Wednesday, September 28, 2005

You Want Narcissistic?

I realized today with a sort of shock that I am a Working Mother. And by that, I don't just mean that I handle the bulk of the housework and the childcare. I mean that I work. I get a paycheck every week. I work for money.

But I work at home and I do work that is considered not to be work by most everyone. I wipe noses and change diapers and referee disagreements between three-year olds. I balance this work with my household duties, which means that I never dust and hardly ever get down on my hands and knees to scrub my kitchen floor. So, the balance is more like a wobbly seesaw with a chubby kid sitting on one end. A lot of see, but no saw. A lot of teeter, but no totter. Very little housework, but a lot of childcare.

Beyond my imperfect housekeeping, what's bugging me today is the clear-eyed fact that I have no connections with local women around me. Because I'm neither (or both?) a full-time stay-at-home mom or a full-time working mom, I lack the benefits of each job title. I don't schmooze with other stay-at-home moms, getting together over coffee while the kids play in the other room or lingering at a park bench chatting or joining playgroups or volunteering at the schools or anything. I can't run errands during the day or enroll my little girl in classes at the YMCA. My work day begins at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 5:30 p.m.

On the other hand, I don't share a camaraderie with working moms, either. No laments over childcare and gossip about co-workers. No working lunches, no shared laughter in the office, no professional satisfaction of teamwork. No contribution to the workforce whatsoever. An entire career world exists outside of my neighborhood and I'm excluded because I'm working, but I'm not a career woman. Besides that, I get no sick days, no 401k, no vacation time, no raises. I can't afford cruises or vacation houses like many of the two-income families in my town. My work ranks just above folding soft tacos at Taco Time.

Today was a lonely day. I tried to remember the last time I laughed really hard at something besides my kids. Nothing came to mind. I thought, I'm so depressed, but I'm not really. I would like to sit with an old friend and just ramble and talk long enough to get jittery from the caffeine. Maybe I just wish I were still in college, free of the snot and crumbs and tiny bits of cut paper that my kids keep creating and leaving like snow on the family room floor.

Probably, though, it's all the wishful thinking of a true introvert. What I really wish is that I were a blustery, outgoing, cheerful, happy-go-lucky kind of woman, the kind that everyone invites to parties. While I was talking with my husband tonight, I said to him suddenly, "It must be nice to go through life being an optimist." He truly is optimistic, deep down to his core.

And let's just say I'm not. I specialize in pinpointing the flaws, the errors, the many ways things can go wrong. There's a place for people like me, and apparently, it's the laundry room.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

There's a place for people like me ...

Like on the blogs where the rest of the introverts hang out. Hi, my name is AC, and I'm ...

3:52 AM  
Blogger sallyrogers said...

Wow. I hear you! I work from home (paying job) 3 days a week and at an office full of men (only woman) 2 days a week. I remember, though, being a SAHM and being at the park with the kid and still feeling totally excluded. Where is that truly satisfied place? Maybe your husband could tell us... somewhere in his optimist soul he must have found it. Are "optimist" and "extrovert" inextricably linked? I wonder....

And I hope today is better one for you.

5:26 AM  
Anonymous mopsy said...

I'm an extrovert (according to Jungian typology an ENFJ), but not an pure optimist.

I call myself a skeptimist, someone who is hopeful but skeptical.

6:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having recently quit my full-time office job to "retire" to full-time homemaking, I am finding myself lonely, unmotivated and in need of direction. I thought it would be so easy and I would have the opportunity to do everything I had always put off while working.
I didn't have a clue as to how much of a people-person I really am and how much I depend on deadlines to keep me on track.
I will have to compensate some how - I know I can do this.
I so enjoy your posts for your willingness to expose the bad with the good.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Smoov said...

I can't imagine doing what you do every day! But think about how important you are to those children you care for, and to the parents of them. I bet they leave their kids each day knowing they will be well cared for, and that must give them some peace of mind.

Being home all day with one's own kids can be terribly isolating and lonely. Being home all day with extra kids....I can't imagine! That sounds a lot more challenging than the Master degree I finished in the spring!

6:59 AM  
Blogger Eyes said...

Ha! Can I relate.

I am not a mom, I don't work full-time -- I am a full-time gardener, cook and house maintenance keeper! I keep our lives together M-F, so we can play Sat. and Sun.

