Before I became a flight attendant, the only thing I knew about them was that they served drinks and peanuts.
My access to seeing one in person was limited to the three or four flights. I thought the job was easy, something that required little skill, and a love of traveling. Three weeks of training and over 13 years of flying thousands of flights has proven me wrong. I guess my takeaway from my previous school of thought was you never really know what a job entails until you’ve tried it on for size yourself. So to all those flight attendants whose job I thought was solely to cater to me when I needed a frosty beverage, I’m sorry.
While I’m apologizing, here’s a list of other women whose jobs I took for a cakewalk: stay-at-home moms, working moms, single moms, and married moms.
At one point or another I’ve been all of these things and none of them are easy roles. Perhaps the women who do them make it look easy, but I can assure you, behind the Instagram and Facebook photos, it’s not. I’m sorry for ever thinking it was.
To the stay-at-home mom: I once wondered what the hell you did all day. I never quite understood how anyone who had the privilege of staying home with their kids (and to me it was a privilege not to have to punch a time card) could possibly complain. I believed your days were filled with trips to the zoo and swims at the pool. I thought it unfair you were able to nurse whenever you wanted, without the annoyance of finding a time and place to pump, because you never had to leave your baby at home. Your home cooked meals, strawberry picking, and story time at the library days were the envy of someone who could barely find time to shower, get to work, and make sure enough milk/baby food was in stock for the daycare or nanny. Though I fly and teach yoga and fitness, I also have days where I have nothing scheduled for work and I find myself planning my idyllic stay-at-home-mom day. “I’m going to get so much done,” I think. Maybe I’ll even cook dinner.
Reality is I’m putting out small fires all day. When Charlotte was an infant my days consisted of feeding and diaper changing and maybe shaving my legs or putting on makeup. Now that she’s older, it’s like having a tornado in the house. I put laundry in the washer and she’s playing in the toilet. I clean up breakfast mess and she’s fallen down and crushed a handful of crackers into the carpet. I vacuum and she’s climbing up the stairs. We go to play in her room and every book comes off the shelf. Make sure she actually goes to the bathroom in the potty (which is kind of like trying to stick a cat in a bathtub, if you want to know) and then nap-time rolls around (FINALLY!). If she doesn’t nap at home, I have a cranky toddler, but if she does, I’m on house arrest for 2-3 hours where I take the time to get her lunch ready, maybe get myself ready, and, if I’m lucky, practice some yoga. Once the princess wakes up, it’s back to waiting on her hand and foot, and before I know it, the husband is at home wondering, “what did you do all day?”
Staying at home with your child means you get nothing and everything done all at once.
It’s a blur of cleaning, feeding, managing melt-downs, and, in-between, trying to teach them something educational so they aren’t completely inept. It’s exhausting, and I salute those of you who have more than one child and that is your daily existence.
When you stay at home, working seems a little glamorous.
You are nobody’s mom for the hours you are at work and you don’t have snot stains all over your clothing and yogurt in your hair. When I’d work with people that had kids I use to think to myself, “this must be such a nice break for you to get out of the house!” It is, to an extent. When I’m working, I sometimes feel like I’m on a mini vacation. I leave to teach yoga and I can linger after class with my students and talk uninterrupted. When I’m flying, I can eat lunch whenever I want, eat what I want, I don’t have to worry about bath time, and the only person I have to put to sleep is myself. Yet who always shows up at your door while you’re working? Guilt.
I’ll admit the guilt was far worse when Charlotte was under a year old. When I wasn’t with her, I was tethered to my pump and I’d constantly worry that I’d left her without enough food to survive. I mentally counted the hours until I’d be home from flying, teaching, or working out as if the less I was gone the better mother I’d be. Paying a nanny to do my “job” seemed asinine, yet we couldn’t afford for me not to work. I’d have a sinking feeling each time I left the house without Charlotte and I started to resent my job for taking me away from her. Why did I have to work when other women didn’t? It never seemed fair. From pumping in bathrooms, to staying up late to make lunches for school, organizing backpacks, and keeping a calendar just so you know who’s picking up who… I truly admire all working moms out there.
Dealing with a tiny boss, then going out into the world and dealing with an adult boss is no small feat.
My husband is on call once every 7 weeks and for that week he can be called in to his job anytime day or night. Since I’m usually the one flying nights, he’s gotten in the habit of taking care of Charlotte when she wakes up in the morning. By the time I come home in the morning, she’s already at school, so I try to sneak a nap in so I’ll be well rested for the following night of flying. When Chad is on call, I have to stay home from flying so that someone is there when and if he gets called in the middle of the night. So there are days when I play single mom and sometimes I’m with Charlotte from the time she wakes up until the hour she goes to bed. I realize just how much my husband does and how easy this is to take for granted until you are alone with your child. If you’ve ever had your spouse leave for a day, a week, or longer, you know exactly what I mean. One weekend Chad flew back to Michigan because his grandmother was ill and I didn’t even leave the house. I ordered enough pizza to last me through the weekend. When you are alone with your child, there’s no one to pass them off to when they are crying, no one to clean up dinner while you start the bath, no one to watch them at the pool when you want to take a dip in and no one to pick up milk on the way home; however, you do become excellent at multi-tasking and become acutely aware of just how much free help is around, if you ask. We don’t have family that lives in town so our friends have become ever important in assisting us when necessary. I inherently knew being a single mother wasn’t easy, but I’ll admit there were moments in the beginning when Chad and I would argue about Charlotte and how we thought she should be taken care of… and the thought occurred to me, “this would be easier alone.”
Sometimes raising a child seemed like riding a horse and there were two people trying to sit in the saddle and steer, both thinking their direction was right.
One of my greatest take-a-ways from becoming a parent is that everything seems easier when you aren’t the one doing the job. There is always that sense that someone else has it better than we do or that if we were the ones in the saddle, we’d be able to do it better. Our perceptions are skewed, because we only see what others want us to see which is often barely a glimpse into their daily lives.
Most days between three jobs, one child, keeping house, and a husband, I’m barely keeping my head above water. Anytime we take on another role in life, I think this becomes the case.
So let’s just all admit that really we’re doing the best we can and the fact is no one has it easy.