Okay, here’s a scary thought: in less than 7 weeks, we will be moving to our new house.
The one that currently has no floor or window coverings, no tiles, no kitchen, no laundry, no toilets and bathrooms, no appliances, no internal paint, no lights, no powerpoints, no garage door…
It’s full steam ahead here on our planet. It’s a little insane. Was supposed to take Arddun to a play date with Eli and his nan, the lovely Marg, this morning. Ended up half an hour late after an impromptu phone introduction to the new foreman, who will be taking the build to the home straight. And then after lunch, I got word that I needed to sign, scan and email designs and quotes back by this afternoon, so I ended up at Dave and Marg’s house to frantically do that. All while the kids sprawled on the rug to watch Tweety and Sylvester, while Marg worked on redirecting Atticus from chewing on her furniture like a beaver.
And you know what? Lately, that’s a pretty typical day for us.
Atticus and Arddun often get complimented on their ability to sit still and entertain themselves in relative good humour for extended periods of time. And it’s only because they’ve had so much practice. I try to schedule a fun activity or destination for them to look forward to, in between the trips to the new house and any number of tradies in Mitchell/Fyshwick/Hume. But then one afternoon, I turned the car into the kitchen place and Arddun started crying. And that’s when I knew we were ALL over it slightly.
I’ve been nagging myself now and then to put all this down in the blog, so I can look back on this busy time and remember what it’s been like. And it hasn’t been all House, House, House; there are still play dates, and ballet classes, and school, and birthday parties, and church, and cuddle time, and playground time, and baking time, and art-and-craft time, and all those big and little things that make up our days rearing very young children. But we do pack a lot of things in our day, because this new-house project adds about 30% more activity to our week, on average.
Because it’s not just the actual ordering of stuff, and the liaising with the builders. It’s the thinking. It’s the planning. It’s the researching. It’s the agonising. It’s changing your mind, and then dealing with the knock-on effects. It’s preparing a sensible work statement, and gathering quotes. It’s chasing people up. It’s running over the detail because you’ve learnt not to take anyone’s designs at face value. It’s looking at your budget, and seeing what you can get away with. It’s figuring out how to do it on the cheap (read: by yourself) when you can’t afford a one-stop-shop solution. It’s talking to the tradies, and then talking down their prices.
All that. All while jiggling my son to sleep in the Ergo. All while watching my daughter from the corner of my eye as she draws in the sand on the yet-to-be-concreted driveway.
I remember reading an article recently about women returning to work after “maternity leave” or after years “at home”. And how we – because this will include me – tend to leave out their at-home years from the official, printed chronology of their job history. As if it’s a slightly embarrassing, self-indulgent, self-sabotaging “career gap”.
How ridiculous. Ladies, let’s stop this.
Because “maternity leave” is not a holiday. And “stay-at-home mum” is mostly an oxymoron. Aside from the fact that most full-time mothers I know are out of the house doing stuff with their kids, the whole birthing-a-human-and-then-sustaining-it-for-life schtick IS WORK. And full-time care-giving is a real vocation. It might even be the one true career, in this age of chronic and systemic job-hopping.
It takes energy, forethought, deftness of mind, feet and hands. It hones negotiation smarts and wicked time management skills. It teaches patience, sharpens attention to detail, deepens pools of compassion, widens horizons. It distills character and priorities.
And then when you add other major projects in the mix – like selling and building houses, like nursing a sick child or relation, like organising school and church fetes and fundraisers – you have other skills and experience that are worth recording and talking about.
So don’t let anyone — least of all your inner I-am-fat voice — tell you that your time as a stay-at-home mum was a professional gap in your CV. You’ve just developed a whole new skillset on a very steep learning curve, most likely while still sleep-deprived. And if you’re breastfeeding, probably without much coffee either. You rock.