So, that, puts me in your quandry. I don't fit it, anywhere.

And before that, I worked full-time out of my house -- some 90 miles away from my collegues.

It can be lonely.

7:36 AM  
Anonymous jennie said...

"What I really wish is that I were a blustery, outgoing, cheerful, happy-go-lucky kind of woman, the kind that everyone invites to parties."

I can't tell you how many times I've had this very thought. I'm a twin and my twin was always the person you described, which made it even harder for me. If I made this statement to my friends, they wouldn't understand, but I'm so glad you do.

8:01 AM  
Blogger Jared Kirk said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8:13 AM  
Blogger Jared Kirk said...

I'm an ENFP or "Champion Idealist" and I spend half of my time wishing that I hadn't just said whatever I just said. For what it's worth I'm glad you're an introvert, because reading your blog makes my day, almost every day.

And for the record... lot's of extroverts seem to be optimists because it is how they cope with their insecurities.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

I can't tell you how many times, when I have told people that I am a SAHM, they say, "Oh, well then you're the one with the really hard job." But they say it a bit too heartily, with a bit of a wink-wink attitude. Which rather annoys me.

I am an extrovert, but not an optimist. Like you, I tend to focus on the negative aspects of things. If I am throwing a party, I will remember the two or three things that went wrong as opposed to the 30 things that went right.

8:23 AM  
Anonymous Simply Coll said...

When I had young children at home I had many, many days when I felt just what you are feeling today.

My words of encouragement are these:
Your time will come. Your children will grow and because of your caring they will do well. Then.. believe me ... you can party.
I am at that stage in my life where my children have all left home. I am having the time of my life and so will you. Just hang on for today.
This too shall pass.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Nearby Kim said...

Ah, Mel, you called me out of lurkdom with this one.

I'm such an optimist I make Pollyanna look like a grim cynic, and I'm in exactly the same lonely spot . . . it is a scary place when dh is the only adult I speak to for days and days, surrounded by many children but loooonely. In my case, it's definitely an introvert thing, and like you, there is so little time left in a week. I try to think like commenter Simply Coll above; a stage, a time. When they're all grown we'll be involved in a zillion activities with other women and remember fondly when it was so simple, just us and the children.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Vashti said...

I'm going to remember what Simply Coll said in her comment. I definitely feel like I'm in the thick of it now. I can sooooo relate to this post.

11:24 AM  
Blogger Expat Traveler said...

Mel I can completely relate. I have my own computer business which I do in my "free" time. When do I have free time, well it's in between cleaning someone else's house, taking care of their children, cooking dinner, driving and tutoring. Then when I get a moment of free time, I can do my own laundry, try to clean my tiny room and maybe make time for myself.

But it's more of a thing of WHY I do it? I'm an expat and I want to have a better life. I don't want to work a 9 to 5 job and I want freedom to kinda do as I like. I guess you give up a few things to have that freedom of being home. It is a choice you do make.

I know why I am doing it... Sit back and think of why you are doing what you are doing. Maybe you need a break and want to do something different?? Or maybe you know why you are doing what you are doing already...

6:30 PM  
Anonymous Meredith said...

Yes, yes, yes. I may not be ready to admit this yet for myself. Silence and the internet are good alternatives to the pessimism for me. Plus my in-laws read it and I'm supposed to be a grateful adoring wife. Tedious.

3:29 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Darling said...

Okay Mel listen up girl! I am an extreme sanguine; extrovert all the way, optimist almost all the way. I have tons of friends, peripheral friends and bosom friends. I have my finger in every pie. My house is grand central station. I am told the party dont get rolling until I'm there. I go out to dinner with friends and I have friends over for coffee. Friends charge my batteries. I love people.


Many times I too feel isolated as a stay at home mom. Just this morning I stood at my window and watched the bus pick up the kids. A strong warm wind was blowing; the kind typical of Indian summers and long fall days. I felt a stirring way deep in my soul. I actually said into the morning wind as I leaned on the window sill, "I'm lonely!"

I dont know where I fit into the vast scheme of things. I only know that extroverts, like introverts, have their times of feeling downright alone! Now that should cheer you up...or not! LOL

7:55 AM  

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