MY STRUGGLE WITH 'STAYING HOME'
I’m going to take a little break today from holiday posts (if you can believe it) and get real with you guys for a minute - cause you know I like to do that from time to time. This is a huge topic for me. I consider it to be deeply personal, and not easy to share. I think that’s why it has taken me so long to publish- this post has literally been sitting in my drafts since I started this blog! I’ve written it, saved it, edited it, re-edited it, deleted it, rewritten it - I think it’s probably about time I just post it.
So why now? I’m not really sure, to be honest. I was thinking in the shower this morning (where all the true greats do their best thinking, no?) and I was like - that’s it. Today is the day. I’m finally going to share this. I’m not really sure what it was that hit me, but whatever it was, just know that I’m anxious about it- but I feel like it’s a really relatable one, so here goes. Settle in- it’s a long one!
First, a bit of backstory. I went to King’s University College at the University of Western Ontario (now Western University) and graduated after four years with an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree, double majoring in English Literature and Religious Studies. I have always loved to read and write (another reason why this blog is so near and dear to me) and I was encouraged by several teachers since I was young to pursue a teaching career myself. They’d use words like “outgoing” and “a natural leader” (translation: loud and bossy, LOL). When it came time to pick where I was going to school and what I was going to do, the choice seemed easy - a good university followed by teacher’s college, studying future teachables that would hopefully land me a job after I got out.
Fast forward to Reading Week, February 2012. I was in my last year of school. I was just a university student, going out to a country bar with friends - little did I know the fate that night would hold. I ended up meeting my now husband that night. He was a tall, handsome, awkward (sorry honey, we both know it’s true) guy with a heart of gold and a second-to-none work ethic. It only took a few dates to know we had something special (we were engaged in less than a year and a half- we didn’t waste time!). I was seriously falling in major love with this guy - and the more we talked about our futures, the more I would question. The closer I neared to graduation that year, the more I was starting to re-think things. Yup, my plan was going awry.
The truth is, it was a bad time for teaching hopefuls when I was graduating. The statistics were far from being in my favour. There were just too many teachers in Ontario, and not enough jobs to accommodate - and since I was going to be a new one, fresh out of school, I was going to be at the bottom of that food chain for a job. I didn’t just realize this in fourth year - I knew all along it wasn’t going to be easy, but up until then, that was the only option I had given myself. Now enter Kev again. He was farming with his family at the time and had really big dreams of what he wanted his future in farming to look like.
All of the sudden, I found myself provided with another opportunity. The opportunity to stay home, raise kids, and establish a home and farm with him. I know we weren’t married yet - but when ya know ya know, right? And we knew. What an absolute angel he was through all of it too. He said what an amazing thing it would be to have me home, raising our kids, and taking care of the 'desk job’ farm work that he had no interest or desire doing. But it was NEVER the expectation. He made it very clear that if I wanted to continue to pursue what I was doing, he would support it 100%. I then had a choice to make - and well, since you’re following along with this blog, you know what choice I made. It wasn’t an easy one - y'all know I’m a Type A that loves lists and plans, and I don’t take deviating from them lightly - but it felt like a dream come true to be able to build a life side by side with Kev, and paired with my doubts about getting a good, steady job anytime soon - well, my mind was made up. I made that choice for myself and I was excited to pursue this new joint journey.
What I didn’t realize at the time is how much guilt it would bring me. I struggled so much the first couple of years we were married. Ever since I was old enough to work, I did. When I was too young to get hired somewhere, I babysat and picked stones. When I was old enough, I always had a job. I did a ton of volunteering because I was convinced it would help set me apart from others at some point in my pursuit of being a teacher. I mean, for God sake, my mom is the CEO of an insurance company and my dad is the sand and gravel division manager for a big local company. They have worked their asses off to be where they are, and also put a crazy amount of effort in to make sure my brothers and I always did the same. They pushed for us to get a good education, and although we didn’t go without, we always had to work. So all of the sudden, when my ‘job’ consisted of being at home- well, quite honestly, the adjustment was crazy. I was the one doing the groceries and the shopping for our family, and felt guilty every. single. time. because I felt like I was using money that wasn’t mine…. money that I didn’t work for. I felt completely worthless. No one ever questioned whether or not Kev was hardworking. There were times I even resented him for that. He never had to explain to anyone what he did in an effort to convince them he was worth a damn. It wasn’t his fault either - my own insecurities paired with societal norms was creating the perfect storm inside my head. I feel silly saying it all now. But I truly felt like I had no place in the world anymore. I was disconnected from all of it, and don’t even get me started on how shitty it felt when people would innocently ask, “so what are you up to now?”. Well, for all the times I gave some bullshit answer that undermined what I was truly accomplishing, I’m going to say it now.
