Tuesday, January 15, 2013
My story: the introduction
We didn’t really decide that I would stay home with our children. It just kind of happened.
I had always believed that working mothers set a good example for their children, especially their daughters. I couldn’t understand or imagine why anyone would want to stay home.
Until I held Riley in my arms.
We had moved to Arizona less than a year earlier.
Most people we knew were either married and childless, or single. I had been working on contract as a technical writer since the move with the intention of looking for full-time work as a journalist when Riley was four months old.
But the day care centers made me cry.
The private care providers made me cry.
The thought of someone else caring for our infant son 50 or so hours a week while I established myself at a new newspaper and my husband traveled about the country raising money for his start-up employer, made me cry.
I couldn’t do it.
Neither could my husband.
So I began my new career as a stay-at-home mom. With it came a mass of changes and confusion. I no longer had any idea how to present myself to others.
Was I still a writer?
Could I still call myself a writer?
I could handle the debt. I could deal with shorter runs and few extra pounds. I kept my old friends and started making new ones. I even managed to shower every day and forgave myself when I went too long without a hair cut.
But I didn’t know what to do about my identity.
Over play dates, coffee and grocery store rendezvous, I soon learned that I wasn’t alone with my feelings. Many women face crisis when they make that decision to stay home with their children.
Some like me, struggle with their identities, keeping a foot in their career doors with small projects here and there. Others fret day and night over making ends meet on only one income. Many face depression over their weight, their shape or their social lives.
We all struggle in some way, yet no one I talked to expressed regret over the decision to give up a career, or a chance to have a career. And, in general, they were reluctant to complain. They were, in their minds, the fortunate ones.
They could stay home with their children.
They considered it a luxury no matter what they had to make do without. Most had at least a friend or two who worked full time, not because she wanted to, but because she felt she had no choice.
They were overwhelmingly grateful.
What they would have liked, however, was to know what to expect, to know that they were not alone in their feelings and experiences, to know that bouts of self-doubt and even depression were normal. They would have liked to have known from the beginning that as the years ticked by and their children grew, they would see more and more clearly the rewards of their decisions and that underneath the dirty dishes, the piles of laundry and the piled-up backpacks and homework, the women they had known before kids was still there:
Susan could still dance if she wanted to.
Kathleen was still beautiful.
Betsy’s boss would take her back in an instant if she changed her mind.
I learned that I didn’t need to work at a newspaper to satisfy my intellectual and creative needs. I could do it during naps or at night or with the help of a sitter now and then.
My creativity did not suffer from my time at home. Rather I believe it matured with age and the experience of motherhood. My subjects changed and so did my priorities.
Suddenly this book and the need to help other stay-at-home moms realize the commonalities of their experiences became important.
I would like to say that the women I interviewed agreed to speak with me because of an allegiance to those who will come after them—that they were moved by the need to ease the transition for other stay-at-home moms. And I’m sure that was a big part of their motivation.
But their words, their inflections and their passions told me something else, something even more surprising and even more vital. What came through was pride—pride in their decisions, pride in their struggles, pride in what they consider their greatest accomplishments: the development of their children.