It’s one of those things you never knew you never knew…

You know how there are things that you find out about and can’t help but say, “I never knew that I never knew that.” Okay, so maybe it’s only me that does that, but pretend for a moment that you understand what I’m talking about. If you’re still clueless, let me tell you about it….

When I was pregnant with my first child, older women in lifts, on buses, in trains, in supermarket aisles and checkouts and even in public toilets would stop and ask me if it was my first child, how far along I was, and was I sure it wasn’t twins? (Pregnancy is so healthful for one’s self-esteem.) As a student of the unspoken languages that we use with one another,  I couldn’t help but notice that there was a look that flitted briefly across each woman’s face when I admitted that this was to be my first child. The look was short-lived and so brief that I almost missed it, but its newness caught my attention. Something about that look held the slightest contradiction to the well wishes being spoken by their mouths, made their smiles seem a little patronising, though not quite.Ten years later, and as the mother of three beautiful and energetic boys, I find myself giving that same look to women embarking on their journey into motherhood. I know now what it means. It’s not condescension or contradiction, it’s more like a mix between reminiscence and pity, congratulations and ‘tighten your garters Betsy because you have no idea what’s about to happen to you’…but in a good way…sometimes (it depends on who has vomited, left a snot trail on the lapel of my black jacket, deleted files on the computer by accident or lost his $70 school jumper on the day in question). It’s the look that says ‘you’re about to find out what you never knew you never knew.’

This past month I’ve found another of those things, though I can’t claim complete ignorance either. I started working part-time with a friend two days a week. It has been a wonderful opportunity that landed on my doorstep at the perfect time — I even get to keep my youngest boy with me while I work (so you know it’s not spy work or demolitions). I knew it would mean a change in our home life, that I would be home less and have housework to catch up on weekends, that I would be tired and that it would take more mental energy than I’d previously needed to wash the bath and hang up 21 kid-sized pairs of underpants each week, but I had no idea how hard it was going to be.

Needless to say, I may not be employed for much longer–I nearly sent a letter to my employer’s clients asking for information on travel they have done and related affairs (rather than air fares). Thankfully she has a sense of humour and I caught the error in the proof read. I’ve also had the same four bags of groceries waiting on the dining room table to be unpacked for three days, and the piles of underpants on the corner of the table not occupied by grocery bags, is growing daily (I almost forgot to mention that they are clean underpants that have been laundered but not sorted–just in case you were invited to dinner this week and were reconsidering in the light of some miscommunicated opinion of our family hygiene).

I never knew that I never knew how amazing you all are working mothers! I never knew that I underestimated the stress you are under or the price you pay to do what you do. I know now. I take my hat off to you! Please forgive me if I put it back on my head, it’s just that if I put it down, I may never find it again! Now if I could just find my keys…..

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Darya
    Jul 09, 2011 @ 23:44:27

    I also never knew what working outside the home would do to our family. For some odd and inexplicable reason when my focus is not on the home, neither is anyone else’s. Working at home IS a full time job and the remuneration may not be financial but the rewards are endless.
    Yeah, I remember that “look”!

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    • ariannecoad
      Jul 11, 2011 @ 14:42:07

      I agree Darya! I think that we too often feel that time at home (opposed to payed employment) is ‘time off’ or ‘time out’ and undervalue the importance of our role at home. In the struggle for equal rights for women and women’s lib, we have lost the small but essential fact that one cannot be all things to all people, that something, somewhere has to give. We cannot give less than we are paid to in a job but there is no mystery potion that makes up for the energy and time you spend there so that when you get home you still have enough to give to your children, your spouse and your home. Something has to give, someone has to go without, and it is often more than one someone…it’s the working mother too! How do we find that balance? if we can do that better, perhaps there would be fewer of us to arrive in our 40’s complaining that we have lost ourselves in the busy rush of life. I

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  2. Vik
    Jul 09, 2011 @ 17:55:21

    As a full-time-working and part-time-studying mother of two, I am thankful for a very supportive hisband without whom I could not do what I do. While some may take their hat off to me, I take mine off to all the single parents out there who do not have the support of a partner to share the load with and who have to be two parents every single day.

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  3. Louisa
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 23:08:48

    Hahaha, I know exactly what look you’re talking about with the first time mothers. If any of them ever ask me for advice on how to get ready I always tell them to have long bubble baths alone where you get time to wash and condition your hair and shave both your legs, and go see every movie on the circuit because it will be yeeeears before you get to a cinema again, or don’t watch something animated when you do.

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