My husband and I successfully own and operate a farming operation, in which we have employed two full-time Canadians (and one part time, currently on mat leave) and two full-time Guatemalans. I am responsible for payroll, accounting, quality control reports, record-keeping (of what happens with every single animal on this farm), all invoicing & billing, government program and grant paperwork, completing audits, ordering all supplies, and corresponding with bankers, accountants, lawyers, bill vendors, you name it (in lamest terms, A LOT of emailing). I deliver meals to the field during busy season and help Kev with fieldwork a few times a year. I worked alongside him up until I had our second child, so that’s more of an occasional occurrence now. This fiscal year, I dove into streamlining our accounting program in order to learn exactly how to use it to its fullest potential, and since then tasks have been twice as easy and take half the time. In addition, I take care of all household responsibilities (laundry, cleaning, cooking, etc). I now run a blog that is seeing some amazing growth. I volunteer as the President of our local preschool. And last but not least, and most importantly, I’m raising a very energetic three year old and sweet but sassy AF one year old that I love more than anything, and to say they keep me on my toes is an understatement. So I guess that’s what I’m up to now.
See what I mean when I say it was ridiculous to feel worthless? But I did. Kev (God bless him, seriously) has said to me countless times that we are equal in this and that he would have to pay multiple people a lot of money to do what I do. It has taken me over four years to believe him. I still have moments of doubt and guilt. After all of the things I just told you, I STILL feel like I should be doing more. But he’s right. Mamas - I need you to listen to these words right now. You are doing more for your family and household than anyone will ever know. You have made major sacrifices to do one of the hardest jobs in the world and you can’t even begin to put a number on your value. I feel you on the deepest level and know you feel like you’re going batshit crazy on the daily. You’re stretching yourself madddd thin to do it all and simultaneously feeling like you’re shitting the bed in all aspects, but I need you to hang in there with me. It’s not always going to be like this.
This quote from Cat and Nat (if you don’t follow them already, do it right now) pretty much sums it all up. “To all the moms carrying guilt tonight. The working mom- feels guilty because she’s not home with her children, feels guilty that she likes going to work, feels guilty that she can’t be there for every single thing, feels guilty for enjoying work and feels guilty for maybe not liking work but having to work to feed her children. The stay at home mom- feels guilty she’s not bringing money in, feels guilty that she sometimes wishes she could be at work even though she wants to stay at home, feels guilty every time she thinks about doing something indulgent, like sitting down. The working stay at home mom- feels guilty that she works and stays at home trying to juggle the best of both worlds but often feeling like failing at both, feels guilty that attention is constantly divided never quite fully on one, feels guilty that she often neglects most anything to do with the house and feels guilty that she takes time away from her kids while she’s also trying to be at home….. guilt and our perceived judgements go hand in hand, take a minute and be proud of yourself for doing exactly you”.
There is so much guilt. This has just been my struggle with it- but we all feel it. We all feel like we should be doing more. So when is it going to stop? What can we do? I think that journey is going to look different for everyone. For me, part of fighting off that guilt is sharing this struggle. Sharing this post that took me months to write (and re-write again and again). It’s admitting that even though you might see someone that’s “doing it all”, the truth is it’s been a hell of a ride trying to convince myself I’m even making a difference. So take it from me, because as you’ve now read, I’ve been there. If you’re behind the scenes feeling like you don’t have value because no one sees what you truly do, I see you. If you’ve picked up a side hustle because you couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting to contribute more, I support you. I know how it feels and I’m proud that you’ve kept going. I don’t think I can tell you how to stop feeling the way you do, because it didn’t happen overnight for me from one person saying it. But maybe if you keep hearing it. Maybe if you keep reading it over and over again, you’ll believe it too. You are invaluable and useful and worthy and amazing and strong. And you know what? You’re doing what you need to for your family so it’s no one’s damn business anyways.