#IWD2020 - The one job we will never quit
In this #MakingWorkVisible blog, Celeste Majcher presents the work that goes in to attending a 40 minute long singing class. Celeste blogs at thepastorswifeblog.com.
It is 3.15pm and we are finally ready. I have cooked, fed and changed my three babies and their older sister, I have donned all their coats and I am finally ready to slap on a layer of lipstick before I head out to their singing group. Strapping four kids into their carseats is a marathon I run daily. My legs, arms and tummy muscles are used to it by now but my lower back complains with every movement and somehow I know that I will regret this outing when I finally sit down, late tonight.
We are the first to arrive and as I sit there taking off the coats and getting everyone settled, the door opens and my friend walks in. She is a first time mum to a beautiful little boy and man, is she hating it. We have spent many a cuppa crying over our unrealistic expectations, grieving the mums we thought we would be. She had a very traumatic birth experience and has since been uprooted and moved far away from her home and her life, to a new city, all for her husband's work. It is a fresh new start, they said. The best time to be doing it, they said. She was going to be home for a year anyway, why not use the time to settle into a new environment?
She has been here 8 months now and it took her as long to settle into her own skin again. She is slowly edging her way into the community by attending baby classes and frequenting local parks, but as an international she has not been approached and included as much as she hoped she would be. Being a SAFFA (someone from South Africa - ed.) and therefore a foreigner myself, it made sense that we would be friends. Her silent tread today and the lack of smiles for her attention-seeking babe testifies to her (still) raging post-natal depression and I feel my heart break just a little bit.
Next in is 'the working mom'. There she stands, hair perfectly styled, make-up professionally applied, nails neat and a smart outfit complete with matching shoes and bag. Who comes to a toddler singing-group, dressed in smart work-attire?! I roll my eyes at my depressed friend and we share a giggle, only to be stifled when we hear her losing her temper with her little girl.
She is one of those, you see. The one who thinks she can have it all. The one who thinks she can work and be a full-time mum. I was her once. It is only because I've lived it that I know it is the worst kind of reality. You spend your days feeling guilty towards both your job and your children, because there is no way you can do both equally well. The memory invokes guilt for my jealous judgement about her looks and I decide to reach out to her. A mere, how are you? makes her tear up and I realise, this woman, this beautiful, strong woman, seems inches away from cracking. She tearfully tells me that she is in the privileged position to head a major project at her company, the first ever woman to be chosen to do this; but instead of feeling excited and proud, she is rushing to make her child-care arrangements work. She has just dropped off her son at his extra maths lesson, she has 40 minutes to attend the singing class with her little girl and then she needs to get everyone home, bathed, fed and in bed before she can finally sit down and do her planning. When her male counterpart led the project last year he bragged about the nights spent at the office, working on this piece, while his wife carried the home-burden, solo, for a while. She has no idea how she will manage, but we both know she will. At a cost, of course. It breaks my heart just a little more and I know, she feels the same way, too.
At that moment, 'Mary Poppins' walks in. Not the real one, mind you. I just call her that because she is practically perfect in every way. Her children are always well-dressed, very well-behaved and very polite. She always has enough snacks, even for our children, and she will never be caught without make-up and a smile. It took me nearly three years and two pregnancies to get to know her a little bit beneath all the perfection and the truth is, she adores being a mum. She loves being a wife. And she felt liberated to be able to choose to be a stay at home mum instead of a working one. She chose this. And she is enjoying every single moment of it. Except for the times when people ask her what she does all day. And the times when people assume she is uneducated and therefore unable to get a job. Or when they bluntly ask: do you watch a lot of daytime TV?! She is joking about the amount of washing, cleaning and ironing she has managed to fit in amongst two schoolruns, a grocery shopping trip and this class, and I can tell these flippant comments have gotten under her skin. She is so proud, so strong and so beautiful, and yet someone, many ones, have made her doubt her worth. I feel like I can cry!
Then, in the corner of my eye I see ‘the additional needs mum’ entering. She is carrying her little boy because he can't walk on his own and in her backpack she has a packet of wipes, spare nappies and some antibac. I realise that I only know her as Richard's mum and I make a mental note to ask her for her name, next time. Because at the moment I am stopping a fight between my two girls whilst watching her expertly manouvre herself out of her coat without ever putting him down. She is prepared for anything. She is his greatest encourager. She is his nurturer. She feeds him, cleans him, nurses him and teaches him. She advocates for him. She defends his honour when people get nasty or nosy. Loving him has become her entire identity and she wears it with pride.
By now, we are all here. Single-mothers, child-minders, working mothers, stay at home mothers, mothers with babies, mothers with toddlers and me, a mother of 5. We are ready to spend the next 40 minutes of our lives singing, dancing and playing with our precious little ones. And then we will get up, pack up, coat up and show up to rest of the journey that we call our lives.
Because we are mothers. And this is the one job we will never ever quit.