Until I took my maternity leave last April, which turned out to be the day I maternity left, I had been working consistently since I was 19. I’ve been a front desk manager, grassroots organizer, small newspaper editor, etc. I’ve been thinking a lot about the almost-jobs I’ve had, too, the places where I had been hired but had to politely (and sometimes not so politely) refuse.
There’s a scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when right before a gun battle, Butch admits that he’s never shot anyone and Sundance instructs him to “aim for the middle ’cause you’re bound to hit something.” That line sums up how I’ve applied for jobs, especially when I don’t have a job and need that crazy thing called money.
There was a dry-cleaning place run by an attractive Asian woman (Asians and dry cleaners? Surely you jest!) and right after the interview she said, “I just want you to take this IQ test, here’s some scratch paper.” I had never heard of a dry cleaner wanting an applicant to figure out if John and Matt carpooled and Matt lived thirty minutes away from John at what speed would a train from Topeka have to be to reach Kansas City at five o’clock. I thought I would just be estimating how much it would cost to get raspberries stains out of ascots, not balancing equations. But for fifteen minutes, I was a math genius and the chemicals inside the building uncovered the seventh grade algebra lessons lodged in the bowels of my brain.
When I received the voicemail asking when I would start, I had to tell her no, I had already accepted a job elsewhere even thought that was a lie, I didn’t want to smell like I had been huffing aerosol cans all day and I don’t like doing laundry. (Tangent: And speaking of smells, I am utterly disgusted by Febreeze commercials. I mean, instead of washing and disinfecting your nasty, bacteria-laden sweaty sports gear, why not spritz it with some chemicals? That’s nastier than wearing Bea Arthur’s underwear as a face mask. Whenever I get a whiff of Febreeze, I think, “Something nearby must be really dirty.”)
This stretch of motherhood has been the longest time I have gone without working for pay and has given me time to think about what ifs. What if I had taken that job at the literary agency? What if I moonlighted as a “phone actress” for guys into shemuscles? What if I did work from 9 to 5 (pm to am) shaking what my mama gave me?
And the point of this boring, what-is-your-point-Mona entry is to say that I am no longer a stay-at-home mom. I got a job! A paying job! With benefits! Break out the exclamation points, who’s expressing strong feelings now, playa!
I decided to go back to work for several reasons. It was partly financially motivated because of small things like the car accident last month that didn’t magically pay for itself and disappear into the field where bad decisions go to die (RIP stirrup pants). There were other reasons less cogent like, I think I could really lose weight this time because I will not be within seconds of the fridge and the pint of cookies and cream inside. Truth is, I want a career. In twenty years I am supposed to be at my maximum earning potential and that is not going to happen if I continue memorizing lines from Little House on the Prairie (not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just I can’t make a living telling you what Pa Ingalls is going to say next). I want to go to grad school and use what I’ve learned for something other than owning the Victorian Literature category on Jeopardy.
My friend calls the first months the “cloud of motherhood,” that you’re stuck in a fog of baby demands and mothering and that’s great because it’s exactly what your child needs, but when your baby grows and eases up, you start to notice your own needs, too. And as she waxed hippie philosophic about discovering womanhood, wombs and the moon, I should have chimed in with something more eloquent than, “Yah, I’m just looking forward to wearing pants without elastic around the middle.”