Can a working mom survive surrounded by SAHMS?
Once upon a time, my butt was on the 6:43 AM Express train to Manhattan five days a week. While the early morning hours were tough, I liked my job and got home at a reasonable hour so the benefits kind of made up for the lack of sleep. But -- living in a town of mostly stay at home moms -- I was without a doubt, the odd mom out.
I always thought about those stay-at-home moms while reading my morning paper on the train or toiling away at my desk. What did they do after they dropped the kids off from school? How did they fill their day? How much tennis can one person play? I thought that there was no way I could ever trade in my busy and fulfilling life as a working mom for the more mundane stay at home variety. Or so I thought.
Today, my work situation has changed and I'm fortunate to work from home a few days a week. Besides being able to sleep in (well, if you call getting up at 6 AM sleeping in), I get to see my kids more -- they're happier, I'm happier -- everyone's happier. Now since I'm around more, I've also gotten to spend more time with those stay-at-home moms that I always wondered about. Watching the daily habits of these women has been like my very own episode of National Geographic.
It has not been easy explaining time and time again how even though, YES, I am home a lot these days -- NO, I don't have time to go for coffee, meet at the mall or even to go take that yoga class everyone is raving about. There is still a big cultural divide here -- I'm a work-from-home mom in a sea of stay-at-home moms.
But something else has happened these past few months of working from home, something I never expected. The more time I've had to watch these stay-at-home moms in action, the more I see I may have been wrong about them -- some of them, anyway. These women are not spending their days in frivolous pursuit of the perfect yoga butt. They're not spending hours obsessively grooming themselves. Not only that, not one of them IS bored or boring either. These women are working, just like me. In fact, maybe even more than me.
Here's the thing: I have an office and bosses to be accountable to. A paycheck is a great motivator to get your work done. But many of the SAHMS I have gotten to know have taken their pre-baby career skills and figured out ways to apply them towards fundraising, charity work and school enrichment programs. On the rare times I do have time to sit and chat, the conversations tend to me about more about finding ways to exercise their minds than just the latest exercise class. I have to admit, I underestimated many of these moms. I always assumed women who ditched their careers lost their identities in the process. It seems that's not the case at all.
Now don't get me wrong -- there are still a few of those frivolous women around, the ones who spend their entire days in salons or shopping. Those are the one I don't care for and can't be bothered with. But I have to tell you, the next time one of my new SAHM friends asks me to go for coffee, I may just find a way to work it into my schedule. I'm still the odd mom out, but the other moms don't seem so odd to me anymore.