I love being a mom, I really, truly do, but at times I don't love it, if you see what I mean.
I do not regret deciding to stay home with my kids, but once in a while, I do regret leaving behind my career as a high school teacher.
And I would never, ever trade my kids in or even send them to boarding school, as I like to threaten, but still there are days when I wish I could run away from home and leave them all behind.
You may have caught on to my ambivalence. I hesitate to share these feelings because I know that some may perceive them as just more evidence of my inadequacy as a mom and my propensity to complain, but maybe, just maybe, some of you share my feelings.
This issue is complicated for me, as I am certain it is for many women out there. I cringe when people make assumptions about me because I am a stay-at-home mom. Though I completely value the role of mother and feel there is no more important job, I cannot tell you how often I want to clarify to people that I am educated or that I used to have a career.
A perfect example happened last week when I chaperoned Danny's field trip. I took a box of supplies back to the bus, and the driver asked me, "Are you one of the teachers?"
It took me a moment to answer.
What I wanted to say was, "Yes! I am" or "No, but I did use to teach high school English in one of Chicago's most dangerous neighborhoods, and you know what? I loved it and I was surprisingly good at it."
I wanted to sit there and regale the bus driver with stories of students who had never finished a book before who devoured August Wilson's plays in my drama classes. I wanted to share about when students who could barely write a complete paragraph were so enormously proud of themselves after writing a 10-page research paper. I could have told her about kids who complained incessantly in my classes, but who later told other students they were so lucky they were in my class, because it was so fun. I wanted to share that though many people thought I wouldn't last a week in that school, I had actually flourished, and that when we moved and I quit my job, my replacement lasted just one-half of a day before she quit.
I also wanted to explain to that hapless bus driver that though I stay at home with my kids, I work my tail off. I do therapy with my son who has autism, I tirelessly (ok, well, actually, not so tirelessly) research ways to help him or ways to make our family run more smoothly. I teach my older two how to read, and do any number of projects to help them all learn and thrive.
In the end, though, I just said, "No" because, really, who am I trying to convince here, anyway?
Part of my ambivalence comes from wanting to be recognized as more than just a stereotype. But, if I am to be honest, the real problem here is not other people's assumptions. No, it's all me and my insecurity. I have difficulty at times accepting that my contributions to our family are just as valid and worthy as the ones I made when teaching and for which I received a paycheck. Too often I wrap up my self-worth in my accomplishments. Does it really matter that I have a Master's degree? Does it mean that much that I used to teach at a high school and several community colleges?
Well, yes and no.
These accomplishments mean quite a bit to me because I worked hard at them. Also, it took me a long time to find something I was good at, so when I finally did, I was proud and relieved. I don't think there is anything wrong with valuing that part of my life.
The problem comes when I feel like I have to justify my existence to others. And believe me, I am blaming no one here but myself. Sure, there are people out there who look down on women who stay at home, but why would their opinion matter to me?
No, the real problem is me. It's that I am not completely secure with who I am. I am not secure with what I have chosen to do at this time. I am not entirely sure why this is, but I am determined to make a paradigm shift, to start questioning my insecurities, to quit trying to prove to others that my contribution is important, because those people just do not matter.