In my working world I was that girl who demanded the feedback on how to do my job better. I would celebrate my victories but even more, I wanted to learn what it took to take my work to the next level. I would spend probably more than appropriate time at my colleagues’ desks asking them questions, recalling situations or having them talk me off the ledge. Daily I would do this. At lunch time, we could converse in the cafe or after the kabillion meetings and group calls we were required to attend. I had instant messaging windows open constantly for chatter about this, that or the other. While worked “independently without much direction” I did so in a “team environment.”
SAHMs often have a team – it’s typically a spouse, and all prayers to the heavens for those who fly solo – but the feedback isn’t immediate. I might text an unlucky friend about the day’s woes or even a few highlights, but the lack of sharing physical space changes things. Presence matters. I don’t want to have to schedule a coffee date 3 Tuesdays from now to rant about the crayon on my wall – I want to march 20 feet away and find willing ears and resume my day with weight lifted, feeling validated.
The desolate loneliness of staying home with children isn’t only about missing adult interaction but also the lack of timely and appropriate feedback on our work. For instance, I once spent the first quarter of nap time in a loud discussion with the 5-year-old about how mommy’s job isn’t just to give him what he wants, but to help everyone get what they need – in this instance, rest. I was shouted at, name called and eye rolled. The feedback was neither helpful nor thoughtful.
When I think about the ways my kids do offer feedback, I live in extremes. I hear “I love you” no less than 63 times a day. Within the same breath, they might scream at me that “I’m being mean” when I ask them to put shoes on as the mercury dips below 60. Often, I go completely ignored. Repeatedly.
For a person whose love language is primarily words of affirmation, these conditions make it especially tough terrain.
Of course, I do have people tell me “you’re doing a good job” but I sometimes resist, and not out of false humility. They see me at my best, with an audience. What about when I loose my shit before breakfast, ranting like a lunatic because of the 400th apple core left on the coffee table? My boss wouldn’t stand for my behavior. Where are the voices in my life with that reminder?
Right now my life’s work is raising these little humans. I’ve invested my working hours and energy into this gig and I want to give it all I’ve got – as much for my own sake as the children’s. What I want to know is not if I should be doing more crafts (because I won’t) or if I yell too much (because I do): I need the side-by-side learning offered in most work environments. I need co-workers who dealt with similar clients who were never satisfied. I need a meeting where someone brings donuts because she knows we’re working hard but still have miles to go.