Last week, a tale of parental non-serious horror unfolded before my very eyes. As I sat the kids down for lunch, I spied a black Sharpie marker laying in the middle of the living room floor. With the cap off. My heart plummeted to my stomach and I’m pretty sure I started saying “NO! NO! NO! NO!” out loud as I ran in to find the cap strewn a few feet from the marker. I looked around frantically because I could just tell that this Sharpie had been used. Why else would it be laying there without the cap on? Then I screamed a loud, guttural “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” when I saw that there were permanent black scribble marks alongside the the couch. To add insult to injury both kids were behind me when I made the discovery and the perpetrator, Olivia (are you really surprised by that? The Terrible Twos is for real) threw her head back and started cackling. Like legit villain-like laughing. No remorse. Zero f***s given. I saw red. Well, rather black. I declared it was time for her nap even though it was still 30 minutes away. I gave AJR the iPad and I set to Googling “how to remove Sharpie from upholstery”.
A mere 90 minutes later, I was triumphant. Thank you, internets. I excitedly took a picture of my handiwork and texted my husband that I had rescued our couch. Followed by a text that swiftly crushed any original dreams he had of replacing our furniture. We could re-evaulate in 16 years.
Why am I telling you this story? Well, with my anger abated after all the physical activity of scrubbing the stains I was starting to feel pretty proud of myself. Then it hit me. This was a legit accomplishment for me. An achievement. Removing a Sharpie stain from a couch was something that I took pride in. Not today, permanent marker! Not on my watch! It was only a matter of a few years ago that I was in the corporate world where achievement felt a little different: top sales rep of the quarter, finishing above project sales goal for the year, bringing on new clients and earning annual awards and accolades along the way. Talk about a complete 180. Reality checked. Hard.
This moment didn’t launch me into any sort of an existential crisis (can you hear my husband’s sigh of relief?) In fact, I believe that I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing right now. That’s something I’ve finally come to terms with and embraced. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t miss the satisfaction my competitive, type-A personality received in a corporate environment.
Let me be clear, motherhood is not something I have any interest in being competitive in. Unless that competition is the greatest number of minutes your child has held your phone and watched videos while you completed shopping in a store, in which case, the trophy is alllll miiinnneee, mommies. No, the competition, and dare I say, validation is much different in the corporate world. There was something quantitative about your progress, at least for a sales rep. You had a goal, you knew where you stood against that goal, and you had the ability to control your own destiny. There were other sales reps on your team and while I’ve always had the fortunate experience to work with supportive, awesome co-workers, I’d be lying if we weren’t all vying to be top sales rep. We were driven and competitive, yet in a friendly way. It was exactly what I needed. Each year you had an annual review where you received constructive criticism to implement for the following year as well as affirmation for things that you were doing right. You always knew where you stood and you were always somewhat in control of your destiny.
Motherhood is devoid of any such benchmarks for performance. Something I admittedly struggle with. And controlling your own destiny? Ha. That’s laughable. What works one day is guaranteed to not work the next. Toddler emotions are more volatile than liquored-up bachelorettes vying for the final rose so having any sort of “control” is an illusion. The amount of effort you put into motherhood does not yield perfectly well-behaved, future Rhodes scholar children. Even on your best day of mothering, your kid could still pull out a tantrum in public and make you feel like you are absolutely failing.
The Sharpie incident to cause me to wonder if I’ve been channeling my energy into things like home-made Halloween costumes and birthday cakes since there is no other way to scratch the itch that the corporate world did. I hit the brakes on that line of self-analysis as I truly enjoy doing those things and did them to an extent while I was working and AJR was little. It’s not some sort of weird and competitive Pinterest mom thing that drives me to do it. I just love seeing the looks on my kids’ faces when I’m dressed up in a silly mermaid costume to run around on Halloween with them. Or how excited they get when I unveil their birthday cake made at their specific request. It’s a sweet tradition and honestly, even if I were still working I would probably still do it.
It’s much simpler. There are just things I miss about working. It goes beyond the autonomy that working in an office provided (see: peeing alone, being the only one to eat my lunch). It’s utilizing my brain in a way that’s much different than trying to come up with clever ways to kill four hours on a rainy day. Being able to regain some sense of self, an identity that is separate from wife and mother. And lastly, having the ability to contribute financially. Never in a million years has my husband remotely said anything to make me feel like I should be bringing home the bacon or that I need to. I know that staying at home to cook the bacon for everyone has allowed our family to maintain a balance that allows him to work unburdened by the worry about pick ups and drop offs and days when the kids are sick where it becomes a negotiation between two working parents as to who needs to be in the office more. Even so, it is a weird feeling to go shopping or buy a house, knowing that money from your figurative pocket hasn’t been contributed.
I am content to be the CEO of our household for now. It should be noted that I have given myself that title and in no way has my husband actually agreed to it, but I am thinking of ordering the nameplate anyway as it’s definitely true. Motherhood is so fulfilling in a multitude of ways and I could not be more fulfilled as a mother. All I’m saying is that sometimes, when I’m not too tired and can actually give it some thought, I do miss working. I miss the challenge. I miss the mental exercise. I get a little hungry.
All I have to say, is God help us all once AJR is in kindergarten and I can join the PTO.