My New Life As an Old-School Mom
Let me tell you briefly who I used to be. I used to be independent, stubborn, unafraid of ruffling feathers and challenging norms, college educated, in love with insane heels and classic literature, a writer of poetry and children’s stories, and a professional copyeditor.
Let me tell you who I am now that I’ve had a baby. I’m a stay-at-home mom.
Why such a short description? Is it because I have become that one dimensional? Actually, it’s because no one hears or notices the other aspects of my life. The truth is that nothing else has really changed from my former life, except that I often wear sneakers in favor of heels now, and I only work sporadically as a freelance copyeditor.
But people’s perception of me certainly has changed. And since my husband has started a new job where his co-workers know me only as a stay-at-home mom, they seem at a loss for conversation beyond things baby-related whenever I attend a work function. I get the feeling that they believe I am less educated than them and perhaps a little lazy in my occupation as a stay-at-home mom.
I laughed (and almost cried a little) when an episode of Modern Family explored blonde wifey’s frustrations with being a college-educated stay-at-home mom. Her frustration manifested in strange, hilarious, and pathetic ways. I saw my future, and it freaked me out. How do I balance my desire to be at home with my baby while he’s very young with my desire to produce (in the career sense of the word)?
I’m not the first woman to ask this question. But as far as I know, no one has come up with an answer. Shit. I guess that means I’ll continue to muddle my way throught this odd phase of my life and hope that my resume doesn’t become irrelevant.
I have to ask myself: What do I really want out of all of this? I want to care for my son during his most formative years, mostly with the hope that he’ll be better prepared for school, but also partly with the hope that he and I will bond over museum trips, long days at the zoo, and thrilling trips to the library.
And then I want to return to my career.
Ah, there’s the rub. This is the part that stops most moms in their tracks. This is the reckoning. I read an article on the topic that asserts that feminists of my mother’s generation firmly believe women can have it all; you just have to work hard enough to get it. But feminists of my generation, the author argues, have seen the failure of this approach and have instead resigned themselves to the understanding that women can’t have it all, not when our society’s not set up to accommodate mothers who work. We can either work and sacrifice family or stay home and sacrifice work.
For me, the choice hasn’t been easy. I’m lucky enough because I have a choice. And I feel good about staying home with my son and giving him a solid foundation for his future, but I also feel anxious about my own future. So I guess a Modern Family-type meltdown is inevitable. Shit.