Exactly a year ago, I quit my job to be a stay-at-home mother.
It was the only way I wanted to do motherhood. It was the only way I could, or knew how to. My desire to be a mother overrode my desire to be a superwoman who balanced motherhood, career, social life and her pedicures. I wanted to keep it simple. I wanted to grow with my baby, and not just watch him grow.
Yes, there were sacrifices. Like letting go of that dream of buying a house in real-estate mafia land. I didn’t think owning a few square metres in the boondocks would really make us better parents. Neither did I want to lose precious years of motherhood to EMIs. P told me one does it so that one leaves something behind for one’s child twenty years from now. I chose to give my child what I have, here and now. Which is me and all of me. N told me I should quit when the child is two, because that’s when it gets to be fun. I guess I chose the hard path. I thought two would be too late, and I think I chose well.
Perhaps it was easier for me to make that decision having reached a ‘been there, done that’ stage in my career where there were no real milestones left for me to achieve. And of course it helped having an immensely caring and generous OPU who didn’t bat an eyelid when I told him this is how I’d like to do it, and even offered to pay me a mom salary.
After the first few months of quitting, I felt stripped, naked, tagless. The job was about power. Power that I chose not to use. It was about recognition, and social reference points, conversation starters and bylines, about an official id for emails when you want to sound more important than you are. It was about receiving invites to shows, parties, launches, book readings, previews and festivals. It was about people calling you and you saying you’ll call them back. It was about emails you never read, forget having the time to answer. It was about keeping tabs on who is Cc’g whom on what and making sure ‘everyone is in the loop.’ It was about meetings and video conferences where you drank copious amounts of tea to stay awake and where everyone talked but no one listened. Evidently, there was lots more to the job than ‘work.’
Since then, not a week has gone by when I haven’t been asked when I am getting back to work. Or if I am. Or if I want to. Or how long a break do I foresee myself taking. Or if I could freelance or work from home or work flexitime (whatever those jobs are). And I am frequently warned by the supermoms that if I stay away too long, I might not want to come back.
The point is, I am too driven and enterprising to not be where the action is. So, no, I will not be relegated to a freelancer or work flexitime (which is a euphemism for working for a fifth of your salary) neither will I ever negotiate to work from home.
Do you miss work? I am often asked. It’s as though I am playing now, or have turned into one of those ladies who lunch. But to be honest, after a 16 -year career, I didn’t miss ‘work’ for a single day in the past year. I didn’t have the time to think about whether I missed it. I was too busy going through the motions of being a mommy. And I don’t really remember how many diapers I have changed or how many stories I have read or how many songs I have sung, or hours I have walked or play-dates I have planned or meals I have cooked or cries I have soothed or how many nights I have slept or how many hours I have nursed. I think if they invented swipe-cards for mommies, we would all have to be paid three times our last salaries.
But motherhood is about anonymity. About blending with the crowd, about being able to say, “Hi, I am Mommygolightly and I am a mother.” I don’t have much to show except a happy child, this blog, and perhaps some writing, lots of photographs and videos.
So a few days ago when I was registering for Re’s school admission, I was left staring long and hard at the column marked ‘occupation’. I vacillated between writer, blogger, columnist and finally I wrote, ‘mother.’