There are so many interesting and unexpected facets to being an unemployed mom. It’s not necessarily a pleasant experience, but it’s not complete misery either. It’s somewhere between the two.
Some days are worse than others, and admittedly, most days are determined by the color of lenses I wake up wearing (rose-colored is obviously preferred). However, some days can be completely altered by a run-in with the wrong person who can’t seem to stop saying the wrong shit to me. To ensure you aren’t one of those people, here are the top things you shouldn’t say to an unemployed mom (and more specifically, me).
1. “What do you do all day?”
Okay. I get what you’re saying, but please just don’t. I’m unemployed, which contrary to apparent popular opinion, is not the same as on vacation. What do I do all day?! I look for ways to become employed. Like, what?!
Looking for jobs, applying for jobs, preparing for interviews, interviewing, networking, researching, and reading everything and anything are all parts of being unemployed. And I know if you haven’t had to do it in a while, it may seem like an easy enough task, but take my word for it when I tell you it’s not.
I spend most of my days sitting at my computer responding to emails, sifting through jobs, reading through required qualifications, modifying my resume, crafting cover letters, going to interviews, setting up video interviews, jumping on and off phone calls with recruiters, beating myself up over things I should have said, worrying I was too honest (Does anyone care about frequent happy hours and beer in the fridge anymore? Because I’m all here for flexibility when my kids get sick or have a concert I refuse to miss), or maybe that I wasn’t eager enough (“I don’t want to babysit adults. Setting up other people’s meetings and standing over their shoulders is not something I’m interested in”).
Also, for the record, I’m still a mom. I do laundry. I clean the floors. I vacuum the rugs three hundred times a week. I drop off the kids and I pick them up. I make dinner. I do the dishes. I wonder how the house is still so messy and then I deal with the guilt that is a messy home when I’m just sitting here all day.
So, please, if you see me, don’t ask me what I do all day because I basically spend it wondering what the fuck I’m doing with my life — but that’s too loaded of an answer, isn’t it?
2. “Have you tried (insert suggestion here)?”
I love you because you want to help, but at the end of the day, yes, I’ve done that and that and that and that, and I’m still doing it — sometimes daily, sometimes weekly. I want to find a job as badly as you want to help me, and I want it to be as perfect as you want it to be for me. I really do.
And I know you’re just trying to help and there’s something really exciting about being the one who opens the golden gate to the next chapter of my professional career, but no one wants to figure out my next step and the next place I’ll call my home away from home more than I do.
Ask me how it’s going and how you can help if you want to know, but please don’t ask me if I’ve tried “X” because I have. I really have. And if I haven’t, I’ll feel like a fucking failure. Now’s just not the best time.
3. “So, are you a stay-at-home mom now?”
No. No, I’m not. And it’s the only reason I’m still standing here looking like an actual functioning member of society. Can’t I be an unemployed woman looking for her next role without people assuming I’m trading it all in for motherhood? I mean, I have no shame telling you that I’m 100% sure my kids are as smart as they are because they don’t have to spend every day of their life with me. I don’t have an early-childhood education degree, some days I don’t even have the patience to deal with myself, and quite honestly, I’m such a critic that sometimes I’m not even sure I’m fit to be a mother. Isn’t that the real crux of motherhood? Just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should.
I loved being a working mom, and that’s not to say I couldn’t learn to love being a stay-at-home mom, but it would require letting go of a lot of things I’m not sure I could do happily. There’s nothing more important than the job of raising decent human beings, but everyone thrives in different environments — mine is as a working mom — and it takes a village. For me, that village includes child care.
4. “Why don’t you just keep the boys home instead of at daycare while you’re looking for another job?”
Why?! Because I would never find another job if I did that! But thanks for belittling just about everything I’m putting any effort toward right now. Most people who say this are non-parents, so I can’t really be mad about it. They just don’t know how much work a 1- and 3- year-old are.
They have no idea what it’s like to wake up every two hours, shove a raw, bleeding breast into a baby’s mouth that may as well be an iron mouse trap because it feels the same. They don’t know what it’s like to sleep in 1 square foot of space with small feet kicking you in the face all night or what it’s like to be woken up multiple times a night by your toddler screaming, “I have to flush the toilet! I haaave to flush!” because his first-ever porta potty experience has scarred him for life. They have no idea how many toilet paper rolls a 1- and 3-year-old can unravel in 10 seconds, how high they can climb within 5 unattended seconds, how much toilet water they can splash around the bathroom, or how many walls they can color if left to their own devices for even a millisecond.
They also have no idea what two and a half months of rejection feels like and no concept of dealing with that and the ever-present pressure to be a perfect parent. Why don’t I just keep the boys at home while I’m looking for a job? Why don’t you just come watch my kids for free while I look for another job? No? I didn’t think so.
5. “I don’t know why you don’t just (insert lofty goal here).”
Things like “finally write your book” or “start your own event-planning business” or “write for the magazines” sound great, of course, but please don’t act like I’m making a huge mistake for just not doing those things. Those things take time and capital and portfolios and experience.
Could I write a book? Of course. Would anything ever come of it? Who knows. But this year? Definitely not. Could I start my own event-planning business? Sure. But are you funding it? Because last time I checked I’m still an unemployed mother of two without any trust fund or inheritance, sooo… Could I write for “the magazines”? Yeah, I could do that all day, but do you know someone who just publishes everything they come across because right now I’m sort of looking for a quick turn around — you know, something within 2017?
I’m currently looking for a job to further my career and help me afford to do some bigger side projects, but I’m not really in a place to just jump off into the deep end. I really do appreciate your faith in me and I love you, but seriously, one thing at a time. I already have enough rejection on my plate, no need to throw some in just for fun.