So as I wrote in my last post, LM has started full-time preschool. And I’m not doing well. I feel lost, like I don’t know what I’m supposed to do with myself all day. I can’t seem to bring myself to write. In fact, this is the first time I’ve written. It’s some kind of block, I suppose. I wander around the house, looking for stuff to do—although there is actually plenty to do.
I know I shouldn’t complain — I have the luxury of not working. But even if I wanted to enjoy it, I don’t feel like I can reasonably sit around watching Food Network all day while my husband is at the office. My plan was to ramp up my freelance writing, and although I have scored a couple new gigs, they have not provided me with as much steady work as I’d hoped. Ironically, the week before LM started preschool, I got six, yes six, assignments, which prevented me from truly enjoying our last few days together. Now, nothing.
So I’ve got more to do to gain new writing opportunities. But instead of doing it, I just, well, don’t. I’m going through some kind of weird period of adjustment—or rather, trying to adjust and not doing a very good job of it. I’ve been trying to figure out why.
For a long time, my job was my identity. Then I got laid off, and “mom” became my identity. Now, I’m in some kind of in-between place in which I can’t figure out exactly who I am or what I’m doing. I have all these plans in my head, but I can’t seem to translate them into action.
I don’t want to go back to full-time work outside the home. I still want to be here at 3 pm when LM gets home from school. But in those six hours he’s gone, I want to have the motivation to write, go grocery shopping, do projects around the house, maybe even (gasp) cook (even though I’m terrible at it, now’s my chance to get better, right?). I feel pressure to do everything, and guilt that I have not been able to get my ass in gear.
I’m projecting all this onto Foggy Daddy, who I assume is mad that I’m not doing as much as I should. (There’s that word again, “should.”) He seems to understand, though, that I’m going through something and has given me time to figure it out.
Change is tough for me, I’ve discovered. I’ve never been so sad to see summer end, to see the leaves start falling. I love autumn, so it bothers me that I’m greeting it with such disdain. It doesn’t help that it’s still 85 degrees out. It’s still warm enough to swim FFS. The weather is in this in-between state, just like I am. It’s like it can’t commit, and neither can I.
To make things worse, I’ve had very little communication with LM’s preschool teacher. I don’t know if he naps, if he poops, what’s he’s been doing all day. He comes home with cute art projects and always has a smile on his face, so I think he’s enjoying it. But he doesn’t have the words to tell me what he’s actually been up to. With early intervention, in which I knew all his therapists and either participated and/or received a session note, I always knew what was going on. This is quite different.
Maybe I need to cut myself a break and allow myself the time to get used to this. After so long of wanting more time to myself, I finally have it, and now I just want my baby back. I see other three-year-olds going to preschool for three mornings a week, and I’m jealous their moms have the rest of the week to do other things with them. I’m just not ready to send him off for so long. I feel like a kindergarten mom, two years early. I’m counting the days to the Jewish holidays LM will have off in October.
I think if I was pregnant or had a new baby this situation would not be as fraught with emotion. I would still have the role of “mom” to focus on. I could justify lying around if I was pregnant or up every two hours with a newborn. I would have another child to take to mommy-and-me classes.
I know I’m just feeling sorry for myself. I still haven’t been able to pass my fertility testing — my damn lining just won’t grow. After the surgery I had in May, I had to have another procedure to get rid of what turned out to be scar tissue. After waiting six weeks to have that done, I went back into my prep cycle and my body just didn’t respond. So now I have to try it again. I honestly don’t know if it’s going to happen for us. All of these things are coming together to make life difficult at this point, when it really shouldn’t be.
Sorry for the downer post. But I can’t be the only one having a hard time transitioning to full-time school, can I? Please tell me I’m not alone!
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?
I am a proud breastfeeder. I had it really hard in the beginning – my son wouldn’t latch and ended up in the NICU, I had to pump (which I hated) before I successfully got him back to the breast, we dealt with a dairy allergy that put me at odds with my pro-formula pediatrician – so I feel like I’m entitled to be proud. I went through a lot, and now, at 14 monts, we are still going strong.
I don’t say that to be smug. I don’t say that because I think I’m better than anyone else who does not breastfeed. I know that breastfeeding is hard. If it’s not your thing, or it’s too difficult and focusing on other things would better allow you to enjoy motherhood, I get it. It’s not up to me to say that you should breastfeed. As long as you are informed (which sadly many women are not, because many doctors are not, but that’s a whole other issue), then it’s really up to you.
But that said, it really pisses me off when people who are not breastfeeding (men or women) say they “support” it but want it kept discreet or private. Such was my reaction when a Facebook friend of a friend posted about how annoyed she was at Alyssa Milano’s recent breastfeeding Instagram photo. “Since when did breastfeeding become a spectator sport?” she asked. “I don’t want to see it…There is underlying judgment if one is fed ‘the less natural way.'”
I think there are a couple things going on with comments like these, which arise anytime a celebrity posts a breastfeeding selfie. One is that there is still stigma around breastfeeding in public. It is still taboo. You can’t say that it’s only acceptable if the mother uses a cover or “is discreet,” otherwise she’s flaunting it and shoving her boobs in your face. I have used a cover because I don’t personally like to be too exposed when nursing in public – but that’s me. There shouldn’t be rules or contingencies around how someone is allowed to feed their child. That’s not supporting breastfeeding. That’s not normalizing breastfeeding. That’s allowing it to remain marginalized.
Second, I think there is a lot of guilt around the issue of breastfeeding, like there is around so many mom-centric issues. Often, women who did not breastfeed feel guilty – not that they should – and then take it personally when others “flaunt” their breastfeeding, as if there is implied judgment. I get this. For six years while I struggled to get pregnant, I felt like children were flaunted and shoved in my face everywhere I went, because I couldn’t have one. I hated it. But I knew that their parents weren’t doing it out of disrespect (well, except maybe when they brought their kid to the fertility clinic, where they’re pretty much guaranteed to run into emotionally distressed infertiles. But maybe they couldn’t get a babysitter, so what can you do?). People need to live their lives, and that included inundating my Facebook feed with pictures of their children. They weren’t trying to make me feel bad, even if I did feel bad after seeing their pictures – that was my issue, not theirs. So I understand why women who aren’t breastfeeding don’t want to see breastfeeding; but should that mean nursing moms need to keep it private for fear of hurting others’ feelings?
A tactic my infertile self used for dealing with the barrage of kids I encountered was to downplay their importance. “So what, you have a kid. Any idiot can get pregnant,” I would think to myself. I see this now with breastfeeding: “So what, you are breastfeeding. Everyone does it, so why post a picture on Twitter?” people say. But I know now that it is a big deal to have a kid, and likewise it is a big deal to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced. I want to be able to say that without feeling guilty (see, there’s enough guilt to go around) for making someone else who doesn’t breastfeed feel bad. I want to celebrate it. And so, I think, did Alyssa Milano. Why shouldn’t we be able to revel in the joys of motherhood, wherever it is that we find them?
How do you feel about celebrities posting breastfeeding selfies? What about nursing in public?