Today was a bad day.
Today I cried. Today I cried hard. I cried as I watched my daughter reach out for me in hysterics because she knew I was leaving her. I cried more as I stood outside the door of my neighbor listening to her say “mamama”, pleading for me to come back. Leaving her everyday feels all wrong. It always has. After almost a year, I can still feel the grief way down in the depths of my soul….
They say the gift and the curse of being a human being is that we can adapt to anything, and that’s what I’ve done when it comes to working full-time. I pushed the gnawing voices of going against my mother’s intuition to the back of my mind until they were nothing more than a whisper. I adopted a “out of sight, out of mind” mentality because I felt I had no choice – it was/is about survival and making it through the days. But by the end of my work week, I feel the distance. It’s almost as if our energies once intertwined become separated with absence and I spend my weekends weaving us back together again.
I do feel that the mother-child bond is strong and can withstand almost anything (within reason) and I never doubt that we will re-find each other and become reconnected again. We always do. But it is only a brief period of time until I have to repeat the cycle and the wear on my soul does not go unnoticed. And I still do have the occasional really hard day at the office- particularly the days after a weekend filled with activities that either kept me away from her or kept my focus off of her. I still cry with guilt or grief, not often… but it happens.
Mother Nature has never really stopped speaking to me; I have only just muffled the sound.
My husband and I were like many other young couples in our generation. We were a two income household; we built our budget and life around our combined income. Being able to afford to live on one salary seemed so far from reality that I couldn’t even let myself think about it. It seemed literally impossible. And I liked making my own money, I liked having the financial freedom to buy new things and not stress over every penny spent. I liked being independent; I came from a blue collar family, my mother worked hard for me to be able to go to college and get a degree to be able to have a career. I never wanted to be reliant on anyone for anything. I am passionate about women’s equality; it bothered me that women were once viewed as incapable of being successful or smart career women. But most importantly, I liked working- I’ve worked since I was fifteen years old. I am a do-er, I do not handle idle time well and I crave social and mental stimulation, routine, and a purpose. I like having somewhere to be every day and something to do. But although most of those things still hold true, I changed once I became a mother. I am not the same person I once was. My heart was no longer in my “career” anymore. I no longer desired to climb the corporate ladder or work towards that next promotion. Project goals and office politics began to seem trivial to me and I Just. Wanted. To. Be. With. Her. I wanted the balance to shift. I wanted the time away to be less and my time with her to be more.
I lived in denial that I was “fine” until one of those “hard” days. I came out of my bathroom and walked into my bedroom, exhausted from a day of living and juggling two lives-working woman and new mother to an infant. I looked at my peacefully sleeping daughter lying next to my husband and thought of how even though I was with her, my heart still ached with distance. How many minutes did I actually spend with her today? How much of her life have I already missed? I felt the universe stop- and clarity smack me across the face. I can remember the details of what she was wearing to sleep that night that’s how significant this memory is to me. An epiphany if you will, the fog cleared and I knew there was no other option, I had made the decision. I just stood there, staring at her and I looked at my husband and I said, simply: “I want to be home with her”. I’ve said this many times before to him but this time was different, and he knew it. I all of the sudden didn’t care about how we would make it work, I just knew that we had to make it work. My husband sensing that something had changed, replied “Okay. Whatever we have to do”.
I would have quit that next day, but I knew I was kind of stuck (I’ve actually never felt more stuck in my entire life). I knew my job was ending at the end of the year, which I think made the decision easier, but this circumstance meant there was a severance package that would be irresponsible of me to not collect (and the only way we could afford for me to stay home without making major changes), so we decided I would stick it out until then – I had to really.
I would be lying if I didn’t say part of me is terrified.
I am terrified of becoming bored and isolated and depressed and being financially strapped. I know how easy it is to fall into a rut when you have nowhere to be and no extra money. I know how easy it is to not get out of your pajamas all day when nothing is forcing you to and that dreaded unmotivated, useless feeling at the end of the day when you haven’t. I’m nervous that I will not be as patient of a mother as I am now once being with her all day every day. I’m nervous of never getting a moment to myself. I am scared of a lot. But I know despite it all, this is the right thing to do. I have never spoken to a mother who has made the choice to become a SAHM (stay at home mom- yes, there’s an acronym for it- a whole world out there I didn’t know existed surrounding this acronym, actually) regret it. Not one. I’m just only sorry that I didn’t have the courage to make the decision sooner, and that I was not stuck at my job for the last nine months and upcoming three.
If I could have done anything differently, I would have prepared and given myself the option to stay home if I wanted to once I had children. We would have bought our house based on one income or made sure we only had one car payment at a time. I would have saved to be able to stay at home for at least the first year of her life (What I think should be the standard maternity leave. [Enter political tangent here…]). If you find yourself in the position of starting a family soon, take this into consideration because you do not know how you’re going to feel until you are there. And I was definitely unprepared mentally, physically, and financially for the emotions involved and the shift that occurs in your whole being by becoming a mother and then a working mother.
I know that my daughter will one day become independent and no longer cry when I leave. But I believe that comes with time, when she has reached an age where she understands and is secure enough to be okay without me close by. I don’t believe in forcing independence, I believe in fostering a secure attachment when she is the most dependent on me so that when she is ready to stray the flock, she will do it with confidence. Which she will do in time, when she is ready. This is how raising babies has worked for generations, mothers simply could not leave their very young for long periods of time (they nursed well into toddlerhood). But her cries are the only reminder I need of what is already written in my genetic code from thousands of years of evolution; my place is with her. No one can convince me that those pleading cries are “okay” and “normal”, I will never believe it.
I want to make it clear I do not think I’m a “better” mother for wanting to stay at home, nor do I think the mothers who like and want to work are any less of mothers (I’m there – it’s no easy feat). Many women (especially single moms) HAVE to work to survive and take care of their children which is by definition; our job as parents. I do not want this post to be a Working mother vs. Stay at home mom debate, because I think it’s a luxury to even be able to have that discussion. I’m just expressing how I feel (I’m great at that- just ask my husband 😉 ) and sharing my own personal journey, and Hell, I may even change my mind once I actually AM at home EVERY day ALL day! I personally think I’m just cursed with being insanely sensitive (WHY ME!?!!). Or maybe it comes down to my circumstance, maybe if I had more immediate family close by, like my own mother, to watch her during the day it wouldn’t feel so tragic- for either of us, I’m not sure. But I want to encourage the moms who feel this same way or a new mom who is questioning returning back to work, to know that there are ways to make it work. Drain your savings and pay off anything you can to reduce your monthly expenses, cancel cable, sell one car, move to a less expensive place or area, move in with family temporarily, find part time work or work from home opportunities, borrow money to be able to make it at least one year, or at the very least ask to reduce your hours; DO what you have to do to make it work if you want to. Because nothing in life will ever be this important again and if your mother’s intuition is speaking to you- listen to it.