>"We"

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Apparently, Zoey and I have become a unit, a single entity. Like Brangelina, but less hip and with less skeezy facial hair. I catch my self saying things like, “We’re working on sharing” and “We just started potty training.” And yet I know how to share (Demetri may be laughing his shapely ass off right now). And I know how to use the potty. It is, in fact, my lovely daughter who is learning to do these things. I am already a functional member of society; I don’t walk around with crap in my pants or hit people on the head when they so much as look at my My-Pretty-Pony.

But I am a SAHM. I spend almost all day every day with Zoey. And somehow, with all that time spent being Zozo’s mom, I have lost some of who I am. I love my daughter and I would gladly give up at least half of who I am for her, maybe even more. It’s when I start giving up all of who I am that I get a little less glad. Frustrated and angry might be better descriptors. And then I feel guilty. I feel like I should be grateful for every minute I get to spend at home with my daughter. I feel like I should be cherishing things, and baking pink cupcakes, and scrap booking. But I’m not. And then a thought wafts into my mind, a teeny, tiny wisp of a thought: maybe I don’t like being a stay at home mom . . .
Usually I turn my back on that thought. Brush it away. Pretend it never happened. But then I’ll be forced to go to some kind of schmoozing/mingling event and find I have nothing interesting to say beyond, “Yes, I have a daughter. She’s 2. No, I don’t work outside the home.” Or I’ll get my high school update in the mail — the one where they tell you what everyone from your class is doing so you can feel inferior about your own life: “Susie started a school in Afganistan! Chad is running for congress! Janet just purchased a home in the Bahamas!” And that teeny tiny thought will come back.
Lately that thought has been more insistant. What was a wisp is now more like a brick hitting me on the side of the head. And I wonder, Is it OK? Is it possible to love my daughter and not feel fulfilled by being a SAHM? Am I allowed to want to be something other than Zozo’s mom? I have to be honest, a lot of times it feels like those things are not possible, are not OK. It feels bad to want more than I already have because, well, I have a lot. But when I can think instead of feel, it seems OK. At least I think it probably is. I hope it is. OK, fine. I still have a lot of guilt. Here’s the truth: I really want it to be OK.
So I’m thinking that maybe once we’re in Boston and we’re settled and Zoey is in a school program and everyone is feeling OK about the world, I might get a job. Maybe. Or I might not. But I might. I might try and use my graduate education that I’m still paying off. Or I might volunteer at a worthy non-profit. Or I might enact my plan to take down the republicans. But whatever it is, at the next cocktail party I want to be able to say something like, “Yes, I’m Zozo’s mom. She’s 2. We just mastered the potty. And I’m writing a book.”
P.S. – If your a SAHM, I’d love to know how you feel about it. If you get paid to work, I ‘d love to know how you feel about that to.
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17 thoughts on “>"We"

  1. Liz and Peter

    >I work full time and have a 16 month old daughter. I cannot spend more than 8 hours (okay, 3 hours) alone with her without feeling like I might give her to the next vagrant who comes looking for recycleables. If I had to stay home with her all the time, the discontent would hit me like a freight train. I am in awe of SAHMs. AWE. You are doing great, honey. Seriously. And if you need to get a job to keep your sanity, that will be great too. Because what Zoe needs is a sane, stable, happy mother, whether or not that means a mom who works. I don’t know you, but I think you are doing a fabulous job.

    Reply
  2. Carla

    >Jos – My first reaction when I think about you and the other SAHM’s I know is “How the hell do they do it? And do it so well?” As you know, the Chooch is in daycare four days a week, and THANK THE LORD. I love her so much, but I seriously think if I was home full time with her, I would be clinically depressed in about a week, or less. I just couldn’t do it. And I firmly believe that you have to find the balance that works for you, and that you are allowed to change your mind about what that balance is. So, come to Boston, and we’ll have a cup of coffee (or twelve) and figure out if/what you want to do next… and whatever you choose, you’ll have days when it feels perfect, and days when you totally regret it. I guess that’s motherhood, right?

