Tuesday, September 3, 2013

This Matters

We had a day. You know - the kind with the high highs and low lows. Example: Dash giving us his first honest to goodness belly laugh, at his sister and I being silly. Low: we were in the doctor's office when it happened, because he spent the better first half of the day screaming in pain of sorts. What a sneaky trickster, pulling one over on us like that, just as the doctor walked in. Another good low (not sure I can call it that) involved Ellie waddling up the stairs holding a poopy diaper in her hand (removed by hers truly!) and me asking her if there was poop downstairs on the carpet. Her answer: yeah. HA!

And so I'm thinking...

I've struggled with self-identity probably my whole life, but especially my adult life. Ironically, now that I have the official label of "Stay At Home Mom" attached to me, I struggle the most.

Why is this so hard for me? Why is it still hard, 18 months later, to label myself a Stay At Home Mom? Is it some negative connotation or stereotype that I've bought into too fully? could be. If asked, I rarely (if ever) use that phrase. Usually I say something like, "oh, I'm at home right now with the kids" or something along those lines. Is it deeper than a negative association with the phrase? doubt it. Is it because in this post feminist era and area of the country I live in, I feel I'm sort of going "backwards" away from women's liberation? quite likely. Through the years women fought for the opportunity to go to work, to succeed and to be recognized as equals. Here I am, allowing myself to reap those benefits, but choosing to eschew their efforts. Is it that I'm ashamed of having a great education and not using it? possibly. Friends are doctors, lawyers, successful businesswomen and men. My day revolves around naps and diapers, and hunting for poop on carpet. Is it that I wasn't happy in my professional life before stepping out, and therefore have no idea what else I'd be doing? sure. Is it that I don't think what I do with my day really matters? no.

Bare with me, I'm sorting this all out in my head. I honestly don't know what my problem is. :)

It's an interesting place to be. When I worked, I yearned with every fiber of my being to be with my baby. I cannot imagine not being with them, day in and day out. As soon as we could financially make it even remotely feasible, I begged my husband to get on board with the plan. It's not the best idea for us, for me to be out of the job market right now, but it works in the short term. And let's be clear: I absolutely adore being home with them. Sometimes when asked I brush it off a bit, I think at risk of alienating the person asking. Who wants to hear a mother gush on and on about how much she loves her babies and being home with them all day? But, I do. I really do. However, that doesn't mean that I don't miss the intellectual stimulation working provided, the socialization, the feeling that I was making a difference in the business world and the hopeful aspiration of moving up, and up, and up. I knowingly gave all that up to change direction - to stay home with my babies and pursue other passions (more on that later).

So, why the reluctance? I'm not sure, but I am sure that I'm probably not alone in how I feel. It's risky to admit to these sorts of feelings, but at least its honest. I think it part it's recognizing that in this world, it's darn hard to achieve what you consider to be both the pinnacle of personal and professional success. I know very few mothers who haven't had to make serious sacrifices on either the professional side or family side (usually both) to try to do what works best for themselves and their families. We're told we can "have it all" - but I don't think that's true for most people. To me, it is easy to see the benefit a working mother brings to the table: she is not only making a financial contribution but she is showing that this is something that should not be the responsibility of only one gender. She leads by example how important an education is. Her children see her juggling responsibilities and making tough choices. If she is fulfilled by her work, she shows how crucial it is to be constantly bettering oneself. There are countless clear benefits.

One thing I'm sure of though: despite the occasional doubt popping up into my head that I'm not making a big difference or living to my potential - I am certain that I am. First, I am a happier person - both for myself, my husband and my children - being home during the days. I am certain of that much. A less tense me almost certainly positively affects my family, which is the very most important thing in my life. Whatever I can do to lift my family I should do. Further though - I believe I am building roots for my children. I am building them a nest and the certain knowledge that their family is where they belong and with whom they belong. That we will always be there for them and a cushion for them to fall into when life gets hard. That no matter what, they have parents who will be guiding and gently pushing and providing for them. And when I doubt, I realize how quickly exponential figures add up. If I can positively affect my two children, and they have two children, and so on, very quickly I have made a difference in the lives of many. There is no question here - what I'm doing does matter. My days may be quiet and sometimes mundane, and sometimes may even have me questioning why I do it at all, but when I go to sleep at night I can be sure that in this stage of life, I am making a difference to the three most important people in my world. And that's more than enough to remind me that this matters.


  1. Beautifully written, Julia. You catch the fine nuisances of how in the "we can have it all" generation, we all end up sacrificing somewhere. Every mama has to find the best fit and what feels right in their heart. I got a little teary reading about making sure your kiddos know they belong with you, such a powerful role to play. Keep up the good work!

  2. And here I was feeling terrible today about the fact that I have to compromise so much just to see my kids for a few hours at night. Staying at home is not an option for me and you would not believe how guilty and awful I feel about that sometimes. And now it looks as though my workout schedule will be drastically reduced in order to maintain family dinner, something that is very important to me. I am sacrificing my children for work and isn't that horrible? But I have no choice, so long as I wish them to be clothed. And now I will sacrifice my fitness because they truthfully ARE more important to me than my ass, but I still feel wretched about having to give up something that means so much to me. Life sometimes feels like a no-win situation when it comes to being a mom.

    1. Wouldn't it be great if we could work like 10-15 hours a week, make a lot of money, make huge strides professionally and be the mom we want to be in all ways? It's like it would take the week doubling in hours to make it possible. Not that that would be a good thing - can you imagine how cranky our toddlers would be with a 48 hour day? :) It's so, so, so hard, and all we can do is prioritize and try to maintain the top few priorities. You're a great mom. Big hugs.

  3. One of your best blogs, ever. I'm a firm believer that we can't have it all, at least not all at the same time. I have yet to meet a mom who doesn't agonize on a regular basis over the complex challenges of work-at-home/work-outside-the-home. No one I've spoken to, from young moms to those who are now grandmothers, has found a peaceful balance. We do the best we can, and in the end that has to be enough.