Most of today’s post comes from a Facebook exchange with an old friend. It’s a little long, but it sums up my feelings better than anything else I could re-write.
He asked the following:
I’m happy to hear that you are loving being a mom. But you’ve shattered one of my ignorant hypotheses. I’ve talked to quite a few people who are staying home with kids, both male and female, who strike me as intelligent and intellectual. I get different variations on the same theme from them and from myself. It seems like each stay at home parent I’ve talked to believes in what he/she is doing and loves the kids and wants to do what’s right and best for them, but also is frustrated at the lack of a life. We’ve all had a similar thought that we’ve given up our lives for our kids. Each of us has a different sense of loss related to that sacrifice, and each of us has voluntarily made that sacrifice, but it’s a sentiment that I had thought must be pretty much universal. So I had come up with this hypothesis that perhaps the mothers who wanted to stay home with their kids and didn’t miss that "external life" outside the family weren’t as bright or as intellectually driven or something. So imagine my surprise when you shared your love of parenting! You’re clearly one of the bright ones. I remember you as one of the smartest friends I’ve had. So my ignorant, perhaps even bigoted, hypothesis is now in the trash heap. Now I’m seeking another idea about what makes a contented homemaker…
I think it’s a choice. Staying at home/becoming a parent (the two are so intertwined in my life that it’s difficult to separate them) was an awful transition for me. I had always made more than half of our income. I had a job that I enjoyed. I was finally back in school after putting my husband through school. And, *TMI warning*, the baby was not planned right then and maybe not ever. I cried for months. At my first prenatal appointment, my OB actually suggested abortion and adoption. THAT is how not thrilled I was about the whole thing.
When my baby was a month old, the very day I put my parents back on a plan for Florida, I broke my foot and my hand and was housebound on crutches for 6 weeks or so. (In retrospect, I was majorly depressed and I probably should have sought help. Have you ever tried carrying a newborn whilst on crutches? Im-freaking-possible.) I remember sitting there one day lamenting how much the whole thing sucked and I had this moment of clarity. I realized that this was my life for the next 20 years minimum and I had 2 choices. I could be miserable every day for 20 years, or I could learn to find joy. Oprah moment ahead:
I chose the joy.
Not gonna lie…at first it was a lot of effort and a lot of making conscious decisions. I’d find happiness in having a clean sink or showering before noon or whatever. We also used to do this thing before bed where we’d each take a turn saying what the best part of the day was (sort of like Dora the Explorer, don’t act like you don’t watch). It helped me be mindful of just how good I really had it.
To claim that it’s all sunshine and roses all the time would be absurd. Life throws trials in all of our paths! We’ve had our fair share…worse than some, better than others. And, I continue to choose the joy.
Happy Mother’s Day!