But honestly, how long would I really last as a stay at home mom? Would I actually be content with nothing but mothering? I use as evidence my maternity leave to convince myself that nothing would satisfy me more, I think about every long weekend or day of playing hooky from work, all of these times when I am filled with joy because I get to spend just a few extra moments with my daughter. But all of these experiences have occurred with the knowledge that I still get to fall back on my day job. It’s kind of like my experience with art school – I really enjoyed playing at being an artist for a while, but when it came down to it, I enjoyed stability and health insurance and a nice apartment even more. I finally had to admit to myself that deep down my existential balance tips more toward the materialistic middle manager than the angst-ridden artist (though I will say my MFA definitely taught me to middle-manage with a certain style and not often found in the beige hallways of university administrative offices).
Despite my suspicion that the reality of full-time child rearing would be far less satisfying than what I am imagining, I still do love to imagine. I day dream all the time about what I might be doing at any given moment if I were home with my child instead of sitting at my desk reading emails, sitting in a meeting trying to not let my face show how much I dislike a particular colleague, sitting with a staff member who needs nudging in their job performance. If I were to dedicate myself to abandoning my ambition and raising my daughter and my imagined child number two (if we ever get around to that one), here is what I have imagined so far I might do with my spare time:
- Plant a vegetable garden
- Fix my old sewing machine (that I’ve never actually used) and make clothes for the family
- Start taking photos again
- Practice my French
- Practice my yoga
- Send Christmas cards (with personal notes to everyone in my address book)
- Cook everything (EVERYTHING) from scratch, from dried beans to veg stock
- Keep up to date on current literature
- Take my daughter to baby gym class and baby ballet lessons and meet other local moms
- Fold and put away all of our laundry, all of the time
Sounds like a lovely life, does it not? Maybe that’s because I forgot to list GET DRUNK EVERY DAY IN A VAIN ATTEMPT TO SQASH ALL OF MY FORMER AMBITIONS.
But like I said, I have thought about this a lot, and I have taken my ambition into account. Hence the following additions to my list of tasks to bring me fulfillment:
- Finish my minimalist experimental novel about expatriate social climbers in Greece during the financial collapse; get an agent and a big publisher; take the kids on my book tour
- Get myself appointed to the local planning commission
- Get myself appointed to the local school board
- Get paid to go into a full-time PhD program
- Train for a marathon (any marathon except for the LA marathon, because who wants to run downtown through downtown LA? Yuck.)
In the context of a more than full-time job, this all seems feasible. My math says I spend forty to sixty hours a week working, with the rest dedicated to childcare; take away those hours of work and there will be plenty of time for everything else I’m not now doing. Right? But take the job away and away goes the child care, away goes the equal footing with my husband, away goes the pride I feel as the drop-in mom pushing my daughter on her swing at the park, rather than the this-is-all-I-do-all-the-time moms who never look as happy as I imagine I might were I lucky enough to someday be in their shoes.