Back in the 1950s, my nana squeezed out her sixth kid and decided to get a job. Without even a high school diploma, she enrolled in nursing school and made it happen.
This was a radical thing to do.
But Kitty Durkin was a radical broad and didn’t much care that her neighbors and friends thought she was nuts. She thought they were nuts. In fact, when bored housewives congregated around the front stoop to gossip and berate other women, she often told them:
“Get a job.”
Nana insisted this was the key to a happy home.
In the 1970s, my mother squeezed out three children before the age of thirty and stayed home with us for a little while. One day, she was on the phone with her sister, complaining a little too much about how no one liked her soup and my aunt offered the same piece of advice:
“Get a job.”
More recently, when my children were young, I stayed home with them for three years. My sons were, and are, the most important people in my life, but I still had to spend several minutes each day screaming into a pillow. Those were the days when I was living in suburbia, stuck between Weber grills and Confederate flags, where stimulation often meant online chat rooms and restraining orders.
It didn’t take long to get the same advice that helped Mom and Nana avoid pharmaceutical intervention.
I got a job and never looked back.
Most women agree. Here’s why:
Self-worth: Sitting at home when the kids are napping or at school is depressing, watching television geared toward an audience either injured in an auto accident and who might want to earn their degree online. Of course we feel like losers! And if we don’t watch television and instead just stare ahead as we run errands and wonder what happened to our lives? Congratulations, we’re now in the same demographic as meth addicts. My husband used to come home after work, I’d ramble for a good half hour about the merits of mulch v. rock, and he’d say, “Kate, have you been thinking again?” I got a job and got paid to think.
Cheaper than therapy: Earning a paycheck is better than continuing to drain the household budget complaining to a professional who couldn’t care less about our five year-plans and how the roses in the backyard respond better to our sister- in-law. (Here’s a hint: everyone responds better to her. She can talk about something other than roses.) We can get a job and earn enough to hire someone to garden for us – doesn’t that sound nice?
Grown-ups work: We need to spare everyone our rationalizations about how tutoring is work when it’s really a hobby. That scrapbook is not fulfilling or we wouldn’t need a bottle of wine to get through each evening. Don’t get me wrong, I remember a time when my snarky blog made me a “freelance writer.” Sure. Then I got a job and lost myself in service of others. It helps our psyche to focus on something bigger than us and our thighs for a change – like deadlines and expense reports.
Benefits all the things: Our partners and children will be relieved when we no longer live vicariously through them. The kids can start playing sports for fun – and our husbands can stop looking online for a new wife. Family should always be number one, right? That usually means there is a list of other interests beneath them.
Healthy living: Do you scowl at happy pictures on Facebook or obsessively track how many fewer “likes” you get than the rest of the planet? Do you complain to your partner that he isn’t expressing enough interest in the potty habits of your children? Yeah, you’re going to need to go ahead and get a job. Your blood pressure will thank you.
Not every full-time mom is unfulfilled, but it’s important that we’re honest with ourselves if we are the type that needs something besides laundry to get through the day.
Working outside the home doesn’t mean a 50-hour a week, high pressure career with little time for anything else. The key here is balance, so let’s not trade one crazy for another. Want a way to be less miserable and more fulfilled? Sometimes the answer lies in finding satisfaction in something other than what came out of our uterus. A full-time job will do that.
And it also might allow us to be better moms in the process.