I feel a little down today and I’m not sure why. I *should* be super happy – it’s Christmastime, I have a wonderful son, I have a great husband and family – but somehow something is missing. I’m not sure what it is.
I talked to my husband about this last night as we lay in bed. He thinks it’s that I’m constantly searching for something more, that I can never be happy with what I have. I think he’s partially right. I do want more – but I’m not sure what more is. I don’t want to go back to work. I don’t want to be in an office all day, answering to some a-hole boss, feeling guilty about being away from my son and then feeling guilty for going home to be with my son. I don’t want my son in daycare. I don’t want to have someone else raise him.
But at the same time, this stay-at-home mom thing is tough. I nearly had a breakdown this morning because I couldn’t get our new printer to print our freaking Christmas card address labels. My son was playing in the guest room, where we have the desk and printer, but I knew it was only a matter of time before he would start whining. It was just taking too long to figure out the damn printer – and sure enough, I couldn’t get it done before he was begging for my attention.
I don’t recognize myself anymore, and I think a big part of my identity crisis has to do with not working. Yes, I do blog – but that doesn’t make any money. I do freelance – but I don’t think I will even crack 10K in freelance pay this year. And it’s not even about the money – it’s about feeling that I am doing something worthwhile, that I am contributing to my family and to my community and to society at large. My husband tells me that I am because I am raising my son. So why do I so easily brush that aside?
I envy some other SAHMs who are completely content to do what they are doing and have no desire to do anything else. I feel jealous when I see a former coworker interviewing stars on the red carpet, or flying somewhere to do a set visit, or hosting some big event. I get jealous of unmarried, child-free Carrie Bradshaw types I know who are living a fabulous life in the city with their urban families and their glamorous parties and their high-powered careers. I see myself there in an alternate universe.
And yet I don’t want to trade places with these other people I’m jealous of. I know if I was living that life, I would be missing what I have now, and I know it’s not possible to “have it all.” I also know I don’t want to be trying to juggle working full time and raising kids and keeping my marriage afloat and doing family activities on the weekend while still having time to read the newspaper and bake cookies and whip up gourmet dinners.
The modern myth persists that this is possible. I can tell you, it’s not. Unless maybe you’re one of those people who can live on four hours of sleep or have lots of hired help. For some reason, in mom culture there is always the notion that we aren’t good enough, that we should be doing all these things perfectly. I feel like I’m constantly trying to keep up with some impossible standard that just doesn’t exist in real life.
So this sense of floating along, of being adrift in my life, is me trying to find my new way in the world. Because I have no idea where I’m headed. I would like to make a new career of writing and working from home – but by “career” I mean something that pays. I would like to figure out how to do that while having a childcare situation that I’m happy with. I don’t want to feel like I’m constantly having to choose between my identity as a career person and my identity as a mom.
Last night the movie Baby Boom with Diane Keaton was on. I love this movie – even though it was made in the eighties I’m amazed at how well it holds up, and how relevant the struggles that she faces still are today. If you haven’t seen it (spoilers ahead), it’s about a career woman, the “tiger lady,” they call her – who unexpectedly inherits a baby from distant cousins who died. After trying to balance her stressful job with parenting, she gets pushed out of her position in NYC and moves to Vermont, where she goes a little nuts but eventually finds a new path making homemade baby food. Her business expands, and her old bosses want to acquire it from her, which would necessitate a move back to the city to work as COO. The deal is a great one, but she turns it down. Remembering how her boss had told her she’d have to make sacrifices to get ahead, she tells him, “I don’t want to make those sacrifices – and the bottom line is, nobody should have to.” She finds her own way in the world and is able to be a success on her own terms, while still being the mom she wants to be.
That’s what I want. I hope I can find it.
Did becoming a mom change your identity? Has your perception of yourself shifted? How do you balance work and parental responsibilities?