    Reply
  3. Tracy

    >I work full time and have a 17 month old. I recently quit my job, a) because I hated it and b) because I want to be home with my boy. Come June 11, I will be as free as a bird! Right? (I know you wiser SAHMs are saying, “Free?! HA HA HA HA HA!!!”) Since going back to work when W. was 9 months old, I have idealized the lives of SAHMs and lamented being away from my baby, while being oh, so grateful that daycare has been VERY good for him. Now, I’m worried. How will I keep us both occupied, and how will I stay sane? I’m feeling some ambivalence that’s hard to fess up to, even to myself. Carla’s comment about being able to change one’s mind is comforting. (Joslyne, we can’t wait for you and Zoey to get here!)

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  4. DGVE law

    >I can relate! I’ve said those same sorts of things, many times over. I spent 4 yrs (from birth of DD1 until DD2 was 2 1/2) as a FT SAHM / FT WAHPTM or whatever. I bristled at the term “stay=at-home” for all it implied and b/c factually it didn’t quite capture our experience as I always prefered to be out & about with my kids doing something – off on some adventure. I felt like you did. One day when DD1 was napping I started a book with a working title of “Confessions of a Reluctant Stay at Home Mom” (TM – JIC I ever get around to finishing it). Once we were semi-settled again, I did some PT work from home when she was napping. That “itch” to work for pay didn’t go away even after I had my hands full with my 2 under 2, so then I studied (from home, with my kids around) for & took another state bar exam. Then I started a solo law practice, from my dedicated home office, and initially met with clients at the Starbucks next to my kids’ preschool. Then I was preggo w/DD3 & sick (I don’t do pregnancy well) & that’s when I decided my then 2 1/2 & 4yo kids needed more than mommy lying around gagging with nausea on the couch trying 1/2-heartedly to read to them or putting on educational shows to assauge some of the guilt. I was terrified of daycare. They *loved* it – it was like a huge playdate with friends where they get to be all messy with art projects, sand, mud & all the rest of that stuff they love so much. I needed 4 days/week to get my fledgling law practice really going and, you know, have DD3 & allow ourselves that newborn phase to recover. Done & done. (www.dgvelaw.com) DD3 is 9 mos. old now, so we’re going back to 3 days soon and I’m hoping that will be just the right ratio of “at home” vs. “school/work” days for all of us. I love taking my girls off on adventures, but I also love using my brain for those areas in which I’ve earned degrees & for me personally, early childhood development and education was not one of them!Whatever you do and whenever you do it, good luck!

    Reply
  5. Jess

    >Jos – Another great post. Staying at home with my two for the past year has truly been the most difficult thing that I have ever done. Partly because of the ambivalence that comes with the territory – followed by the guilt – your post really put into words what I feel on a day to day basis. As a SAHM, part of the struggle is being disconnected with the adult world. One of the reasons that I check FB every day is to see if you have updated your blog. So please know that your writing makes this SAHM’s day a little brighter.Jess

    Reply
  6. Hollee Temple

    >What a poignant post. I have never been a SAHM, but I am one of those women living the “slash life” with too many titles and too much on my plate. (Ironically, it is a season of imbalance for me as I finish my book on work/life balance and modern motherhood.)There is no right way — it’s individual and personalized, and that’s what makes us feel so alone. Many of us crave validation, and there is something very scary about taking a different path. The truth is, there are many “right ways” and it’s about what works for you. Bravo for being brave enough to say what you did out loud! You are so NOT alone.

