Anyone who could have seen our family at 6:59 p.m. tonight would have gotten a big chuckle.
Every single one of us, including the toddler wearing crazy knee-high socks with monkeys on the toes, gathered around the kitchen window, waiting to see the gate to the storage facility close on its own at 7 p.m.
When the clock clicked through to the magical hour the gate slid slowly along the track and shut securely, locking us in for the night…
…and liberating our family from a 72 hour work week.
For 30 years the gate at the storage facility has been opened and closed by hand with a length of chain and a padlock at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily. That’s 72 hours of storage access per week.
The office hours, up until last Saturday, have equaled 54 hours each week.
That’s been my life for the last year. Well, not completely. Because I’ve also been homeschooling PreK and Kindergarden, taking care of a toddler, puking my guts from pregnancy, and trying to figure out how to be a wife, daughter, sister, and friend. (To be fair, my husband has helped whenever he can!)
But it hasn’t been pretty. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, I’ve walked through a low time in my life. So watching that gate close on its own, knowing it will open on its own tomorrow morning at 7 a.m., coupled with having a non-Sunday day off to do doctors appointments, grocery shopping, field trips, and shopping… well, I feel like I have a new lease on life!
I wouldn’t normally write about how I’m spending my hours except I’ve recently read news stories about the unhappiness of stay at home and work at home moms. It seems there are a lot of unhappy moms out there who are camping on both sides of the work/home fence.
Studies report moms who work part-time are the happiest moms in the U.S. Full-time working moms report depression tied to mommy-guilt from leaving their children, while full-time stay at home moms are the highest reported mom-segment for clinical depression, probably because they never get to use the bathroom in peace or take showers more than two times a week. (Oh, wait. Maybe that’s just me!)
It’s also important to note women in general, not just moms, are reporting lower levels of happiness than 30 years ago.
I wonder if a close look at my joy over an automatic gate might offer a clue.
I’ve believed I can have it all. Really. I’m not entirely sure what “it” is, but I know “all” is definitely something I’ve pursued.
Thanks to the women who broke the trail in front of us, there are more career opportunities, relationship options, and childbearing choices than ever before for those of the feminine persuasion in this country.
(Ironically, even with the plethora of choices, women are still being paid lower, carrying the larger burden of household work at home, and suffering more severe parental guilt than the men in their lives.)
Here’s the newsflash to the women I know who grew up on movies like Mona Lisa Smile, books like the Feminine Mystique, are in love with characters like Hermoine who not only outsmart everyone but end up getting the guy in the end, and proudly declared “the sky’s the limit!” and “nothing can stop me from achieving my dreams”: it’s not working.
It’s not really a hoax because, yes, you can do it all. Really, you can. But the more important, more haunting question is: should you do it all?
I ask because I’m taking a hard look at the last year of my life. I’ve had the job, I’ve had the family, I’ve had the passion of writing… I’ve had it. Yet somehow in that year, seeing a gate open and close automatically has ranked itself right up there with watching my child ride her bike without training wheels and submitting book proposals for publication.
But it’s a gate. An inanimate object. I shouldn’t be moved to tears because of a piece of movable fencing.
I should be saving my tears for things of significance that involve other humans. I should be putting myself in a place where my laughter is quick to erupt and happiness is anything BUT elusive.
I should be making some decisions about what having “it” all really means to me.
What should you be doing? Are you happy with your results?