One year after I left the workforce to stay at home, I’ve conceded defeat, and have re-entered the workforce. I pretty much sucked at being a full-time mom, and I’m not saying that in a judgmental way – it’s more of a fact. If I were to receive a performance evaluation on my past year, I would not have been a top performer. I would not have gotten a promotion, a bonus, or even a 3% cost of increase raise. I would have been written up on a probationary plan with concrete goals to make my performance acceptable to the boys.
Here’s the thing – I love those boys with all of my heart and they give me so much joy. But, I am a happier woman when I have time to pursue other things that are important to me, like a career. It makes me feel like a bad mom to write those words, but it’s the truth.
There are very real mommy wars going on out there in the world. If you haven’t heard that term before, consider yourself lucky. You have career women who think that working keeps you intellectual and that staying at home immediately sheds 50 points off of your IQ. Then you have moms who stay home who wonder “If you’re not going to be with your kids, why have them in the first place?” Those are the extremes, but the values and beliefs are very real, with each side believing they’re raising children the “right way”.
It’s ridiculous. There is no right or wrong way. People are complex and need different things to feel fulfilled. For me – I don’t think I’m cut out to be a stay at home mom. I struggled with remaining present, feeling accomplished and fulfilled. I found myself being physically present with the boys, but my mind was elsewhere, thinking about all of the other things I enjoy doing – reading, working on the blog, organizing community events, working. That stuff was stimulating to me, and I started using the TV more and more while I would sit in front of the computer researching things – anything. Elmo became my babysitter while I looked up stuff like vegan restaurants in NYC (not going anytime soon, but so what?), that spiritual ecology Ph.D. program that I turned down 10 years ago (not interested in it anymore, but was it still out there?), or the Disney Princess Half Marathon (I’ve only ever “run” one 5k, and even that ended in injury.) I was escaping.
I posted on Facebook asking for help getting perspective. Mostly, it was the sense of accomplishment I struggled with. I understand that taking care of two boys is a HUGE accomplishment, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the part of me who for my entire life has been “goal-driven”. From the time I was a child, I always had some big goal I was working on – graduating with the highest GPA I could, getting accepted into the best college, getting my Masters, moving up the career ladder. It may be ego, or a North American mentality, but I am just used to moving throughout my life kicking ass….crossing things off the list, excelling, moving up. Being with babies all day every day is a good blow to the ego. That Ivy League education you fought so hard to get? The babies don’t care! You ran a sales and marketing team? Silly! Those dreams of writing a book, or starting your own business? WhatEv! “Be present now. Be present now”, those babies were telling me.
But I couldn’t, and it was making me feel like I was a bad mom. When I was in it day in and day out, I couldn’t be present the way I wanted – the way those boys deserve.
I was a year into this and I had not found my groove. I felt isolated, unstimulated, unaccomplished, and unbalanced. And yet I looked around me at other amazing women who stayed at home and they weren’t struggling with these things. Yes, it was hard and they had their moments, too, but they felt secure in their choice and mostly were succeeding at it! I was in awe and wanted to be like them, but just couldn’t figure it out.
So, I started thinking about re-engaging in work. It’s been a struggle and there are still times when I wonder what’s wrong with me. Why couldn’t I feel fulfilled being with the boys full time? I fought so hard to have them and I love being with them. But, if I’ve learned anything in my 41 years, it’s this…there’s no sense in wishing we were a different way, or could do something better. Creating a good life is what it’s about, and I think in life you’re constantly tweaking the recipe – adding a little more of this, a little less of that. It wasn’t working for me, so I decided to change things up.
My new career in real estate is one where I am fortunate to have the ultimate in flexibility. The boys go to the sweetest preschool 5 mornings a week from 9am – 1pm. Almost every day, I pick them up from school and watch as their little faces light up when they see me. Steph also works from home, so she’s there most days, too, peeking in the window and then opening the door to watch them rush to us. Then, we bring them home to take a nap. When they wake up at 3:30, Steph and I trade off being with them. Soon, the infernal heat will let up, and we’ll start taking afternoon wagon walks around the neighborhood, exploring.
We’ll see what this next year has to bring, but my main goal is to be present and enjoy every single moment I have with my boys.
***One last note about the stay at home moms I know – YOU ROCK! I really mean it when I say I’m in awe of you. I watched many of you create awesome schedules and routines for your children. I know it’s not all fun, and yet you do it day in and day out. I have seen both sides of the equation and respect so much what you do.
Pics from the boys’ new preschool below!