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  7. Monsoon Mama

    >what a great post. i hear you 110%! i left the job of my dreams to stay at home with my daughter, and while i don’t regret my choice, i really feel that, “man, i’m getting dumber by the minute” feeling more often than not. staying home with young children can be really exhausting, but it can also be really boring and understimulating in the wrong ways and OVERstimulating in the wrong ways as well. i feel like i did a ton of shit today and all of it was mundane and not all that interesting. i’ve recently started to get out my myself here and there– just for an hour at a time, maybe once or twice a week, and it’s made ALL the difference. after my kids were in bed, i went to JP licks and read my book ALONE, and i felt like a million bucks afterward.for me, i know that this phase of my life is just that– a phase. i know i’ll go back to work at some point, probably within the next year or so. oh, and yes, i DO work (not to remind you, but i have to remind the idiots who are like, “oh, you don’t work right now, right?”)– and i have 2 bosses who are pretty damn bossy and who don’t listen to “no”, “hold on a minute” or “wait a minute, mommy has to pee”.it’s BS that the SAHM experience is supposed to be easy and blissful– sometimes it is, sure, but at other times, it’s the toughest job there is on the littlest sleep imaginable. thanks so much for this wonderful post!

    Reply
  8. Alicia King

    >One of my all-time fave posts of yours. Well, of anybody's. If there's a mom out there who claims to have never wondered about the other side of the working parent fence, I'd like to meet her. You know, so I could call her a liar to her face:) Then I'd buy her a drink while she opens up and admits all her woulda coulda shoulda maybe someday thoughts.Great post, Joslyne. I wanna read that book!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  9. Moey

    >I'm a friend of Tracy and her wonderful husband and I've had the pleasure of meeting W. once! She posted your blog on FB and told us we have to comment! (pushy isn't she?)!! I have been a SAHM for 21 years! Count 'em 21! I have a 21 y.o. and a 17 y.o. Staying home with the kids was difficult at times. I would be done with that days activities….look at the clock…and it would be 10 AM!! What do you do with them for the rest of the day!?? Happened alot. There were many a visit to the local parks, play dates, story times at the library. Anything and everything to keep our days busy. It was EXHAUSTING! The pleasure outweighed the pain though. I feel it has made a positive difference in my kids lives. I have many friends who worked through their children's early years and I have to say those kids came out just fine as well! I feel it's 6 of one…1/2 dz. of another. So no quilt for the working Mom's please…..and for all those SAHM's have fun with it and it doesn't last forever……thank God! j/k!

    Reply
  10. Anne G

    >Well, I'm not a mom. But I have lots of friends who are moms. And I have a mom. And I work with a lot of kids. Who have moms. And I have thought about what it would mean if I became a mom. And based on all that I have come to the conclusions that 1. It is SO important to maintain a sense of self when you are a mom. And that sense of self may come from a hobby, or a job, or what you do with your kids but you need that because 2. You can't take care of your children to the best of your ability if you are unhappy in your heart because you don't feel like yourself and 3. Children pick up on this. They are probably happier with nights and weekends of good quality time from a grounded parent than 24/7 with someone who has forgotten who she is or is just unhappy. And in addition,4. how can we expect a child to learn a sense of self, an inner happiness, to follow interests, to indulge in pleasures, to make "me time" if we don't show them how important all of that is by example? Those aren't things you can learn just by someone telling you how. Those are things you learn through watching others. So I think that5. if Zoey becomes the type of woman I think you are raising her to be then she would be proud of and grateful for a mother who was happy with a solid sense of self. Because6. THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SENSE OF SELF AND SELFISH. I think that particularly people (Joslyne) who tend to give a lot of themselves can forget that and feel selfish when they are just preserving sense of self. And 7. I think that children, even as young as Zoey, may not be able to articulate the difference between those things. And may at times make you feel selfish for being yourself or taking time for yourself. But 8. those children end up being less selfish themselves—I feel I need to say that again—Those children end up being less selfish themselves–because they have learned that the needs of others INCLUDING THEIR MOTHER should be considered and respected because those needs are important.So……for all the above reasons I think a mom is actually more remiss if she doesn't take care of herself and make sure she is maintaining sense of self, etc. (After I'm a mother someone please remind me how clear all of this seemed in my head before I had a child of my own)

