Monday, December 30, 2013

Sunny Days and Buried Thoughts

We are sick and cold and remembering sunshine-filled days from springtime. 

And I need to fill my head with pretty thoughts and pictures because Sabine is seemingly not tired enough to take naps during the day anymore. For the past eight months or so, both girls would sleep from 1:30 to 4:00, and sometimes longer. Losing that two or three hour break, that time alone so I can have whole thoughts and not the staccato ones that read like my own Twitter feed, makes me want to shove the pencils I don't use anymore into my frenzied and tired brain.

But I love them: Sabine and Zadie. I would never choose any other job over this one. I wrote this post recently about working and wanting to work and wanting Sabine to think of me as something other than a stay-at-home mom. The truth is, a stay-at-home mom is the best thing I've ever been. I've never been happier and smarter and more challenged and more accomplished. I don't want anyone else taking care of my kids on a regular basis except for me (or their dad). I don't want to miss a step, a bump, a word, a smile, a moment. I want to be the one to encourage and comfort them during the day. (Plus, there was that time I taught preschool after college and watched the director and one of the teachers go into the bathroom and do crystal meth every day during nap time so I don't trust anyone else.). I want to be there for every single moment that I can until they go to school. I read something this morning that went like this: Your child is a newborn for a month; an infant for a year; a toddler for two years; a preschooler for two years; a child for five years; a preteen for two years; a teenager for five years; and then he/she is an adult. I will never get this time back.

And then there's also the fact that I'm entirely neurotic and overly sensitive so that me being with them instead of a caretaker is the only choice for me so I don't have a heart attack. It's part of the reason we moved to Baltimore. I'm lucky we can afford to do this here and for the moment. I know plenty of well-adjusted adults, who had a caretaker other than their mother. This includes my husband. It would just never work for me, unless I didn't have a choice. And plenty of people don't.

Part of my writing this today is my own need to understand my feelings on the matter: working vs. staying home with my children. I had a few friends verbally mention they were happy that I was planning or thinking about going back to work. I'm not until Zadie goes to preschool when she is three. She deserves as much of me as Sabine had. But I am making some money from this little blog and I will do some freelance writing/editing as soon as I can and as long as it doesn't take me away too much. I'm tired and it's hard to have so much less of me, but it's the best thing I've ever done.

I realize now that I wasn't worried what Sabine will think of me. She will just know how loved she is. And she now knows and tells everyone that her mama is a writer and an editor. My real worry was what other people think of me. I hate the perception that women who have been home with their children are not as smart or fashionable or current as their counterparts, who go to work. And I hate that my wanting to stay home makes me dumb or boring or provincial in the eyes of some other women, as well as men.

It's an old conversation that I've had with others and with myself a thousand times. I'm tired of the conversation because it's not that staying home or working is better. It's doing what works for you that's better, and not giving a f*ck what anyone else thinks. 


Madeleine Kerr said...

When you feel like you rock at something, everything else is secondary. Being a mom is where you've become your truest self. I felt the same way when I found libraries as a career. There, I found my groove. I don't have much of a separation between work self and "home self." When I wasn't connected to my work the way I am now, I didn't feel as connected to my life. What've I've learned about myself in the course of my happy career has helped me be a better and stronger me. How it makes me feel is irreplaceable in my life. People may laugh as in, ohhh, it's just a job, it's only work….(and implied sometimes is, if I had children, I'd feel differently about my work). But the reality is that I don't have children, and it's not that my job makes me feel as fulfilled as children might. I can't compare those two things--but it's the vocation itself (because I could leave scheduling and human resources stuff), the mission of my work and the connection and impact that it brings to my world, it's like nothing else I've ever known, and nothing would make me give that up. You have to go with what makes you happy. I think people question our respective choices (or lifestyles) because they have their own unanswered questions. Choices made with conviction and passion breed a kind of personal contentment that makes it difficult to ever live another way. And I agree, it's terribly personal. Not everyone needs to feel this way about their choices, but for people that do, when you make the right ones, it's the most freeing and empowering thing in the world.

Laura Mauk said...

@Madeleine Kerr, I think you're right. I think finding my person and then spending my days doing what I think is so important and fulfilling, I think I'm just happy. And having left a career that looks good on paper or that was much more glamorous, I think I thought that was supposed to make me happy. And, it was okay for a time. But it didn't make me happy in that way that you're talking about--a way where what you do is who you are and there's little separation between work self and home self. Your views are so insightful, so true and took me to a place I hadn't thought of yet--thank you.


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