Six Months Out and I'm Nothing
A few weeks ago I was reading J a bedtime story. This particular bedtime story was a tale of Hello Kitty imagining all the different professions she could be when she grew up, from A to Z. A was for Artist, B was for Ballerina and so on. When we finished the book, I asked J what she wanted to be when she grew up. She thought for a moment and instead of answering me, said, "Mommy, you're nothing." Oooof. That hurt. I obviously knew what she meant though - that is that I currently don't have a job outside the home. I explained to her that my job right now is to take care of her and O, to take care of the house and get us ready for the move to Vermont. I think it's hard for her to wrap her mind around parenting as a "job" but if the last six months have taught me anything is that it certainly is one of the hardest jobs in the world. (I say one of, because come on, coal mining and arctic fishing are harder than parenting, I don't care how crazy your kid is.)
Still, this conversation almost had me on the phone the next day, begging for my job back. I don't know if I can own "nothing." I want J to feel like she can be anything she wants when she's grown and sometimes I'm worried that taking some time of sends the message that "work" was just too hard for me. It certainly was hard, but that wasn't the reason I stepped back, it was so I could navigate this big change in our lives with as little stress on my children and marriage as possible. That's a bit difficult to explain to a four year old though.
Six months out, I do miss work. I miss my coworkers the most, followed closely by eating lunch with two hands and adult conversation. I also miss the intellectual stimulation and earning my own money. That last one was harder to give up than I thought. This is in no way a complaint about my husband or my access to our bank account. Boris has been completely gracious and his philosophy is that his money is our money, the problem is I can't get comfortable spending money when I'm not bringing any in. This is completely my own hang-up, but I realized I've always prided myself in being a hard worker ( my friends used to tease me because in law school I had five side jobs, from making jewelry to running a campus non-profit so that I wouldn't take a dime of student aid to pay for living expenses.) This might mean that I have to start working sooner than I had originally thought after the move is complete, or I'm going to have to find a way grow more as a person and accept my non-monetary worth (but that sounds so hard!).
In some ways, I also feel like I was a better mom when I was working. When I was gone most of the day three or four days a week, I missed my kids so much that when I came home I threw every ounce of quality parenting I had in me at me. Sure, my temper grew a little short by Sunday night, but I had the promise of a Monday morning cup of coffee alone in my office to reign me in. Don't get me wrong, I feel so lucky I get to spend so much time with my kids but now on Sunday, I'm looking at 14 hours of parenting the next day, 10 of those hours solo. I realize this sounds so whiny, and I really don't mean to, but now that I am with my kids so much I raise my voice more, turn on the T.V. more and check my Facebook more just to feel connected to the outside world. All of this makes me feel like a bad mom. Then again, when I was working I felt like a bad mom because I missed some bedtimes, school pick-ups etc.
What all of this adds up to, I suppose, is that six months out, I 've got no good answers on the whole work-life balance. Let's revisit in a few more months and I'm sure I'll have it all figured out ( or not).