Saturday, July 9, 2011


If there is a subtext in this blog - and we could say, in my current life - then it would be my conflicting feelings about returning to A Job in the world of compensated employees. I have a 6-8 month cycle between really, really wanting A Job and then choosing, all over again, to stay-at-home with the piccolini.

I just finished my cycle of really wanting A Job, which culminated in NOT completing an application the night before it was due, even though I'd taken the time to get all my references and materials in place.  Somewhere, deep down inside, I believe that my desire for a job is ultimately selfish and not in the best interest of anyone else in my family. So when the moment of truth comes, the application is filed in the recycle bin.

I'm hard pressed to give evidence to support my belief that the rest of the family is better off with me at home. The contrarian in me (who never wins this argument) says that children need lots of different caregivers to reinforce ideas, that they should see a mother who is doing something (other than mothering) that she loves, and that they should learn that the world doesn't revolve around them.

But then, oh, then. It's so hard for me to articulate why I keep making this choice to be at home. Especially when anyone could say this: my objective, measurable talents are not the best suited to this motherhood role. We snack all day, I change the schedule on a whim, I am sloppy about reinforcing nap times/quiet times. There's a lot that could be gained by a more conscientious, systematic caregiver.

So why do I keep doing this?

It's all about those nebulous beliefs. Beliefs or personal baggage: sometimes I'm not so sure they are different: things my mother did - ways I was raised - cultural expectations. They are ideas I can't let go of - no matter how many ways I can argue, no matter how many cultures I straddle, no matter how many miles away I move.

When I let go of wanting A Job - and it does happen, at least temporarily - it feels rather wonderful, for a little while.

I wake up in the morning and I think to myself: what will we play today? What can I teach the piccolini about the world through play? I think about teaching Big Ideas (because things like letters and numbers, math and science, they can learn that all at school, and to be honest, I find that stuff mostly BORING at this level). I think: how can I teach them about taking care of other people? How can I teach them about being good stewards of the Earth? How can we talk about personal space and consideration of feelings? How I can be sure that they learn to solve problems with words, not guns? How can I teach them to pursue dreams?

And then we play a lot. Mostly we play make believe these days. Even Mattias seems to get the gist of make believe. I try to put Noah 'in charge' a lot, and he tries to be 'the baby' a lot. (I guess choosing to be the baby is kind of like being in charge. For two seconds.)

Then, for myself, I try to do One Thing every day. And some days making one single phone call is the only thing I get done. Somedays, I write something here. Somedays, that One Thing doesn't get done until the piccolini are in bed. The rule of sanity stays the same: the more I try to do, the more frustrated I get. The more I start thinking about a desk that isn't covered in confiscated 'toys,' the more I want A Job. With a coffee break. And a lunch break. And defined beginning and end to the day. And beginning and end to the week. The frustrated feelings snowball.

Until: Full cycle. Some undefinable, illogical belief brings me back to where I started. Playing all day, spending the evening at the Desk of Confiscated Toys, application in the recycle bin, writing One Blog Post.


Swistle said...

I finally PARTIALLY resolved such internal conflicts by realizing I could still do all the good of assorted authority figures, classroom social awesomeness, and seeing-mother-work---but I could do it LATER. That is, I don't have to do it while my children are tiny: when they start preschool/school they will get the benefits they could have gotten from daycare: the authority figures and the social benefits of the classroom. And when they are in school, I can get a job and they can see me working THEN. In the meantime, they see me blogging and I make a point of how it's something I love to do and also something that earns us a little money to keep the household running. And, I'll say to them that I'm working and need to be left alone for awhile, which helps them learn independent play.

JJ Keith said...

I think this too has been the overriding theme of my blog over the last few years. I worked when my eldest was baby and I hated it. But I also long for connection to the world of adults. I deeply desire making use of my skills and I get so sick and tired of wiping butts. I haven't resolved this, not at all. I'm using my every spare moment to work on a book that I hope gets picked up so I can parlay it into teaching gigs. I don't know what plan B is.

Mothers and work is an endlessly fascinating topic. When it shows up in the media they nearly always cast it wrong. The whole issue is much more nebulous and individualistic than can be stuffed into a magazine piece. I enjoy reading about other moms thinking on the topic, so thanks for this.

Meredith said...

It's a difficult decision to make. Society also makes the decision hard. Some people make me feel guilty for not working.

Simply Bike said...

This is a really great post and one that I'm sure was difficult to write and publish. There's this expectation out there to always make it look so lovely and so great to be a SAHM.

I'm in a bit of a different situation now because I'm working from home and the honeymoom period of getting to be at home with my daughter hasn't yet worn off. Talking to good friends who are a few years deeper in it than me, they echo a lot of your thoughts.

Ann, you have a beautiful blog here. I saw that you might not be updating for a while, so I'm just going to stalk your archives :)