When I had to register as a new patient, the receptionist asked me what my work number was. I had to explain that my home number is my work number because, duh, I am employed by a 24-inch-long baby.
“I’m a stay-at-home mom.” I said. When I didn’t get the chuckling response I had hoped, I added, “And being a mom’s a job, too, you know. It never ends.” Why was I trying to justify myself in front of a woman whose cubicle wall was adorned with MySpace-style photos?
Back in August I applied for a job at my alma mater as an English major advisor. I was good friends with the woman leaving the position and by the way she had described it, the job was as good as mine. I knew it would be perfect for me. I was an English major. If the English major was a category on Jeopardy, I’d get all true daily double, sucka! I also knew the director and was somewhat convinced she knew me. When I handed in my carefully typed, laser-printed resume, she didn’t call security and even said, “Thanks, Mona!”
So for weeks I fantasized about this job. There were small scale fantasies like shopping for work clothes and calling up my old professors and saying, “Hey I work in this building now!” Then there were complex daydreams about whether I should place Nathan in a daycare close to home so Mike could pick him up or close to work so I could nurse during my lunch break. And the latter included worries. Would they let Nathan cry? Would they know that he enters a trance when seranaded with the Octopus song? And what if by leaving him in cold, hollow room with strangers, he’ll never develop his motor skills? What if I come to pick him up and he doesn’t recognize me and the only way I’ll get him into his car seat is if I flash him some boobage so he knows it’s Mommy?
I spent a few weeks swimming in hypotheticals before I called the director.
“Hi Mona, I’m sure you’re calling about your resume.”
“Yes, I am.”
“Well. I’ve just finished the first round of interviews.”
The first round of interviews, I thought. Is there going to be a bonus round? Am I going to be the wild card?
“You see,” she continued, “you seem very qualified but we’re really looking for PhD candidates right now.”
“But don’t feel bad! We had 152 candidates and we narrowed it down to 12. And you were not one of the 12, you big floppy donkey loser.”
She didn’t say that last sentence, but she might as well have because that was it. No deciding between working out during lunch or sneaking a sandwich and latte into the library. No starting an actual career or pension. No conference calls or departmental meetings. There won’t be another baby shower at the office because my new office is here. My work now entails breastfeeding and clearing toys off the floor so this house doesn’t become an obstacle course.
I should have whored myself out more. I have had only three serious relationships in my life, this marriage included. I think sometimes that if I had been as slutty as my junior high’s bathroom stalls claimed I was, then I could say, “Yeah, starring in Camp Suckaweewee 35 was great and all, but now that I’m a stay-at-home mom, my life is complete.”
There are times when I’m grateful that I can spend this time with my son. Last night, I plopped myself on the couch and held Nathan close to my face. I sang the Octopus song, twisted my face in exaggerated expressions and he squealed. Just when I thought my heart was going to burst with motherhood spooge, Nathan headbutted me in the eye. His space-orbit forehead was as hard and effective as a clenched fist.
There is no bruise. I’m harboring the physical damage inside, right next to my hopes and dreams and failed American Idol audition.