Over time I’ve come to realize that some days seem explosively important when you’re in them and turn out to mean nothing. Other days pass unnoticed until you see them in life’s rear view mirror. So after great thought I recognize that the most important day of my life was the day I bought a pair of bright yellow crocs.
You know the shoes; crocs? Those much maligned much cajoled, much defiled boat like foot coverings that scream middle age. I know what you’re thinking. In a world filled with Prada, Gucci, and Fendi, why would anyone, especially a woman with some modicum of self-respect, choose to walk around in big pieces of rubber. The answer to that defines the importance of the day.
Yesterday or what seems like yesterday; I graduated college and embarked on my life as a young, professional woman. My mantra at the time was that I could do anything. I rebelled against the traditional roles I had associated with my wonderful stay-at-home mother and vowed I would not have children immediately, would not look to marry quickly, and would certainly never be dependant on anyone for my lifestyle. I’d come to believe that being anything short of an independent, professional, high salaried position was falling short of what I owed women-kind at large. What an ego.
I dressed meticulously to fit the demands of the day. Strings were cut from clothing, shoes were cleaned and shined, buttons and hair always in place. For many years I pushed myself physically, mentally, and emotionally to become a leader and mentor in my field. As time passed I developed a very positive reputation within my profession. And you know what? I loved it.
I loved the work and the people I worked with. I was intellectually and emotionally stimulated, and honestly couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling way to live my life. Then something happened during the last five years of my 20 years at my job. Well, actually four “somethings” happened. My husband and I had a family. In those last five years we were blessed with four little boys. Even with everything we’d done professionally, we recognized our four children would provide a greater impact on the next generation than anything we could accomplish at work. With the birth of our youngest, Danny, and after four years of managing daycares and nannies, laundry, and work, I knew I could no longer serve two masters. My children demanded as much as I had to give; so I left my go-to-work world and became a stay-at-home mom. Of course, I was still very much a working mom but at home my bosses were much more demanding.
To me my choice was best captured by a poster I admired of a world-class athlete. The caption beneath her photo read, “All it takes is everything you’ve got”. THAT, to me, was motherhood. I could see that perfectly toned, tanned and muscled athlete being replaced by a woman in a long baggy t-shirt, stretch pants, shadowed eyes and unmanaged hair. With a bottle in one hand and a diaper in the other, my poster child was readying herself for a sleepless marathon. As my new life unfurled, I could best explain some aspects of my days as drudgery. How many times a day could I mop up a spilled sippy cup? How many loads of laundry did I need to do in order to have a onesie with no stains when I needed it? And how many potties did I need to clean before one of my potty training boys would actually hit the toilet. There were days when I LONGED for my professional freedom. My memories of enjoying a meal sitting down rather than standing at the sink swallowing a child’s leftovers, or dressing in the morning in clean, starched clothes vice throwing something on with baby burp stains and nursing flaps; those memories were like forgotten lovers calling my name to come back. I was so overwhelmed I found myself coveting the lost luxury of being able to use the bathroom without four little heads peeking through the door.
Don’t get me wrong there were tons of sublime moments when my heart filled with joy and pride at the little men I knew I was so positively impacting. I cherished the feeling of having them snuggle beside me to watch their favorite children’s show, even if it meant I had to sing along with a big purple guy for 30 minutes. I daydreamed in the sweet scent of the backs of their little necks and loved the way they smiled involuntarily when the wind blew in their faces. But ashamedly, I was unsettled.
I often wondered why I found it such a challenge to handle the responsibilities and stress of staying at home with my own children. Women like my mom had done this for years. Yet this incredibly wonderful, incredibly frustrating and maddeningly sleepless reality of being a stay at home mom seemed to be kicking my butt. How in the WORLD did my mom do it? In a surprising moment of clarity I asked her. Her answer was simple: she decided to do it and to love it.
My mom decided to love the job of raising her children. Things were just as frustrating for her. She had four children, very little money and never learned to drive due to significant problems with her eyesight. She had a husband who was demanding, a house to keep clean, laundry to stay ahead of and meals to make…but she’d decided to make her life one of joy and fulfillment by accepting her decisions and living them with gusto. I, on the other hand, was so busy trying to be recognized as a working mom who was staying home that I’d lost how important it was to love my new endeavor. During a rare, very, very, rare shopping trip with just my husband, I decided to stop the madness and be a mom who didn’t make excuses for choices I’d made.
That day my husband and I went shopping was the day I bought my bright yellow crocs. That day I began to live my decision to stay home with the joy and commitment my mother showed me. I stopped thinking about what people might think of me and what people might think about my choices. I bought the crocs because they felt good on my feet. I bought them because I could run in them to catch one or more children making a break for the candy isle at Wal-Mart or making a dash across a busy street. I bought them because I could stand all day moving from one corner of the house to the next and not go to be with swollen aching feet and legs. My crocs were my statement that I was a stay at home mom filling probably the greatest leadership role I’d ever undertaken.
I’ve found that as the boys have grown I LOVE the freedom that being a stay-at-home mom gives me to support my children’s lives. I love being involved in their schools and in our community. I love taking those skills I’d used in the workplace to help others and make my boys’ entrée into life the best possible experience. When I show up at a school activity with all the boys in tow and people hear me squeaking down the hallway I feel good that they know our family’s team is coming. When someone asks at a PTO event “who’s in charge” and I hear them directed to “that woman over there in the yellow crocs” I am lifted that my description is a lighthearted one. Yes I am crazy with fatigue, frustration and the fabulous joys of motherhood but I routinely relish the fact that I am a leader and mentor to my children and that I am able to support others I might not have known if I hadn’t stepped out of one comfort zone and created a new one. The day I decided to buy those crocs was the day I realized that I am exactly where I am supposed to be and making a great difference in the lives of my family and others. Sometimes I wonder why my revelations took me so long, and how in the world my mom got so smart.
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