I’ve been “stay-at-home” even before I became a “stay-at-home mom” (SAHM). I moved here to Korea at the end of 2014, leaving behind my “dream job”, a supportive work community, a loving church family, my brother, our pets (Laila- a pitbull/boxer mix, Emmy- the queen of the household: a cat of what kind I do not know), relatives, and dear friends. Before I left, I felt like everyone I spoke to was telling me not to rush in finding a job but to embrace the season, to explore the city, to try out new hobbies. And I quickly daydreamed of the life I would create: a couples’ cooking class, strolls along streets lined with cherry blossoms with a cup of coffee in hand, visits to museums to explore my roots.
But the reality looked far from it. The novelty of “free time” quickly dissipated as I constantly was reminded of everything I wasn’t doing: wasn’t making money, wasn’t putting my graduate degrees to use, wasn’t exploring the city and all it had to offer because I didn’t have anyone to do it with because everyone else had a job and I didn’t, wasn’t making friends because “Why should I make friends when I have friends back home and I’m only here for two years?”
Making friends was especially hard in that season when every time I met someone new, the small-talk that ensued would lead to pangs of shame and swallowing of pride:
“Uh… I’m a housewife? I’m looking for a job? I’m unemployed?” It would pain me every time I felt like everything I am, everything I do was watered down to these one-liner response to the omnipresent question: “So, what do you do?”
Truth be told, what I really did those first few months was sleep in, watch K-dramas, read, count the hours and minutes down until my husband would come home.
The irony is, my life now doesn’t look all that different from what it did back then. Now that J (26 months) goes to daycare for most of the day, I’m left at home with a flexible schedule.
A typical day for me (recently) looks like:
8:00: wake up with J and morning snuggles
8:00-8:30: Feed J breakfast
8:30-9:00: Get J washed up, changed, dressed and fit in some play time
9:05: J gets picked up by bus for daycare
9:10: Clean up after breakfast, vacuum, tidy up the house, make coffee and sit down to do “my morning routine”
12:00-1:00: Lunch with husband
2:00 Head to gym, shower, prep dinner
4:15: J gets dropped off by bus!
4:30-5:00: snack time/play time
5:15: Daddy comes home!
5:30-6:30: Family time and prep dinner
7:30: Bath time for J
8:30: Bedtime routine for J
9:30 Free time for Mommy & Daddy! (Usually consists of watching a show. Currently: Mr. Sunshine)
In the name of vulnerability, I’ll admit I feel guilty even calling myself a SAHM anymore. I fear judgment from real SAHM's. I spent the first 18 months of J’s life as a SAHM but now? I feel like I have too much free time to be considered a true “SAHM”.
But reality is, I work part-time from home, too. I know I’m blessed to have the “best of both worlds” being able to work and be home with J. But often, I’m bombarded with feelings of inadequacy that I’m not doing either well. That I “could be” doing more. I think about the ideas and dreams that are untapped, unexplored. I think about what I “should’ve” been able to accomplish (since I’m home all day) but didn’t accomplish because I feel pulled in a thousand directions. I feel like a complete and utter failure when I don’t have a house that’s spic-and-span with a home-cooked nutritious meal ready for my husband and son when they both come home, because “What were you doing if you’ve been home all day?” I hear in my head.
So I lied. That “typical day” schedule is far from the truth. That would be what my day would look like if everything went swimmingly, in an ideal world.
What my typically day actually looks like:
I wake up to J stroking my face, saying, “엄마, 밥…” (“Mommy, food…”) “Man, what time is it?” I look up at the clock on the wall. 8:15… My intention had been to be up at 6:30 so that I could have a bit of me-time and a head start to the day. Well, so much for that…
I make the bed, open the curtains and make my way to the kitchen to “make” breakfast. I can hardly call it “making” anything because more often than not, breakfast for J is yogurt, some nuts, a smoothie and maybe some fruit, if he’s up for it. I get him dressed and off to daycare.
I breathe a big sigh as I walk back into a quiet, still house. I take a moment to relish this moment. Then I go into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee to sit down and start my day. Halfway through my morning routine, I remember I didn’t even use the bathroom yet because J woke up late and I was in a mad rush to get him ready and on the bus. “Did I even wash his face…? I should wash my face…”
I come out of the bathroom and remember I should load the laundry so it’s running while I do my work. So I go to the bedroom to grab our hamper and load the laundry.
“Oh yeah… my coffee!” It’s gone cold.
I heat up my coffee and sit down, finally, and open up my computer to start work. But I check my email while my work programs are loading and I see an email from Ebates and it reminds me, “J needs some clothes for spring. I should place an order soon…”
I start my work and then I hear the laundry machine’s little tune go off, signaling its complete cycle. I get up and throw the laundry into the dryer. On my way through the kitchen, I see the sink full of dishes. I do the dishes. While I’m at it, I clean the counters. The crumbs from the counters fall to the floor. “I should vacuum.” I put out the vacuum to tidy up the kitchen, but while I’m at it, I should just vacuum the whole house.
I sit back down at my dining table turned “work station” and get back to work when my phone rings. Y wants to know if I want to meet him for lunch. I tell him I’ll meet him after getting dressed (because yes, it’s lunchtime and I’m still in PJ’s…). I throw on my work-out clothes because the plan is to hit the gym after meeting the husband for lunch. I hurry back after my gym session and throw together a protein shake, gulp it down and desperately try to finish my work before J gets home, because Lord knows I can’t get work done with a toddler clinging to my leg.
Yup, that’s more like it. That’s probably a more realistic picture of what my typical day looks like, although if I’m really honest, I don’t have a “typical” day. Every day looks different. Every day is a new day.
Now that I look back, my SAH life before I became a SAHM taught me about “identity”. That I’m not what I make, that I’m not what I produce, that I’m not a title.