed this scene from somewhere in the upper corner of the calm, purple, wellness-center-themed room. Ok, I said, let's get this straight. You're a not-actually-fat person seeing a specialist to get off meds for your depression because they make you fat and stupid. Yet you write that your general emotional state is "contentment." Are you really content? Are you really having a problem?

I came back to my body and said to that voice, in the nicest possible way, "Oh, do shut up." Then I finished filling out the forms.

So, contentment. This is a huge milestone. This is a revelation. Nay, a revolution! A revolution has taken place inside my mind! Thank God for all the yoga, the meditation, the loving husband, the children, my good friends, the flowers blooming in my garden, the blue sky, all the suffering that is now GONE!

Or maybe it's just the meds.