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?


Barb said...

I actually didn't know about your mom, Liz. I'm sorry to hear that.

I totally get where you are coming from with this "becoming" your mom thing. (There is a great book called Becoming...) as I thought a lot about this a few years ago. I think that we all become our mothers in some way. I spent a lot of time running from it, and it took me awhile to embrace it. I'm obviously not to the child rearing part of it, but, I'm content with being (in some ways) an extension of my mother.
She stayed home too...she was a school teacher, a job she loved. She quit to have me and stayed home until my brother was older. I think I was in high school when she went back to work as a teacher. It was hard for her to get her foot back in the door, but, she did it and she loves it. She has often told me that she wouldn't change a thing about it; that she would stay home with us all over again. I think it is rare that people do that, but I think its great when they do it.
I have more to say, but I'm getting long winded here! ha.

Tammy B said...

I suspect I will be having this same conversation in my head in about6 weeks plus/minus three weeks or so (as the baby isn't even here yet). It is already starting just a bit as my contract ends before the due date, and I will be 'between jobs' once the baby arrives.

Keep blogging on what comes into your head. There are no simple answers to redefining yourself after this transition. Good luck.

carol said...

I could get long-winded on this one too! I was fortunate to stay at home for several years, until Aaron was in kindergarten. But during the last part of that 13 years I did work part-time or take classes, something for myself. Now it seems it is a lot harder for young couples financially to make that choice.

You only get these years with your child(ren) once but you have to sacrifice other things. It was hard when Mike went to kindergarten and someone else was with him many hours. But I really enjoyed going to classes when I went to school to complete my degree, when Sarah was 3, and then Aaron came along. Messed up my plans, but what a joy he is! Then I had a job offer for full-time and couldn't leave Aaron, he was a year old at the time.

It's funny how our life plans change, our aspirations are different. Motherhood is the highest calling. Some women can work and be super moms but something is sacrificed somewhere. They say kids need quality, not quantity but I think they need to know you are there even if you are not interacting with them. I'm sure that's what you felt about your mother, even if you disagreed she was still there for you.

However you and Aaron choose to work this out, Sam will still be loved and cared for. That's in the two of you. That's one reason I'm so proud of you both, as parents and as people.

Talk to you more soon. I think this is abbreviated too much and my intentions are not clear.

AnneJ said...

Is that a picture of you and your Mom, Liz?

I miss your Mom so much. There's not a week that goes by that I don't think about her. In the short time that I knew her, she had a profound impact on me (as you can imagine).

Oh do I wish she was here. So badly.

Thanks for writing about her. Thank yourself, too. You are thinking and defining yourself as you go.

I really agree with Carol:
Some women can work and be super moms but something is sacrificed somewhere.

I've been a part-time, 3/4 time, and full time Mom since my kids were 5 months old. Out of my own need for the "adult" world mostly, I chose to work. I knew that I would want to work *after* the kids were grown and so I knew that I needed to stay in the field.

You will find the answers to your good questions and, yes, there will be "sacrifices." There is no ONE way to do it, remember. There are a lot of options and you will find your balance.

In the 70s, when women were reeling from the effects of the liberation movement, a lot of my Mom's friends went back to work--many full time. There were also the divorces. This was a time of upheaval. A neighbor, a teen gal, remarked to my Mom about how she was "just a stay-at-home Mom." I remember my Mom telling me that she was offended by this. But, she too chuckled, obviously secure in her role. My Mom did go back to work part-time, doing copy editing, after we left the home. She really enjoyed it. I can't help but think that my Mom could have balanced a little work and family life. I did not want to stay at home, as she did.

However, she did what she wanted to. I now respect that very much. She was a devoted Mom and we did benefit from having her around.

So much to say. I will sign off. I would like to visit you soon and talk to you about so many things.

the two of us said...

thanks everyone. i guess we'll just see what ends up working best for us. hard to tell just yet i suppose.

the pic is of my mom and sarah on one of my parents' rare camping trips.