Tuesday, September 18, 2012

SAHMing it up in the US

Even outside of the State Department there's an acronym for everything. Two and a half years ago I was a LCSW working for HOTC, then I was an EFM working at CLO, now I'm a SAHM taking care of my LO, American style.

What's a SAHM, American style, you ask? A person who's current job has incredible purpose, but no time off, and is paid in hugs, smiles, and baby giggles. A person who's secondary responsibilities are usually housework, food prep, and in my case, dog wrangling.  A person who has realized how precious time is, both because he or she has the opportunity to watch a little human transform before his or her eyes (sometimes they get taller overnight), and because any time that is not spent working is precious. Very precious. A SAHM is a stay at home mom.

Why American style? Because American hyper-individualism and our transitory lifestyle, even those who are based domestically, makes full time mothering at home a job with a very heavy workload, and it is not a job that is universally appreciated or understood. The following is NOT a statement about childless people; it is simply a statement of fact: until you have been a full time stay at home parent, or are the spouse of one, you have no idea how much work goes into doing even a moderately competent job of it. And getting help is not as simple as it sounds. Babies can not be easily delegated. 

My adjustment to being a SAHM was rough, but it has been easier than my adjustment to other changes in my lifestyle, such as moving to Manila. It was also concurrent with our repatriation back home, which is, believe it or not, a process of adjusting to culture stress, especially when you land in Washington, DC in the heat  and hostility of a Presidential election. However, although it does not have super-affordable mama's helpers such as nannies or domestic assistance of any kind, the US does have a lot of energetic women (and a few men) who create their own support systems and figure out how to make being a SAHM (or Dad) work. It also helps to adjust one's priorities, and realize that those secondary responsibilities are WAY down on the list of priorities.

It is not helpful when people spout platitudes such as "appreciate this time because they grow up fast," but buried in the platitude is truth: this beautiful little being changes every day, and someday I will not be able to scoop him up and give him a raspberry to the music of his laughter, his kisses will not be open-mouthed baby maulings, and he probably won't laugh when he farts (he may find them funny, but it won't be as innocent). So as difficult as the day to day work is, I make space for gratitude that I am having this experience. It also helps to know that in a few months I will again have the opportunity to look for a second job, should I want one. Which I will, as long as I can find a good daytime mama's helper. 

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