“Motherhood is hard work. It is repetitive and often times menial. Accept it. Rejoice in it. This is your toil. Right here. Those are their faces. Enjoy them. The days of your life are supposed to be full of things like this. But joy is not giddy. It is not an emotional rush–it is what happens when you accept your lot and rejoice in your toil. So rejoice in your children. Look them in the eyes and give thanks.”
I read the above quote this morning on a photography blog that I follow and it actually made me angry. Granted, that blog is about rejoicing in everything that your kids leave behind (including the messes and fingerprints) because it won’t be there for as long as we think. We’re going to miss those little bastards when they’re grown up and aren’t leaving a path of destruction.
Not me. I won’t miss it.
I can admit that freely, now.
When I was staying at home, for fourteen months I tried to accept the menial and the repetitive; to accept my lot and rejoice in my toil. I was so unhappy. I just couldn’t get there, to that place that most stay-at-home mom’s seem to be (or portray themselves to be). I started out so excited to be at home taking care of my baby and to be able to be there for my older kids after school. I obsessively kept the house clean, exercised, planned weekly menus, did laundry, and cleaned the house again. I thought about all the outings I could take with the baby and all the “me time” I would have and all the time I could spend cultivating myself, raising my children, and taking care of my family.
The outings didn’t happen. All the outings I thought about, I never did. There was cleaning to do, and exercising to do, and menus to plan, and laundry piling up, and holy shit the kids destroyed the house again…better clean it up. There was obsessing to do and schedules to stick to. And I was unhappy. So, I started keeping gratitude journals and following blogs that told me that I should embrace the mess, love the crying, and just be happy in it. But, I couldn’t just be happy.
Being at home drove me nuts.
I hated not going anywhere. I hated not having income of my own. I hated never having enough money. I hated feeling like I wasn’t contributing anything to the household. I started hating myself for feeling that way because I was working my ass off – needlessly, sometimes. Then, I began to start hating myself. Period.
I had lost 30 pounds, but still hated the way I looked. I didn’t feel smart anymore. I didn’t feel creative. I didn’t feel sexy. I didn’t feel like me. Although I had begun, finally, to cultivate a love for photography that my husband helped me to realize – it wasn’t enough. Nothing was enough, because I had lost myself. I didn’t know who I was when I was at home, who I was supposed to be, or who I wanted to be. I cried. A lot.
I realized that I needed to go back to work long before I did anything about it. By the time I was truly ready, I didn’t have a job to go back to and I was terrified to take that first step of putting my resume out. After a year of being home, I had destroyed all signs of self-confidence that I had once had and the thought of having to prove to a stranger that I was worth the hire made me want to puke. I told myself that I had to do it. Yes, my family needed the money, but I also needed my sanity back. For me, once I made that first decision to do the right thing for myself and my family, everything kind of fell into place (The Universe has a habit of doing that, doesn’t it?). I found a job in my earlier field that was a step up from my last position and made more money. My mom offered to watch the baby during the day while I went back to work and quit her own job. Our budget isn’t so tight anymore, which is a good thing, because our one vehicle has decided to start falling apart.
I am not a bad mom for making the choice to go back to work. I am being true to myself in realizing that I am not meant to stay at home and my entire family is better off because of it. Although I still would have gone back to work if my mother wasn’t watching Ayden, I feel so very fortunate that she doesn’t have to go to daycare yet. It makes waving goodbye to her every morning a little easier.
Is it worth it? Somebody wanted to know that.
I don’t know the answer. I spend 9 hours a day at a job, 2 hours a day driving, come home in a whirlwind of making dinner, feeding the family, bathing the baby, and putting the baby to bed, only to pass out with her because I’m exhausted. It’s hard. I don’t get much time to myself, my husband and I don’t get time alone together, and I always feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything I want to do with everything I need to do. It’s crazy. My house is a constant, disgusting, disaster of a mess. Most days I don’t feel like I have found my sanity at all, but I don’t feel sad anymore, so there’s that. Maybe I don’t have enough time on my hands to be sad and that’s fine by me.
I look back on my time at home and wish that I could have been that kind of mom that appreciated her toil and made it work. There are lots of things I would have done differently. I definitely should have cherished the time I had for myself. It was there in spades even though I didn’t see it at the time. I still wonder how I am going to balance a career, spending time with my family, working on my photography, and other things like blogging, but I’m going to try.
Motherhood is hard; Rachel Jankovic had that part right.