Wednesday, June 13, 2012

You Can't Go Back. Part 1 of 2.

A friend that I breakfasted with a couple of months back mentioned that when her kids were young she spent four years as a stay-at-home mom before getting back into the workforce.  She noted that, although she loved getting back to work eventually, she found during her years at home to be good ones, in that she was able to focus on being at home with her kids and that being at home was her work for the time being.  She didn't feel particularly divided between wanting to be at home and wanting to be at work.

I have not had quite that same experience of being contented in my exclusive focus on my kids.  It has been, continues to be, a hard shift for me and I find myself still settling in to the role a year later.  I miss the professional companionship and dialogue that comes with puzzling over a client's situation and attempting to ferret out how to approach an issue.  I miss feeling useful at something that I know I was good at - especially when, by contrast, I often feel inept when it comes to resolving whatever problem my kids have managed to dig themselves into or working on an issue that they're struggling with.  I also miss being appreciated and paid for the work that I do, 'cause heaven knows being a SAHM (any parent, for that matter) is a thankless and pay-less task!

I've worked in some pretty tough and demanding jobs in my career.  Still, for me, what I'm doing right now is the toughest and most demanding role yet.  I know it sounds like a bit of a cliche when I say that, but it's true for me nonetheless.  The months of my depression were by far the worst of it all.  But even now, doing so much better, I still can't seem to figure out how other SAHMs seem to manage everything, often including h/schooling, so apparently effortlessly.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect (for me) of being a SAHM is the emotional toll involved in being with the kids all of the time.  Maybe the time draining nature of it, too.  I find it hard: to think through how to parent my three very different-from-each-other children; to process how to respond to the gazillion things they want to know every day while trying to be on top of ensuring that their genuine needs get met; to manage the household and everything that this entails; to find time to research the unique learning challenges that Seth is encountering while continuing to work on attachment and trauma issues with both kids; to school them all at home and to find the time to do both the schooling and the prep and making sure that we actually get some school done (this is maybe the single hardest aspect for me); to attempt to give them a really good and fun and full and enriching childhood without packing their lives excessively.  And of course, it's hard to do this all while attempting to take care of myself and my marriage, too.

Please don't misunderstand me here.  I wouldn't trade what I'm doing for the world and, despite the somewhat petulant tone (which is really just tiredness), I'm not wanting to sound complainy.  I'm for sure not looking for sympathy.  I'm fortunate to have the choice to stay at home because I know others may like to and can't; I'm also fortunate beyond belief to finally be at this point in our family life with all of us home and together and complete.  With my depression mostly behind me, with our first year as a family complete and with things getting better by increments all of the time, life is smoothing out and getting a little easier.  I really wouldn't trade it for anything. (I think I just said might have to remind me on occasion.)

I guess I'm just coming to grips with the aloneness of really understanding what it means to sacrifice something in order to do what I think is in the best interests of my children.  Even Geoff doesn't really get that because staying at home is my choice and not one that I have been pressured into making.  But I increasingly understand the cost of that choice.  The loss.

I think it's impossible to go back and reclaim what has been lost once it's gone...and even if it were, I think the memory of it might well be better than the reclaiming and reliving of it.

When I went to a BBQ of my former colleagues last week I saw this clearly, through the glass looking in.  I related more, and more genuinely and more naturally, to the spouses of my peers than to my peers themselves.  I observed myself, and my colleagues, with fascination in this regard.  The dynamic has changed in my absence.  Of course it has, but still, it's worth noting.  The relationships by necessity of moving on now exclude me in the sense that I cannot really participate in relevant client-related conversations, professional discussions, or even in the humour that comes with dealing in certain situations.

These days, when confronted with professional conversation, it's awkwardly and uncharacteristically not something I'm particularly adept at.  What I'm good at talking about now is how much toilet paper a kid should use when s/he learns to wipe his/her own poopy bum, or about the need for 800 reminders (today) about elbows on the table, or about why the boys truly are not allowed to test-jump like Spiderman off of a 10-storey building (or even the roof of our house) with the newly invented 'flying machine' that is really a bunch of taken-apart trashed bike parts laboured over for two weeks and finally strapped together in a machine that affixes to the boys' backs.

Silence.  Conversation full stop, after the polite laughter and obligatory "that sounds like a lot of fun" or "life sure is full" comments.  And I get it.  I've walked in their shoes until now.  I feel it deep down what that's like.  Maybe that's the painful part.

Though respect and affection are still clearly and mutually present, the connection between them and me is at least a year challenged.  Things, they, have moved on.  Without me.  I'm looking in from the outside now.  I am am able-minded woman whose professional life has been put out to pasture.  By choice, yes.  But not always by contented or completed choice.  It's part of the cost.  Maybe most of it.  And despite the evidence provided by my various careers, I don't really like change.

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