As a wife and a mother, I find myself living in tension. Between what I always thought it would be like and what it is, between who I am and who I’m becoming, between what I used to do and where I am now. I’ve found unexpected joy and disappointment in every situation.
When I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, I remember wondering if I’d really be taken with her. I worried I wouldn’t be. I did not particularly enjoy being pregnant, and was not one of those “miracle of life” people. She was very much wanted, and I was excited to be a mother, but there was so much I didn’t know. I wasn’t sure I’d be any good at it. I remember being relieved when I cried tears of joy when our baby was born.
The moment I saw my slimey, coneheaded, squirmy daughter, I instantly knew I would do anything for her, that I loved her with a love that was far too big and all encompassing for me to understand. I felt like, for a split second, I had seen the face of God. I suddenly possessed a sliver of understanding about His unreasonable love for us; I was suddenly on the inside. I started to understand my parents’ hopefulness, disappointments and unending love. I knew I had just experienced the best and most important thing of my life thus far.
Motherhood has changed me. Marriage has changed me. Adulthood has changed me. And yet, some things are the same.
Since quitting my job and relocating our family, I haven’t had everything on that list and I certainly haven’t had them all at the same time.
There are things I never knew about myself until I quit my job. I never knew I needed affirmation until I’d been home every day, all day, cooking, cleaning and mothering without so much as an “atta girl.” My children should expect their mother to take pride in taking care of them, and I do. My husband is wonderful, but I don’t expect him to hover and tell me “great job” every time I do a mundane task (for the tenth time in a day).
Bagging groceries one day, I absently answered my children’s countless questions. As I steered our heavy cart out of the store, a woman who had been watching us said, “You are doing a great job.” It touched me to the point of tears.
No one says this to mothers. I can’t be the only one who sometimes feels invisible, can I? And so I vow to tell the outstanding mothers I know,“I see you. What you are doing matters. And you are doing it well.”
And another thing? I like making money. I didn’t really know that until I wasn’t doing it anymore. I like having work in common with my husband; I like feeling like I can relate to him. I’m not saying this makes sense (he says it sort of doesn’t). I’m just saying staying home showed me this about myself.
So last week when I had the chance to take a short-term consulting job, I did. Never mind that I didn’t know what it actually entailed or how I would continue all the jobs I have assumed in our home and to our children at the same time.
Always before, when I worked, I had help. Someone to care for my children and provide meaningful moments for them when I couldn’t be there. Occasionally someone cleaned my house. Last year I was even spoiled with someone making us dinner and doing the girls’ laundry. I felt so guilty about all these things. I felt I “should” be doing them.
Who taught me this? Not my parents. My dad has insisted he and my mom hire a house cleaner-- that it is an expense that is well worth it. Not my husband, for sure, and definitely not my church. Some of it comes from outside, from this subculture I have stumbled upon that I’ve seen paint motherhood and womanhood with a very narrow brush and then sign God’s name to the painting. I bristle at this. I don’t like strangers telling me what I should be doing, and that it's the same as what everyone else is doing.
But then I am the one trying to do it all, all the time. No one is forcing me to feel this way. I want it done quickly and well; I want it to look easy. I want to do it while looking pulled together and with a smile on my face, then I get upset when (of course) this doesn’t happen. I’m just not sure it’s sane or even possible. And when we make it seem like it's not only possible but necessary, I think we’re doing other women a disservice.
I don’t know what working from home is supposed to look like. But then, I don’t know what staying home is supposed to look like either. If there’s a right way to do this, I haven’t found it yet. But I am doing it.
So far, I’m learning to stretch and to balance, to take on, to let go. I’m learning I may need to be okay with changing the status quo for a few weeks, and that that’s okay. At some point, there will be a little girl’s voice in the background of a conference call (probably singing The Lumineers’ “Stubborn Love” at the top of her raspy voice). Regardless of how it goes, I’m so grateful for this opportunity to be a little bit of everything. I’m enjoying contributing professionally, being sought after and performing well.
Standing with one foot in two different worlds is challenging. However it goes, I think I can’t help but happily welcome the days of “doing nothing” but taking care of the house and being with my kids when they come back around again.