    Reply
  11. JenLF

    >I totally agree with Carla re: how the hell do you do it. I think being home with my kids is about the most challenging thing I've ever done. I work part-time, with the kids in daycare three days a week, but let me tell you, I was going to quit my job to stay home when #2 was born, and I chickened out at the last minute. (And I'm eternally grateful to my organization for hiring a full-time replacement for me and creating a part-time job for me to boot!)My days with my kids are best when we have something to do, even if it's just a trip to Costco (samples…cheap pizza and hot dogs…yum!), and that helps. Nice weather and being able to get outside helps. But I have those same days that you have, where I have that thought that I don't want to do it anymore. But I also think about 3 years from now, when my son will be finishing up kindergarten and I will likely have a new and probably full-time job (long story), and I'm glad I have this opportunity now. It's great to hear from someone like Moey, and to remember that in the end, it probably doesn't matter which way we do it – stay at home full time, work outside full time, work somewhere else part time – they'll turn out okay. 🙂

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  12. Niki

    >Ooh – I completely agree with JenLF. I do not consider myself to be a SAHM because there's no way I could just stay at home all day with these goofy kids. Even when I was supposed to be sequestered at home with my newborn because it was RSV and H1N1 season, I packed both kids up in the car and went through a drive-through for lunch because a change of scenery was necessary — probably for all of us!Maybe if I had been happier in my career, I would be itching more to get back to work. The truth is I was honestly working and waiting to have kids so I could quit. I'm putting off finding the right career for me until the kids are in elementary school. Being scared to death to reenter the paid work world does a lot for helping you get out of bed in the morning as a SAHM. I'm jealous that you have a passion and some ideas for paid work that you would rather do more than staying home with Zozo!

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  13. Green

    >I had my daughter five months ago and quit my job two months ago. I have loved every minute of being a SAHM. I thought that I was going back to work, and felt really guilty when I decided not to go back, but I'm glad that I made the decision to stay home with my baby girl. I am trying to get a business started on my own, though. I don't see a problem with working from home on something that is a bit of a departure for me. I want to stay relevant for my daughter and my husband… and myself, really.

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  14. JenLF

    >I was thinking about this more when I got up this morning, and it occurred to me that we're not the first generation of women who has been struggling with this issue. Many feminists of the 1960s and 1970s were motivated by their dissatisfaction with traditional, SAHM, WOHD, family life. Those women (our mothers?) dealt with it by entering the workforce full time, or perhaps more accurately, by going back to it even after they had kids. I think we're finding now that that's not the solution either.I could go on and on about the feminist implications of all of this, and wanting more, but I'll leave it at this: I don't think women will ever be satisfied until they are free to make their choices are parenting and child-rearing without having to consider the implications to their careers and checkbooks, and until our partners (and let's face it, this is a bigger problem for heterosexual couples than for same-sex couples) can be equal partners in parenting. My husband would probably be an amazing stay-at-home dad (though I shudder to think of the state of the house when I returned from work!), but we could never do that, because he earns about twice as much money (for full-time work) as I do.

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  15. JLo

    >This is a funny topic for me because I've been on both sides of the story!I worked full-time with Kiki and never had any regrets, but now that I have a second child and she's in regular school I am a SAHM. I'm already wondering how I'm going to do this all day for the next few years! Once Kyle starts kindergarten I'll work during school hours, but until then I'm planning to study (to finally get my bachelors) and perhaps work a couple of evenings somewhere. At the end of the day school schedules aren't very compatible with two full-time jobs unless you have a lot of help, which we don't have. This is the way it has to be for us, and to be honest I'm glad to have a break from work for a while, especially if it means I will get the chance to finally get that study done too, but the endless monotomy of diaper changes and bottle washing does get old quickly.But the best realisation I ever had about working full-time and having my child in daycare was that I wasn't in fact 'letting others raise my child', which is the most common criticism you hear about working moms. Just because you choose to have a trained professional supervise your child for several hours a day, in a safe and educational environment, doesn't mean you aren't still making decisions about their lives, and instilling your values and beliefs in that child, and doing everything else that we would consider to be part of raising a healthy and well-rounded child. I don't believe that knowing every nursery rhyme and Sesame Street character is the measure of how good a parent you are. It's about how happy you and your child are, and if that means a job and daycare, then that's what it means.

    Reply

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