I want to be a stay at home mom.
There, I said it.
I know that this blog is called Mom at Work. I know that I’m supposed to be writing about the whole work/life/mommyhood balance and how it really is possible to juggle it all and to at least appear to be having a good time of it. I know that I’m a feminist and I should want more for my life than pureeing baby food and keeping house and reading aloud the same cardboard book 72 times before the sun has come out for the day. I know that I should want to define my life as more than the success of my children and harmony of my family.
I also know – or at least I have been told – that being a stay at home mom would drive me one hundred percent loopy (or loopy in a more desperate, harried way than what this whole working mom business is doing to me). I’ve been made to believe that I would miss the power trip and the power suit (as though I have ever worn it for anything other than that one interview) and the crummy middle manager’s office, that I would get bored and feel claustrophobic and fall into some sort of permanent mild mommy’s depression. And I suppose that just underneath that layer of sleep deprivation and job dissatisfaction I do believe that all of these predictions are true. And I don’t care. Despite all of these truths, I still want to be a stay at home mom.
Most of you who read this blog now were probably not around for those very first, very tentative posts of Mom at Work (like this one or this one), but as I started hacking away at this week’s one thousand words I couldn’t help but notice that this is exactly where I was a year ago at this time: after two weeks of mama-daughter bonding, Christmas vacation crash lands into January’s long hours in the office and long days at daycare; my daughter looks at me as though I have betrayed her; my husband and I start questioning what exactly we are working so hard to achieve when it seems more and more like everything we need is right here in this house.
I know that this feeling will dissipate just as it did last year (until the next long weekend, anyway). I’m 16 weeks away from a second masters degree and 36 weeks away from deciding which PhD programs to apply to. I know that I will eventually fall back into the rhythm of faculty politics and bureaucratic stamps of approval. Any day now I suspect I will get caught up in the excitement of commencement and the opportunity of office intrigue and somewhere along the way my ambition will turn itself back on. But right now I recognize that I’ve been running a low grade fever for seven days straight, my daughter’s behavior is becoming more erratic by the moment, my bedroom looks like a very full clothesline that got hit by a very large tornado, and I’ve spoken less than 48 words to my husband in the past 48 hours.
In a few more days or a few more weeks, I’ll remember again how to live with this constant chaos and this constant ache in my soul, but before I trick myself back into believing that this is NORMAL LIFE I want for just a moment to wonder what might happen if I didn’t need to live in willful ignorance anymore. What if we really could make single income living work?
So I start to plan. I make charts, I make lists. I add, I subtract, I multiply. I could save $150 a month on gas by eliminating my commute, save $30 a month by eliminating the triple-shot lattes that keep me going after no sleep nights, save $100 a week by dropping down to half-day daycare. We could save money on groceries by cooking more from scratch, eating out less, growing more of our own food. We could save on clothes if I could teach myself again how to sew. Or, of course, we could always just downsize all of it, right?
If only it were that easy. I want to be a stay at home mom. I want to raise my daughter and the yet to happen little sibling with my own two hands and my own big (though at times dysfunctional) heart. But do I want it so badly that I’m willing to give up what I’ve worked so hard to gain? Am I willing to forego my (semi) private home office, my new(ish) hybrid SUV, my (occasional) ability to buy something I want but don’t need without worrying that I’m going to break the bank? Am I willing to jump of the economic escalator when I finally feel like the repair guy has got it moving in a steady ascent?
The honest answer is, I don’t know. Sometimes I think I’m deluding myself that I could live a quiet life and drive an old, loud car. Other times I think I’m deluding myself to believe that I can just turn off this desire to be with my child that is most probably as old as mammalian motherhood.
And other times I don’t think at all. Like in the pre-pre-dawn hours of the morning, lying on the floor next to my daughter’s crib and pleading with her to please please please go to sleep even though she just keeps repeating “mommy has to go to work, daddy has to go to work, baby has to go to school,” and I want just as much as she does to take her out of her crib and crawl into her playtime tent with Babydoll and Peapod and a big pile of books for an all-night Koukla and Mama snuggle up slumber party. But I cozy up instead with a pillow and wait alone on the rug for her to finally give in to her exhaustion, because in just a few hours from now mommy has to go to work and baby has to go to school, because there is too much on my desk waiting to be done and too many voices in my head chiding me for a job not quite well done.
There are so many things I want to be teaching my daughter, so many experiences I want to be sharing with her, from walks in the woods to sounding out her first words to watching a real life hungry caterpillar turn to a real life beautiful butterfly. Instead I am left to steal moments rather than days, left feeling like an occasional spectator instead of a partner and participant.
Just another day in the life of this mom at work. Turns out that work really is the easy part after all.