“Open it.” I handed a small, wrapped gift to Roger. It was 1998.
He opened it and found a pastel green pacifier I bought at Kmart.
“What is this?” he asked.
“Guess,” I said. His smile was crooked.
We had been trying for about a year. At the time, I was working as a waitress at Helen’s Kitchen in Jacksonville, NC, and loved it. Tye was in school, but went to a daycare on Saturdays.
Roger and I liked the idea of me being home with the kids. It was something I always wanted to do, and I was really good at it. It was a sacrifice. We had to pinch rusty pennies so hard and make strict decisions about money. We didn’t always make the best ones, but we learned how to live minimally and cheaply. Recently in one of my posts I said something about having only a hundred dollars for a month of groceries. That was true! It was a cheaper time, yes, but it was still challenging, and I’m no couponer. We didn’t have everyone’s support though.
People have spoken snide comments to me before about “not working” and sometimes I feel like I have to explain myself or justify it. There were many times I felt insecure when another mom at a football game or birthday party would say to me, “Oh, you don’t work?” Usually when they said this, I had puke on my second-hand shirt or had been up all night with a fussy baby on the boob.
At the time of Roger’s passing, I was hoping to work for Jacksonville Fire Department. I went through the testing, chief interview, board interview, and I passed the agility test. When my world fell apart, I put that on hold, then ultimately decided I shouldn’t try for the second wave of hiring because I would be gone 24 hours at a time. I couldn’t be away from the kids that long. I had to find another plan.
I began college in NC at Coastal Carolina Community College then continued in Massachusetts at Westfield State University when I moved there. I finally earned my degree this past December, am almost settled after our recent move, and am ready to work.
The divide between working moms and stay-at-home moms is tiring and just sad. I never understood how something my family decided to do had anything to do with anyone else’s. I’ve heard the term “sit at home” spoken to me, and people have asked me if I watched soap operas. It hurt my feelings because I worked very hard when I stayed home. It made me feel less than, lazy, and entitled. Now, I would do anything to go back to those days of SpaghettiOs for dinner and a sore forearm from the baby carrier, but it’s time for me to work.
So, that’s what I’m doing this week. I am looking for a job, and I am so excited about it. I hope it has something to do with writing or editing, and I am beyond grateful to have a little wiggle room so I can do something I really believe in. I will always cherish the days I was able to be home with my boys, but more than that, I stand by it, and I stand by others who make that decision.