The other day, I was at the gym during my usual morning workout. I noticed that one of the patrons with whom I used to chat was back from down south. I think he and his wife spend their winters there. We’ll call this man Al, because that’s his name.
I was in a fantastic mood because I was rocking my workout and I had enjoyed at least two cups of coffee already. I welcomed Al back to the north country and asked how his winter had been. Although he isn’t in *great* health, he reported that he was feeling fine, and was happy to be back. Excellent.
So, I’ve always enjoyed talking to Al. I know he has grown children of his own and he was always interested in talking about my teaching career, which, right now, is on the back burner so I can raise my children at home. Al knew all this, but he asked if I was back to teaching. Thinking it had been a long few months, I smiled and reminded him that I was now a stay at home mom. “Not even part time teaching?”, he asked. Nope, not even that. “But I thought you really liked teaching?” I did. I do. “So, how long do you think you’ll not work for?” At this point I broke the news that Ella was only 13 months old right now, and I planned to wait until she gets to kindergarten. I can only describe his face as filled with great disappointment. He did the math in his head and decided to let me know that meant I had four more years. (I am definitely no savant at math, but I had that number figured out). He then told me that four more years was a LONG time to “not work”.
So many thoughts ran through my head as we had this conversation. I am usually met with sighs of relief and smiles of elation when I tell people I am a stay at home mom. “You’re doing the right thing.” You’ll never regret this time.” That’s what I usually hear. I also know lots of people who don’t stay at home and tell me they love working. But never has anyone even implied that my “not working” came as a disappointment to them.
Let me also say that this man wasn’t grieving over the loss of my expertise in the field, as he has never seen me teach, never met my students, and never conversed with any of my teaching peers. It’s not like the guy was going to miss me working side by side with him, and it’s not like his children (or children’s children as it may be) had wanted me to be their teacher next year, and were suddenly disappointed that I was no longer in the work force. He was simply unimpressed that I was not working.
I was annoyed. Irked. Pissed off. Who was he to come sauntering back from Florida after THIS WINTER of pure snowy hell to tell me that I should be working instead of “not working”? Did he not know how much WORK Harrison and Ella are?? Did HE clean the crayon off the walls?? (Truth be told, no one has done that yet) Did he schlep people in and out of the car in subarctic temperatures? Did he put on little coats and little hats and little boots, only to have mittens lost minutes after stepping outside? Did he potty train one kid while keeping the other from fishing in the toilet? No. He simply thought I was just sitting around, not working.
This interaction then struck me in a different light. I have been so very, very lucky to have had such supportive friends and family members over the past year of my life. Being a stay at home mom is not always rainbows and butterflies, but it definitely is worth it. And even though I often miss teaching, I know I’m doing the right thing for my family.