For me it was like I went through the five stages of grief. There was Denial: I’m just staying home ‘for now’. I’m not a REAL stay-at-home mom. Anger: This is not what I imagined for myself. I can find a job whenever I want! Bargaining: Maybe I can go back to school part-time while I’m home with Ellie. Depression: I don’t really know what I want to do when I grow up and I probably shouldn’t spend money on anything until I’m sure. Finally, Acceptance: I’m a stay-at-home-mom… Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE being a mom. I DON’T love feeling like I’m not contributing both to our savings account and to the world in general. I wanted to change the world! Now I change diapers.
There are women out there who would nail my eyelids to the wall if they knew what I just wrote. I’m so, so, so grateful I’m a mother. When I was 18 and they told me I’d never have kids I could easily imagine having them anyway. (Eh, what do Doctors know?) But never, not ONCE, did I EVER imagine I wouldn’t be working too.
Besides feeling like I’m not using my talents and abilities to their potential, I think my biggest problem is I like to be measured. I’m not proud of this but I like to know exactly what is expected of me, and when. Then I REALLY like knowing I’m not only meeting but exceeding ‘expectations’…
There IS no ‘grade’ for me to make here. No performance evaluation with criteria I can measure up and compare myself to. Ellie’s going to be sitting in a psychiatrist office someday twenty years from now and asking what it meant that her mother kept asking her for a ‘report card’. Did I make an ‘A’ today baby? A B? SOMETHING!? MEASURE ME! TELL ME HOW GREAT I AM! Ugh. I had no idea now needy I am. I’m really happy I discovered this about myself…
There’s also something acutely personal about the ‘job’ as a stay at home mom. When I had a bad day at work I could stand back from it and say, hey, ok, yep I screwed up. I could go home at the end of the day and remind myself that I wasn’t my job. I was a whole person outside of work with interests and hobbies and friends that had nothing to do with my job. I could immerse myself in a good book, or lose myself in writing a terrible one. Not so with being a stay at home mom. When I have a bad day at THIS job, there is no ‘stepping back’. There’s no dispassionate evaluation of what went wrong. No reminding myself that I’m more than just this job. I can’t and I’m not. Or am I? This is it. Isn’t it?
For sure If I screw up this one I don’t have a career managing a big-shot company to fall back on. (Hey I can’t raise kids but look what I did for the economy!) And why is it only women that get defined by this ‘job?’ Men are fathers AND workers. I feel like I’m stuck in a 1920’s newspaper article. Wasn’t this all resolved decades ago? Women can have a career AND a family. She can be a good mom and a productive citizen too. So why do I feel like I can’t? The thought of leaving her home alone with someone I’m not related to literally gives me nightmares. Imagining her crying for attention in a day care and not getting it because there’s too many other kids crying…HURTS my HEART. So. Frustrating.
Add to this a spouse who is trying to understand but really can’t. (Hey, if I could stay home, I would. I’d much rather stay home with her than go to the office…) He’s so helpful isn't he? I don’t bother pointing out that we’ve no way to evaluate that statement because he knows there’s no way on God’s green earth I could ever make more than he does. (Unless you want to PAY for the pleasure of reading this blog? No? Well, carrying on then…)
I’ve never EVER had a job where I was all at once physically exhausted as well as mentally and emotionally depleted. If a job is physically demanding (mowing lawns!) It isn’t usually mentally demanding as well. I know what you’re thinking. ANYONE can stay at home and raise kids.
1) No, no they can’t. 2) ANYONE can drive, too, but to be a GOOD driver, you need to be vigilant. Constantly on alert. The SECOND you take your eyes off the road, disaster could strike. Last week she fell and hit her head on the kitchen island while I was eating supper. Disaster struck IN THE ONE SECOND it took me to pierce the broccoli with my fork and CHEW.
At the end of the day, when all is said and done, when I’ve done my very best and surprised myself at my reserves of patience (or not…) how do I unwind? How do I let go of the mistakes? (I let her watch too much TV! She didn’t eat enough green vegetables! Am I changing her diaper enough? Am I changing it TOO much? Am I hovering too closely? Am I not watching her closely enough!?) Arg. Deep breaths. In. Out. I don’t have an answer for that except, it helps I can write about it here. And I do love being a mom. I feel like I’ve been a mom for a really long time only I don’t have to share Ellie with anyone but her own father.
I think if I can manage to let go of my ego, the thing that says I need to be ‘measured to matter’ I can find a lot more peace with staying at home with her. And I will find other ways to contribute to the world, to make it a better place. I’m sure there are lots of ways to do that. Ways I haven’t even heard of yet, and if I’m open to it, I can still help change the world for the better. Even if it’s just with the love of one mom, to one daughter.