The year before my daughter was born, my days were consumed by web sales, content creation, and traffic coordination in my job as an e-Commerce Manager while my late nights were spent behind a camera as I helped to produce a docu-drama television series set at a nightclub. It was crazy. Weekend days were often eaten up with styling or writing projects I didn’t want to say no to and there were nights when three hours of sleep would sustain another go at the schedule. I worked hard to complete tasks, drive sales, capture scenes, conduct interviews, and make other people’s visions come to life. I loved it, the challenges were fun, but it was work.
I expected my daughter to arrive late and the idea of an overnight bag was still far off when I joked on a morning show segment that I was so unprepared, I’d probably end up going into labour live on television. But the next day, the joke was on me when my water broke and I hadn’t even decided what I was going to do about maternity leave. Actually, I assumed I’d just keep working and everyone at the office went along with it! I mean, “Babies sleep a lot”, and “they’re so portable when they’re newborns” and “just sleep when baby sleeps”. That’s what I was told.
However, I didn’t get one of those (possibly mythical) bucket-seat-babies. I got the kind of baby that wouldn’t sleep without being held close, being sung to until I run out of lullabies and had to repeat the setlist, or nursing (for which, it turned out, I had to stay awake). There was no catching up on laundry, getting into a soap opera, or doing the dishes while she slept—returning work emails as planned was a world away. Instead, I played piano with my daughter wrapped in her Moby, danced wildly to electro-pop to keep her from crying when I needed a break from a baby carrier (her eyes filled with a mixture of delight and confusion), and waved a succession of spice bottles under her nose, watching her reactions and trying to articulate each for her. She was utterly, wonderfully time-consuming.
What she wasn’t was work.
For some reason, other people kept telling me she was. Facebook posts that added up how much a mom would hypothetically get paid for their roles as chauffeur, chef, and nurse (none of which I’d had the training to do professionally) and other value-driven articles about stay-at-home moms were suddenly popping up in my newsfeed. Interactions about my life’s schedule changed and the man who came to inspect my flooring for warranty patted my hand and told me I was working the way women should. Y’ALL. I get that stay-at-home moms can feel under-appreciated not only because the days are full of hands-on activity but also because running on little sleep and trying to decipher the needs of an infant without time to recharge is emotionally draining. Without my husband’s help, the house wouldn’t have been tidy and food couldn’t get prepped. Without my mom coming in to hold Petra in the mornings while I made breakfast, showered, or threw diapers into the wash, I would have been straight-up hungry and exhausted. But that’s the point. Just like caring for my daughter will be part of my life forever, my parents’ role in mine is ongoing and my husband will be beside me, sharing our to-do list. That’s family. That’s life. And thinking of life as a job doesn’t appeal to me.
To the moms out there that are working in offices, classrooms, mines, or anywhere outside the home, thank you for showing your children and mine that women are capable of being goal-driven leaders in their fields. And to my fellow stay-at-home moms and dads, kudos for devoting your time to making your household tick with your effort, support, and love. Credit is deserved for either path because being a parent isn’t all roses and gratitude either way. And to the moms out there that feel like they’re just getting by or don’t have the support system I so often take for granted, please stuff my “motherhood isn’t work” feelings into your “irrelevant” file and call parenthood whatever suits you. The BIGGEST PROPS go to you.