Sunday, August 24, 2008
As most if not all of you know, my mom passed away in, man, I guess 2003. I guess it's been over five years. I am weird with time and dates. Especially for big life stuff.
My mother was a complicated woman and my relationship with her was complex too. I may never be completely resolved with my feelings about her, but I certainly find myself thinking about her a lot lately as I have now become a mother. I really wish I could talk to her. She sacrificed a lot for her kids, I think, and she was an amazingly supportive mother and friend. I miss her in so many ways.
My parents felt it was important to have a parent in the home with the kids. My mom was a stay-at-home-mom. I remember one time when I was growing up, I was talking with her about my aspirations and said I just knew I didn't want to live in Big Rapids (small town I grew up in) and be a stay at home mom. I think she chuckled and said, "So you just don't want to end up like me?" I was embarrassed and of course explained that it was different, that she had relocated there and started a new life, and that for me it would mean I didn't go anywhere, etc. etc. but really I knew it was true. I didn't want to be my mother. I couldn't understand why she didn't work -- all my friends moms worked. Didn't she want to be something? Didn't she have aspirations?
See the thing is, growing up I really believed that you were defined by your job title, and I guess I'm still a sucker for that. Even though now I think it's sort of appalling that a common first question when meeting someone new is "what do you do?" I am always curious to know the answer to that question and I know that even if I shouldn't, I make judgments based on what I hear. And I fell victim to the notion that staying home and being a mom wasn't a very good response to the question. I realize I thought that women who stayed home to raise their children didn't aspire to more or, more likely, had given up on their dreams.
Now, many years later, here I am, a stay-at-home-mom, a homemaker, a house wife. But it's temporary right? But how temporary? I live in a fairly rural area in the midwest. Have I become my mother? And if I have, what does that mean?
Just yesterday my former employer inquired with me about when I might want to return to work. How do I even answer that question? Before the birth I thought maybe three months would do it. Hell, the medical world says you're ready to go back at 6 weeks post-partum. Sam is already 6 weeks old and I go for my 6-week post-partum check-up on Monday. But now returning to work in even another 6 weeks sounds wildly optimistic (if returning to work is even optimistic in the first place). There are two questions that come in to play. When CAN I return to work and when do I WANT to return to work.
Aaron and I cannot [yet?] fathom the idea of someone other than us caring for our child, and right now I sort of think if I return to work that is the inevitable. Aaron is starting school and who knows what kind of schedule that will bring (my first semester in the program I was definitely working at least 12 hours a day, most days of the week!). Since I had always pictured myself as something of a career woman despite my choice to pursue studies in art, I sort of figured Aaron would be home with the kids and I would be working. Reality has a way of setting you straight. But the thing I'm really grappling with now is not even so much how we figure out schedules and logistics so that Aaron and I can remain the caregivers for our child, but now I even question whether I want a job outside that of raising my son, at least for the next few years. To even really have that question is huge for me. I never thought I'd WANT to be a stay-at-home-mom. And if that is what I want, is it something that we as a family want? I mean, can we make it work if I don't work? And, bringing it back to specifics, I would feel so guilty if my old job really did create a position for me that I then didn't take (note: they still haven't been able to tell me whether the hours would be flexible and what the salary would be like, so there are lots of things still up in the air).
I hear stories of women who vigorously maintain their careers while starting families. They do it all the time. They do law school, they win architecture awards, they travel the globe, they do it all. But how? Do they rely on others to care for their children? Are they simply tougher and more capable than I am? I used to think I could take on just about anything I committed myself to, but there is nothing like motherhood. Can I just not cut it as a career woman? Do I even want to?
Posted by Liz at 1:37 AM