The Accidental Stay-At-Home Mom
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Being home with my girls, I am treated to an incomparable and overwhelming feeling of love many, many times each day. But still. If I’m being honest, it’s not quite enough for me. And what I’m realizing is that it’s not enough for Avi and Maya, either.
Always, and perhaps naively, I just assumed that babies or not, I’d be happily engaged in some intellectual pursuit. For this, I can decidedly blame my parents. They have both been lucky to love what they’ve done outside the home for as long as I’ve been alive. Like me, my mom also stayed home when her kids were young. She worked part-time, swapping parenting shifts with my dad, who knew how to put our hair up in pigtails and make meatloaf with secret ingredients. They were equal opportunity parents, though she didn’t go back to work full-time until I was in kindergarten.
But even during the years when my mother was working part-time, she was wholly engaged. To this day, when my mother talks about what she does, her eyes brighten, her cheeks flush, her voice sounds different. I have never met a colleague of my mother’s who didn’t gush about her. She has rooms named after her in synagogues, curricula she’s created, boards she sits on…the list goes on.
And most importantly, she has a genuine enthusiasm for her work. My mother knows where she stands professionally (and, if I may boast, her colleagues do as well; upon retirement this spring, the seminary where she works will confer upon her an honorary doctorate—she’s pretty amazing).
Jon and I talk regularly about the kind of examples we’d like to set for our girls. But I’m realizing that it doesn’t really matter what we do, or if we work at all (except that it does, because we need to feed the little buggers and provide them with health insurance). What really matters is how we feel about ourselves and whether or not we can garner that kind of enthusiasm that my mom has, in our own professional arenas. I believe that Maya and Avi will be affected by how I see myself. If I’m not feeling engaged, curious, stimulated, and enthusiastic, that’s going to resonate with them. I also realize that these wishes won’t necessarily be satisfied by going back to work—stay-at-home moms manage to find stimulation just as working moms find themselves bored at their desks. I guess what I’m saying is, as the fog of the first year clears, I’m aware that I haven’t found the right balance yet, and I’m looking for it.
And if it turns out that the perfect balance doesn’t exist, then I’d at least like to find some arrangement where my brain doesn’t make creaky noises when I turn it on. I think that would be good for the girls. And for me.
This essay originally appeared on Kveller.com. Reprinted with permission.