The stars aligned and I was able to go out for a haircut yesterday afternoon. Instead of paying my usual stylist a visit, I decided to head to another salon, one that has proven its worth with my sister who now sports a banging new look, one that is nearer where I live.
Unfamiliar as the salon may be, the semi-annual hair-pampering bonanza is packed with salon chatter, something that I don’t care for but awkwardly engage in for more selfish reasons than for the sake of being polite. Yes, I am that stoic or (worse) sour-faced person with bushy, unkempt hair that would give Granger a run for her money, that keep-her-eyes-closed-to-avoid-conversation aunty with a resting bitch face who occasionally doles out forced smiles just to keep a cursory, friendly-enough relationship with the stylist, all in the name of ‘whatever you do, please don’t screw with my hair’. That afternoon, the conversation was peppered with remarks on how dry my hair is and how I need to take better care of it, and it remained very much a monologue (as usual) until my new and very chirpy stylist asked, “Are you on maternity leave now?”
“No. I am not working. I am a stay-at-home-mother.”
I expected all sorts of replies, you know, those that have been thrown in my face all these years (including how I have wasted my PhD on *just* being a SAHM and not contributing to society) but hers.
“So lucky!!! That’s my dream job! But I don’t have any children, lah!” She quipped with childlike innocence and an even more childlike squeal. “Do you bring your children to Polliwogs? It looks like so much fun!”
I wanted to say something really snarky but held my tongue, and managed a pained smile instead. Nothing to ruin a budding relationship with a competent stylist like insolence and a smidgeon of assumption, I figured. I wanted to tell her that I’d like to see her try being a mother for a day or two before telling me if she still thinks it’s a dream job but I was being presumptuous on her motives and that was wrong on my part. Once I got that *coughs*bitchiness*coughs out of the way, I spent the rest of the afternoon feeling rather curious about her enthusiasm.
Perhaps, my stylist was poorly informed on what a SAHM does. She could be thinking long siestas and pampering manicures whilst playing with angelic cherubs who sleep/eat/poop on their own, no thanks to the pretty facades of motherhood extolled by parents on social media. Perhaps, she does understand what being a SAHM or a mother (period) entails and she yearns to be one. Or perhaps, she didn’t mean to label motherhood as a job; she simply dreamed of becoming a mother and wanted to share her dream with me. Anyhow, it got me thinking…
A job is a paid position of employment. My dream job would have me doing what I love and getting paid decent bucks for it. I would bake the most kick-ass treats and people would happily pay to fatten themselves up on my bakes, even if they are on a diet. But a job as a SAHM or a mother? No, honey, you can’t work as a mother because (a) there isn’t a salary or medical/dental benefits to speak of, (b) the hours are unbelievably long, it’s 24/7 the last time I checked, so…nope, no paid or unpaid days off, (c) it’s a hamster wheel you can’t get off, or to put it simply, it’s a role you can’t quit, and (d) you would be hard-pressed to find ‘Mother’ in the drop-down list of occupations when you fill in your particulars for a lucky draw to win that top-of-the-range vacuum cleaner. Housewife, yes, (much to my annoyance as housewives don’t get CPF too, do they? Why is that an occupation then?). Mother, no.
Tired jokes aside, the reason why being a mother can hardly count as holding a job is…you have to be one, grow into one and live as one. Whether one delivered her child in a drug-free water birth, opted for a C-section, used a surrogate or adopted her dearest, a mother is born. Like it or not, our DNA changes in ways that were previously unfathomable once we are made mothers…and motherhood becomes us, regardless of who we are, where we are or what we do. One could be labouring through countless tasks at work and STILL be worrying about her child who had a fever yesterday night. One could be cuddling her child who is feeling poorly and STILL be worrying about said child. Motherhood is not something you take on, hold or do, but it is one fulcrum of a meaningful relationship that you quietly grow into, and that in so many ways, is much more complicated, yet simpler than a job.
I became a mother when my daughter was born, and again when my son arrived. Based on our circumstances and preferences, I chose to stay at home to look after my children for now. I have been learning to mother to the best of my abilities (that includes teaching myself to accept that I will falter at times) and to foster a relationship with my children for the past three years. It is a pretty neat dream to live in, most of the time, when I don’t feel like my bones are falling apart or when I am done being chased by dinosaurs. But a job…? No. It isn’t a job to begin with, and it never will be, even if it involves very tangible (and menial) tasks like cleaning out poop from the car seat…because raising children is not akin to working on a project and children are not things to be done. It is a relationship that is forever bound by the ebbs and flows of interaction between mother and child, and I doubt the word ‘job’ describes this appropriately.
A job…? Nah, not really. A dream? Yes, I think I can hardly refute that. Lucky to be a mother? Definitely.