Last night my husband made a joke about how much promise I had shown once upon a time, the insinuation being that I never really “panned out.” I know he was joking, and I know what he means – I was valedictorian of my high school class and I have two degrees from excellent schools. And I quit working at 29 to stay at home with our son. When I quit, it wasn’t as if I was a high powered career woman, either. I was a pretty average high school social studies teacher.
Here’s the thing about SAHMs (that’s what we, in the biz, call Stay at Home Moms) and that joke – we don’t need it. Thanks, but no thanks. Don’t mind if we don’t. I can't tell you the number of times per week I get that "look" from someone when I tell him or her I don't work, or the number of comments such as "it must be so nice to have all that time at home," when what the person is really saying is "what the hell do you really do, anyways?" Mostly I get it from people from my past when I reconnect on Facebook or go home or whatever and they find out I don't work - the look on their faces asks very clearly: "What happened to her?"
It’s not that I can’t take criticism or a healthy reminder that other women work. It’s that no one is more acutely aware on a daily basis of what I might have been than I am, as I wade through piles of wet diapers, vomit covered clothing, and Thomas trains.
I’m not one of those women that expects you to kneel down and pray at the altar of maternity. Just don’t believe that women who stay home to raise their children aren’t making sacrifices in some ways, too.
I don’t need you to show me what I could have done, because daily I bombard myself with my own list of might-have-beens. Don’t think I don’t look in the mirror and see the abs I might have kept, or the grays I might have avoided. I’m about to post this on a blog I haven’t updated since I announced I was pregnant with our daughter – don’t think I don’t see the minutes, even, of time to myself I might have had if we didn’t have kids, or if I worked outside the home. I scroll through my contacts and see the friend I might have been, the Saturday nights I might have had, the fun I might not have missed.
You really don’t need to remind me. Trust me. Sometimes I look at my husband and think of the wife I might have been if I had no one else to love but him. Don’t think I don’t know other couples are out there, having their conversations in quiet homes absent of screaming children and impossible messes. We had our son 9 months after we were married. I know what we skipped.
Don’t assume I never had dreams, or that I’ve given up on them. Don’t assume that staying home with my babies is my most perfect scenario. Once upon a time I wanted to be a writer. Not a blogger or a Facebook note writer, but a real writer. 100 times a day, a thought crosses my mind that I wish I could write down, but I’m holding the baby or I’m playing trains, or the baby will only be sleeping for 10 more minutes, or I’m too damn tired and what’s the point anymore, anyways? When I lay down at night I know full well I didn’t fulfill my intellectual potential during that day, and a lot of times it makes me sad. Sometimes it brings me to tears, even. I mourn the artist I might have been, the person I might have been if my laptop wasn’t a graveyard of half-finished work and ideas of things I’ll probably never write. The person I might have been if I could only find the time to pan out.
Because what do I do instead? I feed my daughter 5 times a day and get her down for at least 4 naps. I fix my son 3 meals and teach him to play with his baby sister. I keep them both safe and clean and show them both I love them. I try to make them both smile, and if they cry I try to fix it. They are children, so I play with them. I won’t pretend I don’t have moments when I wish I wasn’t meeting my full potential in another way, but for now, being the best mom I can be to 2 beautiful little children is all I can do. Right now it’s the biggest job I can think of – I have primary responsibility for all things developmental in an infant and a 3 year old. If I screw up, the repercussions are enormous.
Trust me, I know that there are a lot of other things I might have done or been. I also know that there are lots of women who wish they could stay home with their kids. The grass really always is greener, I guess. It’s not all magical and restful and peaceful in SAHM land, though. Next time you want to ask yourself, or even worse, someone else, “What happened to her?” please pause first. Chances are, she loves her kids fiercely, like I do. Even so, she probably still struggles with those glaring might-have-beens confronting her in the faces of her friends, family, and most prominently, the mirror.