Its rare that I bare my soul on this blog. Sure, I bare my political views, and my joys of Mommy-hood. I've shared the struggles we endured to get pregnant with Zachary, and I often brag about my wonderful husband and family. But, today, I bare more than that. I bare the doubt, questions, and insecurity that I think all mothers (at least those who are being honest with themselves) feel on some level nearly every day.
Most days I am pretty content in my role as a mostly stay at home Mom (SAHM). I work one full day a week and then as needed on occasional evenings or weekends. I find great fulfillment in my work as a Social Worker to some very special sick kids and their families. And most of the time I truly enjoy being a SAHM. I have the typical struggles of how to fill each of our days and make them interesting; how to get out of the house and do fun things without always having to spend money to do so. But most days, I love the easy-going, unscheduled, cozy, happy nature of our days. Though, of course there are those days when my patience is short; When I feel like I am failing as a mother because I am not being as patient with Ryan as I know that I should be. There are those evenings when the fact that Zachary will only settle down at night for me makes me wants to scream in frustration. (For the record, I know we created that monster. We got into a pattern where Matt did most of Ryan's bedtime routine and I did Zach's. Now, Zach won't settle for anyone but me.) And it is on those days that I wonder, "would I be a better mom if I worked more?"
This is a jarring, and scary thought. I have lived my life from the time I was in high school, with the dream and goal that when I had children, I would mostly stay home. I feel blessed and fortunate that due to Matt's job, my part-time work (including a stint as a Nanny for my nieces), and the very generous free babysitting that my parents provide when I am working, that this dream has been a reality. Its what I always wanted, and thus, something I shouldn't be questioning. Right??
But then, it feels like its only normal to grapple with what is the right thing to do in regards to parenting. And on most days, I can put aside the doubt that I feel on my worst SAHM days. I mean, all moms and dads lose their patience on occasion, right? I'm not the only Mom in the world to regret snapping a little too quickly or loudly at her three year old, who for the third time this week, for the love of god, came bounding into the baby's room while I'm trying to put him to sleep saying, "I'm just letting you know I'm going to go poop and I'll need you to wipe soon!!" Its only natural that spending every waking moment with your children 6 out of 7 days would result in a few more moments of impatience than if I was only with them from 5:30 till bedtime 5 days a week, right? Right?
Don't get me wrong. I think I am a fairly patient mom. I would say I am very patient 95% of the time. But its that 5% of the time on which I perseverate. Its that 5% that makes me wonder if I would be more patient if I weren't with my kids all. the. time.
Do you hear the doubt? Sense the insecurity?
I used to have this wonderful friend who lived up the street. When I was feeling like an inferior mom I could always count on one of our chats during the kids' "play dates" (which is really code for "oh good! The kids can entertain each other while we chat!") that our conversation would meander in such a way that we would touch on these every day frustrations, these doubts and insecurities, and I would leave feeling less doubtful and less alone. I still have that friend. But she moved to Indiana, and those meandering conversations don't happen any more.
Then, I was talking on-line to a friend from college, who I haven't seen since I graduated, but who has been a wonderful support via Facebook. We chat often and share frequent comments on Facebook. She's a mostly SAHM mom too, and we seem to share similar perspectives on life and parenting. Oh, yeah, except for the little detail I learned last night, which is that she's not a SAHM mom anymore. Nope, after three years as a mostly SAHM she went back to work full-time (though, she is lucky, she gets to work from home, and her kids are in daycare only 5 minutes away) and she is thrilled with the decision. Sure, she feels guilty at times. But, in her words, she's "not cut out to be a SAHM" and everyone's happier now that she's not.
So, then the questions creep back in. Former SAHM Facebook friend's new situation makes me doubt my mostly SAHM mom role and good friend who used to live up the street doesn't live there anymore and can't offer reassurance that my questioning is normal. So, all day today I've been wondering, "Would I be a better mother if I worked more?" Certainly, I wouldn't be around my kids as much. But when I was, would I be more patient? Would I cherish each of those moments more?
I don't know the answer. I don't know that I ever will, unless I decide to go back to work full time, which honestly, I don't see happening. Many more days than not I am happy with the balance Matt and I have found. I feel blessed that I can work a little (without having to pay for daycare, Thanks Mom and Dad!) while still being home with my kids the majority of the time. I look at Ryan--and though I will never forget the look of hurt on his face when I snap too quickly at him--and I know that he's a pretty awesome kid. He's almost always happy. He's not perfect. He's three. He's not the greatest listener. But he's mine, and he's amazing, and silly, and sensitive, and loving. Oh, he's so loving. And I know that is all because of me and Matt (and of course our extended family who loves him so, but yes, mostly me and Matt.). I see Zach, and the fun, out-going, determined, little personality he seems to be developing. I see the way Zach and Ryan interact and already love each other so much. And I know that Matt and I have made all that. All the love, the craziness, the frustration, the joy, and yes, the love. Its ours. We don't wonder where it came from. Where they learned it. We know. And that, most days, is enough.
There aren't a lot of things I know for certain about parenting. Perhaps the only thing I know for certain is that it is by far the most important thing I will ever do in my life. And yet, it is perhaps the first thing I have ever put myself into so fully, with very little clear feedback in regards to how I am doing. In school, I studied hard, and I aced the test. In grad school, I worked hard, applied, and was accepted into a prestigious fellowship. In my work, I got glowing evaluations and the compliments of the amazing families I work with. But, with parenting, you never really know if you're doing it well. Well, at least not until your kid is maybe in their mid-twenties. And then, if they haven't spent the majority of their young-adult-hood on some therapists couch lamenting how you screwed them up, well, then you can probably be pretty certain you did a decent job. But, until then, you just don't know. There is no A+ to be given. No fellowship to be accepted into. There is just you, your toddler, your infant, a lot of love, some impatience, and the hope and prayer every day that you're doing it well.
So, here's hoping, that whether I am a mostly SAHM, or one day a full-time working mom, or anywhere in between, that Ryan doesn't end up on a therapists couch saying, "I just had to poop! And I just wanted her to know!"