Wednesday, May 7, 2008

But Seriously

The other day I made a little joke about being a stay-at-home mom. In all seriousness, however, my new position in life has been on my mind recently.

My husband and I had talked for years about me being a stay-at-home mom. I had the perfect job for it--teachers don't make a ton of money, so it's not like we'd be crying over the lost income. Both my husband and I had mothers that had stayed at home (til our teens); it seemed like the logical choice.

As the time grew near for me to actually DO that, however, I found myself not wanting to. I liked my job and my identity was very much wrapped up in the idea of being a teacher. I felt that what I was doing had a lot of worth and I wasn't convinced that serving one child exclusively was as important as serving many. Besides, most of the women I knew had jobs. Hell, check my current e-mail list and you'll find a plethora of professionals. I don't exactly have any mommy-buddies that want to go walking around the neighborhood with me.

I wasn't even sure I liked stay-at-home moms. I mean, I didn't really know any, but I had known stay-at-home wives on the Air Force Base and they did not rock my world. They seemed boring and their interests seemed to stretch to their husbands, their dogs, their nails, and dinner--not too exciting. This was probably dismissive of me, but I was tired of meeting women who said, "WE fly the t-37." I mean, get your own life, right? (Note: there are exceptions to every rule, including this one, but that's not the point of this entry)

Charlie's birth, however, changed a lot of things. I just couldn't convince myself that anyone else could do as good a job as I could. Daycare is fine and all, but he's not going to get one-on-one attention all day like he does with me.

So how did I reconcile staying at home with my belief that a person is valued by the work that they do? Let me tell you, it wasn't easy. I am not kidding when I say that the first three months were hell. I would have moments where I would fantasize about emptying our joint checking and running away (I was going to let him keep the savings). It wasn't that I didn't love the baby or my husband, but the idea that Charlie's entire future rested on my shoulders was just too much to bear. How did I know if I was doing a good job if I didn't get a performance report, feedback, or a grade?!? I'm sure the whole traumatic birth, brain injury, vision loss, cerebral palsy thing didn't help, but I'm equally sure that some of it was just run-of-the-mill post-partum depression.

Slowly, however, things have turned a corner. I am finding things to do with myself and figuring out this new identity. For the first time in twenty-three years, I don't answer to anyone--no one gives me a grade or feedback; no one makes suggestions for improvement. I'm on my own. I have to look to myself for approval or disapproval. I have to figure out what I think success is because no one else is looking over my shoulder.

These days I work very hard to provide Charlie with the best care possible. I also watch independent films, take pictures, grow vegetables, draw, paint, and try to improve my writing (TRY is the operative word). Weekends I used to spend recovering are now passed at concerts and museum exhibits. The pace is slower, but I'm doing a lot of the things I always wanted to do.

Do I worry that people will see me at just a mommy? Of course, but just being a mommy has provided me with a little self-assurance. There will be people who look at me and see a woman with a very small life. There will be people who briefly check out my blog and see nothing but a mommy blogger. So be it. Some of these people are small-minded and some them are jealous. Some of them just suck. If people judge me in an instant, then they're missing out. My life is more than just my husband and my child. Besides, I'm definitely not going to invite them over for margaritas and fajitas which, trust me, is their loss. Point is, I'm happy and mine is the only opinion that matters.