Just me. And a friend. No children. Instead of driving our sticky, gooey, smelly mom-mobiles, my friend picked me up in her sporty little jeep.
We loaded our skis, kissed the kids goodbye, felt a momentary pang of guilt (not really, but it makes me sound better if I did) and set off for the slopes. We talked the whole way without a single interruption of....
"Mommy, he's annoying me!"
"Take your fingers out of my nose."
"Gross! Is that poop?"
"Are we there yet?"
It was heaven. And that was just the car ride.
So there I am on the lift sitting next to my friend and another skier who had joined us from the single's line. We begin the friendly banter that usually happens on a lift. Perhaps it's because you're dangling many feet above a slippery slope in a lawn chair, or the fact that you can't feel your lips so you figure talking will help, but we exchanged the usual pleasantries with our new buddy.
"Beautiful day isn't it?" he says to us.
"You bet!" I say enthusiastically, still on my mom-vacation high. "We are so lucky to live here and to be able to enjoy the mountains like this. It's just great!"
"Are you from around here?" he inquires politely.
"We're from Bailey," I answer and wait for the usual response of Bailey? Where's Bailey?
"BAILEY!" he says enthusiastically. "I've been there once. Huh, Bailey! That's pretty far out there."
The conversation lags for a minute as our lift friend digests this curve-ball of a discovery. I know what he's thinking. Who actually lives in Bailey? Is there even a grocery store in Bailey?
"So what do you do out in Bailey? Do you both teach...or something?" Our incredulous confidante asks.
And here it is. The answer I have struggled with since June 2006. The dreaded stay-at-home mom answer. I have never been able to simply say, "I'm a stay-at-home mom! That's what I do!" I usually feel the need to blurt out that before my current occupation of rearing the future, I had a job as a fundraiser and before that completed my masters and before that went to college.
And then I just sound like a pompous jerk. The problem is that I never intended to abandon my career goals and stay at home to raise the kids. I'd always wanted children but I wasn't worried about the nitty gritty details of how they would be raised. I was going to graduate and save the world or at the very least, use my education and be really successful.
But when the babies came along it just seemed like the right thing to do. I couldn't bear the thought of not spending these precious years with each teeny, tiny, swaddled infant that came along. It was not always an easy decision to live with. In the early years, it felt like I had abandoned my education and career in favor of spit-up, potty talk, seclusion, laundry, dishes, fights, tears, and just a dash of hormonal craziness.
As the years have passed and my youngest is now three, the fog has cleared enough for me to gain a bit of perspective. I look terrible on a resume.
But I have a theory. When I am ready to return to work, I will make an ideal employee. And not just me. I believe that most stay-at-home moms who return to the workforce are ideal candidates. While I may not have attended the latest training in my former field, stayed ahead of the technology curve or know when it's appropriate to Twitter, e-mail, Facebook, text, IM, video chat, get LinkedIn, or just make a phone call, I have developed an acute sense of self-awareness.
Moms are moderators, peace-makers, cheerleaders, confidantes. We are accounting, HR, program coordinators, support staff, and co-COO. We have to make hard and fast decisions that affect those around us. We know where we excel and we are only too aware of when we fail, but we do both with a sense of pride and humility. When the going gets tough, we can't quit. (Although I was fired once by a 5-year-old.) We push through the most challenging of times and bask in successes always with an eye on how we can do things better.
We work well in a team. We can say no. And we are always learning and willing to try new approaches if the old one doesn't work.
With this revelation, I have finally overcome my hesitancy to answer the dreaded, "What do you do?" question. The sun is shining, the sky is bright blue, and my skis are just itching to hop off this lift and navigate down the mountain. So, I turn to my new snow chum and answer with conviction,
"I am a stay-at-home mom. What do you do?" There. I said it. That felt really good. It doesn't matter the title, I am a competent, smart, capable woman who will one day be a true asset to the work force.
"Oh, well I'm a consultant," he says with vigor. "My focus is working with companies to make sure they do their due diligence...." Here he pauses and gives me a questioning look. I wait expectantly and give him the universal "go on" nod.
"Do you know what due diligence means?" He asks rather slowly, placing emphasis on each syllable.
Right. Guess I should have mentioned my college education.