Will is now almost seven months old, which is something I sometimes find hard to believe.
Sitting! I guess we need to lower the crib mattress now.
My evolution as a stay-at-home mom has been through a number of different phases since April. The first few weeks of motherhood, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
Then as the weeks passed and I got closer to what would have been the end of my maternity leave, I began to seriously question my choice to leave my career in favor of a life at home. I had had my dream job. I was passionate about what I did; there was lots of opportunity for growth within my agency; I even could have gone to get my MSW with the support of my employer. I had been on a great career track that was a wonderful fit for me, and I made a huge, huge sacrifice in giving it up to stay home with Will. There were some days when I couldn’t see what the benefit was, or why I had decided to do it.
But I clung to the fact that Steve and I had both determined that this was the right choice for our family, and as time passed I became more comfortable in my role at home. I may not have always been able to see the benefits at the time, but I knew they were there. We got out of the tough newborn stage and entered into a comfortable, somewhat routine life together.
For me, the tough part about being a stay-at-home mom isn’t the staying at home. It isn’t hanging out with a baby all day or the routine “drudgery” of housework. I actually really like homemaking, and I love the slower pace of life that my not working allows us. My day-to-day life is really very fulfilling, and as it turns out, staying home is as great a fit for me as my old job was.
And that’s what I struggle with sometimes. Despite how fulfilling it is, it’s hard to not also feel (or be made to feel, maybe?) unambitious, complacent, lazy, and somewhat apprehensive of the future. When I reread what I wrote above about my career, it’s hard to not then ask, and you gave it all up — for THIS? without an accompanying uncomfortable twist in my stomach.
The THIS that I chose in favor of my career is a once-in a lifetime opportunity, and I absolutely love it — but it’s also hard to not feel apologetic about that. I wouldn’t characterize myself as particularly career-driven, but I also wasn’t one of those girls who just whiled away the time at a job she didn’t care about until marriage and kids came along. I just have a hard time owning my choices around this, I think. I have a hard time rejecting the messages I hear about how stay-at-home moms are short-sighted to set aside their careers, that they’re freeloaders who don’t contribute to the family (as though income is the only way to contribute), and (especially) that they lead stifled, unfulfilling, and very small and boring lives. That they’re not making a difference in the world. That they’re opting out.
I know that by staying home I am opting out of a lot of things, but that’s the life that Steve and I want and it’s the life we are fortunate enough to be able to choose. However, I can’t pretend that I don’t worry about the future. What will I do if I decide I want to pick up my career again? I already had my dream job. Will another one be waiting for me? What will I do if I decide I don’t want to pick up my career again — when my children are older and my days don’t revolve so much around diapers? What will that say about me, if I become a long-term homemaker and never go back to work? — I do have to say that I honestly think I would be perfectly happy being a homemaker indefinitely. It’s just that I have a hard time owning that. I might be happy, but would it be enough?
I’m not a fast-paced person, and I don’t function well at breakneck speed. But what does that say about me? Intentionally slowing down our lives has, it’s turned out, made me feel very happy and fulfilled — but I’m not sure that deep down, I’m comfortable with this realization. Shouldn’t I miss my career? — I do. Doesn’t that mean I made the wrong decision, then, that I’m living the wrong life? — not necessarily. I can miss what’s beyond the doors I’ve closed behind me, while not wanting to turn around again.
I am worrying too much about the future, I know, and tomorrow has enough trouble of its own. I wish I could wrap up this post with a concise and pithy statement unifying everything I’m thinking about, but I can’t. There’s no real conclusion. This is just what’s on my mind. The evolution continues …