By Deborah Russell
I closed my gallery and studio, in Salisbury, Maryland, in order to become a stay at home mom for my two grandsons.
I was tired of being stressed over the quality of daycare, and having to constantly wonder, if the personnel was educated enough to handle the responsibility of caring for pre-school and school aged children.
Instead of dressing in my work clothes or gallery reception finest, I decided to wear the “mom’s” uniform, become the family “martyr” and raise my energetic, loving and creative grandsons.
Maintaining a household and raising two rambunctious boys began to seem like a daydream, compared to the overwhelming amount of energy and work it takes when organizing exhibits, meeting public relations deadlines, attending numerous meetings each week, coordinating arts related events and providing “equal” wall space for thirty six visual artists.
My “job/career” of motherhood was just coming to an end, like the light at the end of a tunnel, my youngest daughter was fourteen and the decision did not come easy, to give up what I enjoy and love, to return to the role of super-mom.
I thought about the pros and cons for nearly six months before taking the final plunge. Since my strongest work background was “motherhood”, I felt my experience would make the job easier this time around. I would learn that thought could not have been further from the truth.
Like most stay-at-home moms, I had become “the home-maker” that I always dreaded. I was like a mega Betty Crocker; cook, maid, chief bottle washer, taxi driver, disciplinarian, nurse, playmate, mediator, counselor and tutor - twenty four - seven.
I admit, motherhood has its glorious and wonderful moments and had it not been for those sweet, precious moments (usually while they were asleep) I might have “jumped ship” and swam to the nearest tropical island. But, I stuck to the helm and battened down the hatches… and yelled, “Steady as she goes!”
Though, more often, I would be the odd one, in a crowd, that would say, “Isn’t motherhood the most rewarding and satisfying experience any woman could dream of having?” (Humm, not that I believed it entirely, but some say if you lie to yourself, enough, you start to believe the lie.
Why is it that career women put ambitions, careers and earning potential on hold to care for their husbands, children and grandchildren? What moves them to do this? They aren't the ones missing a chromosome, so it makes no sense...
Personally, I wanted something more for my grandsons, I wanted them to learn family responsibility, family ethics and to learn the home is the center of the universe and the table is the heart of the home.
And what a crock, that turned out to be. The general concept may be realistic and mostly true for the first few years, but believe me, that table turns quickly into a battlefield for homework, for the first and last word, and even for the last piece of any dessert.
So, in my “dream of motherhood”, instead of reviewing slides of paintings, sculpture and photography, I found myself checking small mouths, which grew to large mouths, to see if teeth were brushed. I became a connoisseur; taste – testing boy friendly vegetables and meals and became the head inspector, checking the consistency and depth of muddy socks and dirty underwear on bedroom floors.
I was no longer approached with resumes, publicity photos or promotional material, but with salamanders, unusual bouquets, pinecones, fishing nets and totally “boy”, 101 riddle and joke books.
The reality is, taking on the responsibility of motherhood is an experience that causes deep emotional attachment but, at the same time, you might strangely find yourself dreaming of the real glamour of life; data entry, answering phones, meeting clients and meeting PR deadlines to arts councils, news media and businesses.
One thing becomes evident, the gains do not seem to equal the loss. Motherhood is a full-time, terribly difficult job, which makes constant demands on your time and energy. There is no longer a question of what should be prioritized, because the obvious answer is always “children first”.
The nights you dream your husband will come in and sweep you off your feet with a bottle of wine, a fire, in the fireplace, and soft, romantic music become non-existent. He no longer knows who you are, nor does he care.
Your nights are filled with making dinner, doing dishes, last minute homework assignments, dirty clothes and a multitude of children’s activities; ie: music lessons, riding lessons, PTA meetings, chaperoning school trips, dances and organizing social calendars around school, holidays, birthdays, family deaths, injuries and dental and doctor appointments.
There is no time for the person you were (and inside, still was) because that person does not exist in the mystical realm of motherhood. Makeup becomes a luxury and when you have time to wear it, everyone becomes suspicious and wants to know where you are going, why and when are you coming back.
There is no money for pedicures, manicures, getting your hair done, so often you have three or four shades of blond, brown to sun-bleached red with about a ј inch of black and grey roots - you have given up on beauty secrets to divulge the “real” you: baggy eyes, tight lines around your mouth and lots of ugly, ill fitting clothes.
Your diet becomes ridiculous; you eat Oreos, dozens, out of the bag and over the sink between taxi rides to and from school. You eat macaroni and cheese (the nasty kind in the blue box that kids love) by the small Pyrex bowlfuls, without heating it in the microwave. You eat smores cereal instead of having that delightful, mixed green salad with Raspberry-Pecan vinaigrette that you so loved. In other words, the beauty of motherhood is non existent and it does nothing for your complexion or figure.
Motherhood is not glamorous, endearing or even rewarding, especially after the children become ten, eleven years old and decide that not only are you unattractive, your hair is fuzzy and your jeans are outdated, you are the most stupid person they have ever met. Really, how uncool is that?
Oh, did I mention killing the ego??? Well motherhood is notorious for teaching us that women are merely the fly specks on the screen of the home front. By age 12 and 13, the mother IS the family’s best kept secret.
Mom is no longer allowed to drop the kids off at the front door of the school, but can drop them off one-block away, if she promises (and crosses her heart, three times) to leave ASAP. She also must walk two aisles away when ever they are in a store together, or better yet; is “allowed” (by unanimous decision) to go to Starbucks while they trek off to the arcade and game room.
I’ve decided that all my worries, for their “formative years” being destroyed and defined by a stranger, were for nothing. They would have been better off raised in the wild by wolves or at least by one of those mythological creatures they were so fascinated with.
Hindsight tells me, childcare would be a wonderful and probably the best decision for any child, when they reach the middle-school years.
By the way, I think I have finally reached the age where I’d be a little embarrassed to be seen with them, but I’m still willing to take that chance.