Today marks two years since I officially became a stay-at-home-mom or a SAHM or as I like to call it CEO of (our last name here) Enterprises. Two years ago when N wasn't quite six weeks old we made the decision that I would stay home with him for six months. It was similar to my breastfeeding goal which was also six months. Both became a year and then both became two years. We recently weaned, but now that I'm pregnant with another baby that is due in December we've decided I'll stay home another two years to be with her. Who knows if that number will change. Like with everything else in life, I plan long-term but also take things one day at a time.
Something I've struggled with recently is making sure that I have an identity beyond my family and beyond the somewhat troubling title of stay-at-home-mom. For a majority of the time I've been home with N, we haven't done a ton of staying home. We've traveled the country, explored our neighborhood, been to different historical places around Washington, DC and kept quite busy. I'm quite content day-to-day spending my time laughing, teaching (by default) and exploring with our two-year-old. But earlier this week, it hit me that I had been home two years and I hadn't written the book I promised myself I'd write. In fact, I haven't even had one article published in a print magazine like I promised myself I would. So what have I been doing?
Is the NPR show N and I heard back in February (or maybe just the mention on the show) right that kids of SAHMs grow up to be disappointed in the parent that stayed home? Did I really sit on the couch and eat bon-bons for two years and not realize it?
Something else that's been hard for me to adjust to is shared money and a shared income. I realize all families handle money differently and quite frankly I don't care how they handle their money, but it's been hard for me to adjust to one income and to joint funds. Before we had kids we had two decent incomes, and I never once talked to my husband about buying a new pair of pants or a purse or anything else. I would have talked to him before buying a big screen tv or a car, but I would have bought the tv or car I wanted. We both saw no need to talk about expenses that were under a certain amount. Now, we talk about everything. We had an argument the other day over the fact that I bought organic oreos for our house. When I bought the regular ones instead after our argument, my husband who thought they were a frivolous expenditure a few days before asked me why I only had regular ones in the house and a part of me died right there. He couldn't believe I'd listen to him about something so ridiculous, and I couldn't believe he didn't understand how awkward it is to not be the one bringing money into the household. At least not in the form of a paycheck.
Earlier this year, marriage equality (some of you may understand it is same-sex marriage although marriage equality is much more inclusive term) and gender-identity protections were both on the agenda in Maryland. I brought our family and sometimes just N to Annapolis many times to lobby our Delegates and State Senators. N and I stood out in the cold with signs that read "Toddlers for Equality" and "Love is love." We were there when the marriage bill passed through the state Senate. And we were there earlier in the morning the day the House sent it back to committee instead of voting on it. N and I (and Ash when he could) dedicated so many hours that we wouldn't have had if I had been at an office all day to helping try to pass the legislation. When it didn't pass, I had a moment where I wondered what my greater purpose would be. I wondered if N would still grow up to be proud that he had been a part of one of the first steps (hopefully steps that will lead to that legislation passing in 2012) of our little state becoming a little more equal for all of its people. Would he be proud that I brought a 19 month old back and forth daily to Annapolis to meet with legislators and to try to get something passed that I strongly believed in? Would he more likely to grow up believing in equality because I had been there to show him the democratic process? I don't know but a big part of me thinks he will.
I also think sometimes it's hard because when you have a day job there's usually formal and informal feedback. Things happen like you get a paycheck, you have an annual review, you get edits or feedback on projects and on and on. The only form of feedback I get from N comes in the form of a big hug and kiss followed immediately by a closed fist punch to my nose and biting my toes. Talk about mixed signals. I know ultimately if he turns out to be an amazing person, his genes, schools and chance will be credited. If he turns out to be a delinquent, my inadequacies as a mother will likely be the first point of blame. I feel like I am making the biggest investment I can for our family. I think our children and who they become and this time I get to be with them and guide them is invaluable. I wouldn't be here if I didn't. But it's complicated. And I want to be me too.
I don't have a solution for finding my own identity now. I think it'll be something I continue to explore and strive for. I do understand that having a day job that didn't involve my family wouldn't give me any more value, worth or fulfillment than what I have now. But I think, I need to keep striving to find my own identity as a SAHM because it's important for me. It's important for my family. And it's important for other people to see and realize. I made this choice to be where I am today because as a mother, wife, feminist and educated woman, it's what I wanted. But that doesn't mean that I can't want something more too.