Me: "I raise my miniature humans. But I was social worker before that. Oh and I write. Thinking about waiting tables or something too or just going to the library alone for a few hours a week so I can be alone for a short time so it doesn't take me 40 minutes to write a sentence. You know what I mean? It's farfalooging crazy trying to write with kids hanging off my face. You know what I mean? "
Stranger (eyes glazed over): "Oh that's awesome that you can stay at home! Enjoy this time. It goes so fast."
Me: "I do enjoy it! I know. We are very lucky that I can stay home. We struggle but we get by...."
Stranger: (eyes glazed over, creepy smile and backing gracefully away) "Oh kids, they grow up so fast!"
Me: (creepy smile returned) "Yeees. Hahahahaahha!"
Everybody nods and giggles knowingly. End scene.
I am struggling. With one income we struggle financially (That's no secret) but it's more than that. I am struggling to find balance. I wasn't going to write this post just yet because I have no idea where it will go. But I've been blocked lately and it occurred to me this morning that this is why. It occurred to me that I am not the only one going through this. I can't be. So here we go...
<takes a deep breath and jumps>
I don't know if I can be a stay at home mom anymore.
I am beginning to feel anxious. I'm having a hard time remembering myself while being a mom. Right down the basics. Showering, eating. It's all so cliché. But I have it on good authority that clichés can develop for a reason. I am a kick ass mom. I am. But I suck at being me. I suck at caring for myself. Most days I never get out of my pajamas and on the days that I do? I change into clean pajamas. Gross.
Before I had kids I believed strongly in self-care. As a social worker you are destined to be ruined if you don't practice it. So I was really good at it. But when I became a mom, that all fell away. Along with the rest of the world. And I think that is normal to an extent. It's instinctual. It's primal. Mothers protecting and keeping a close watchful eye. It's what we do, right? It's the animal in us. We do it for a reason.
But there was something else that happened too. And it's this something that has me typing away right now. I actively chose to ignore me. I don't regret it. I didn't want to be anywhere else than right next to my babies. I wanted to change every diaper and give every bath. Nursing them both. Being there. I wanted that. I still do, but I am starting to want other things too. It's confusing even though it probably shouldn't be.
I don't know if I can be a stay at home mom and be the mom I want to be.
The mom I want to be is relaxed. Happy. Satisfied and content to be enough. That is the mom I have been for three years, nine months and a few days (for the most part) but I see it changing. I see me changing. I see all of us changing.
<cue the David Bowie here> Ch ch ch changes....
And here's the thing. I am starting to believe that what works for a time doesn't always work forever. What worked for us when these guys weighed 10 pounds isn't necessarily what is working for us now that they are giant 37 pound rampaging, laughing, fighting, growing, learning short people. I go back and forth with knowing that it's normal and having the giant monster hands of guilt squeeze my neck.
So what's with the guilt, man? Why is it so damn heavy?
It's not me. Oh wait, yes it is.
I feel like a failure even though I know on so many levels that I am not. But my heart? My heart is harder to convince. I start to feel panicked that if I return to work or am separated from my kids for a short time, I will have failed them. I will have failed myself. And I wonder why that guilt is so strong. I wonder why it seems like I'm a failure because I need other things. To need more of myself to come through in addition to being a mom. Why does being my whole self have to mean that I am less of a mother? I don't feel that way about working moms so why am I chaining that concrete block to my own ankle?
The short answer is that it just doesn't make me less of a mother, of course. The long answer is way more complicated.
There's a pressure to be all in. To be everything. To be on. To have the answers. To know how to fix everything from boo-boos to the water heater. To know who to call when things go wrong. To be ready for anything. To always be perfect (gag).
But who is pressuring me? It's me. I am pressuring myself. I am setting a standard for myself that I can't achieve. And I wonder why I do that. I don't think I'm the only one who does. Why do we do that? Oh hell, who knows? Let's just blame society and call it a day.
The truth is I can't be everything. And that's ok.
I stayed home with my babies and that was a dream of mine. I did it. I'm still doing it. I am their mama. Our love for each other wraps around us like a blanket. That won't change even if life does a little. But change can be hard. This morning I asked Plum if she was ready for a change. Pants piped up, "Yes, Mama. She ready" and I started to bawl my eyes out. I mean, sure, we both meant that Plum had, in fact, crapped her pants and needed a diaper change but the wording struck me. It grabbed my throat and took my breath away. Change. Maybe we really are ready. Maybe there is a new path just around the corner from today. And maybe, just maybe, we really are all ready for that.
I'm not jumping into any waitressing jobs. I'm just trying to discover what it is that I want to do and make a plan for it. But first I have to come to terms and accept that it will eventually mean taking off my glamorous pee-stained stay-at-home mom yoga pants and changing course. And I love those damn pants. I really do. They have been so good to me. So forgiving. They love me back, too. Wait...am I still talking about the pants?