By Shara Campsall
Web Exclusive - January 15, 2007
I stood in line with students, single moms, and other young couples. We were all waiting to view the home and eventually race to apply for occupancy. I eyed up my competition, and felt certain we were a shoe-in. A family of three, working professionals in our mid-thirties; we were excellent tenants. The home was unkempt, but had the space we would require as a soon-to-be growing family. I quickly made furniture arrangements in my head, and pictured how curtains and flowers would liven the place up. I introduced myself to the landlord, a twenty-something young man, who immediately went through emails he had received from those of us in attendance.
"You're the professional family with the kid, right?" he asked me.
"Yes" I replied.
"Okay, why don't you fill out this application, then I'll check references and complete a credit check. If you are chosen I'll call you."
I sat my 20 month old on the floor and busily filled out the application. I wanted urgently to get it completed, knowing my son would not last much longer. I finished up, and handed it to the landlord.
"Okay, lets go through this," he paused, "Wait—you said 'professional couple', but here you wrote stay-at-home Mom... you are JUST a Mom?"
Feeling embarrassed in front of all the other applicants I whispered "Yes, I am just a mom," and quickly added "but I just recently made the decision to stay home, and my husband is a stockbroker, and we are able to handle the rent just fine..." I stumbled, spoke quickly, and felt rather ashamed of my lack of career.
As we headed to the car I held our son close, feeling rather disappointed. Maybe we wouldn't get the house, maybe I'd have to spend another week looking through ads and viewing 20 more places, continuing to compete with students who were prepared to live three to a bedroom. As the drive home through traffic stretched on, I began to feel my anger grow. "JUST a mom!" I wanted to scream, "do you have any idea how hard parenthood is: how lonely it gets without adult conversation, how working at home is a 24 hours seven-day-a-week job without financial reward?! Sleep deprivation is my constant companion and there are no expense accounts, business lunches at fancy restaurants, or friendly banter over the water cooler..." I began to weep.
I wasn't angry at the young man's ignorance—I was angry at my own embarrassment. I remembered clearly my dreams from my senior year of high school: to become a successful lawyer. If or when I had children, I'd envisioned, I would never be one of those stay at home moms who cook for their husbands and enjoy housework. Nope, I would be a career mom—one who sent her children to the best daycare facilities and private schools. I would be financially successful and busy. I would love the suits, the lunches, and most of all, I would love being a workaholic.
Little did I know then that life doesn't follow a script, and that children change our perceptions on most every aspect of our lives. Logically, I understand that being at home is the right thing and that it is supposed to be the most rewarding. Some days I do feel extremely lucky to be able to stay home with our son. I feel blessed to be able to watch him learn new words, unhurriedly explore his creativity with finger paints, and to hear his plaintive calls for "mommy" when he wakes from his nap. I wouldn't be able to experience his life if he was away from me all day, or if I worked 12 hour days in a corporate office. Our son is changing and growing every minute and is constantly experiencing new wonders. That very morning at 7:00 am he had pulled at my arm and said "Up! Up mommy, puddles." I then looked outside to see that it had poured all night, and indeed, there were many fresh puddles for us to jump in. He ran to grab my boots, still in his pyjama top and diaper. I reflected that I would have certainly been unable, in a designer suit, to join him for some splashing, nor would we have had a chance to paint together on a corporate, one hour lunch break. But somewhere deep down I often feel like I am missing out, that maybe "my time" is passing me by.
As I continued driving through traffic, angry and sad, I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Ethan doing the hand actions to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He asked me to sing the words. I smiled and then cried harder. It hit me—no I don't get raises and business expense accounts. I don't get fame and fortune. But I do get validation of a job well done, in small ways, everyday. At this time in my life journey I must continue to work at enjoying these small moments and precious encounters with our son—because I won't get them back. And no, I won't get these years back either, but I would not trade time with him for anything.
I am discovering the rewards of being Ethan's mom: his puddle jumper, his friend, his storyteller. I am also my husband's wife, his best friend, his lover. And I am so much more than all those roles I play—I am a woman who laughs easily, who loves people and who can cook fabulous Thai food. I am a woman who dreams big; I wrote my best actress Oscar acceptance speech at the age of six, and practiced closing arguments for imaginative court cases at the age of 13. I dance and sing at every opportunity, and will stop to make conversation with the homeless person on the street corner. I love good wine and the smell of the sea. I still get excited about Christmas and cry when I see a new puppy. I am a hopeless romantic, who loves sappy love songs and a good, juicy novel. I am educated and I love a good debate.
I am not "Just a Mom," I am many things. But most of all I am fulfilling the most important role at this point in my precious life—being Ethan's Mom.
Shara Campsall is a writer and mother of Ethan and is expecting child number two in March.