i’ve been preparing for graduate school for the past three weeks or so, turning in the necessary forms, looking at class schedules, trying to arrange daycare for my kids. going to school this time around is nothing like the first time i went to college. then, i was spoiled and entitled; even though i was happy to have gotten into college and that i would be able to go, i had no idea how privileged i was, and i squandered my first semester staying up late, sleeping in, and eating disgusting amounts of fried food. this time, i marvel at the opportunity, and i am immeasurably grateful for the chance i have to further my education. i know not many women get the chance to go back to school after having children, and i am so very humbled that i’ll be one of the few.
the other day, i was talking to a friend about my decision to get a graduate degree, and she asked me how i would find time for everything. she said, “all i have time for is my kids. i couldn’t even think of going back to school right now.” i was a little surprised–this woman is college-educated, very intelligent, financially secure, and is more than young enough to make use of a master’s degree. all i’ve done since having kids is dreamt of the day when i’d feel ready to return to school, so that i could better myself, contribute financially to my household, and show my children that nothing should hold them back from doing whatever it is they want to do.
i think i was mostly disconcerted by her declaration that she spends all day, every day on her children. while i assumed this was hyperbole on her part, it still got to me. is that what society expects of me, to spend every waking moment giving my children everything? am i to devote all my energy, my intelligence, my love and time to making sure nothing bad ever happens to them? if that’s true, then i shouldn’t have become a mother. before having children i never, EVER envisioned motherhood as time spent in a cage of little fingers covered in peanut butter, but that’s how it feels sometimes, and i refuse to give in to that.
truth: spending all day with my children drives me crazy. by the time sei gets home, i’m a complete basketcase, and i have to sit on the couch and drool onto my collarbone for at least half an hour every night after the kids go to bed, just to restore myself to sanity. i love the little dudes, but man are they exhausting. on the days when i’m able to see my friends during playdates, or when i go to a doctor’s appointment alone, or sneak out for a walk through the bookstore while my kids are at a cousin’s house, i feel like myself. i can be totally content in my role as a mother because i have spent time just being a woman. how sad is it that a trip to the gynecologist is what it takes for me to leave my kids without any societal guilt?
being a stay-at-home mom has been my life’s greatest blessing and also its greatest challenge. before becoming a mom, i was irresponsible, self-indulgent, unwilling to serve others without reciprocation, and a complete wuss. although i am far from perfect now, i’ve grown more in the past four years as a parent than i did in the 24 years of my life before children.
still, though, i’m not convinced that this is all i’m meant to do with my life.
i feel stifled as a stay-at-home mom. there, i said it. i know i’m not living to my full potential here at home. perhaps it’s because i’m just not that great of a mom, and so i’d be better off using my time to do things i actually am good at. but i choose to think that i have too much to say and too much to give to spend 24 hours a day thinking about my kids. when i’m home all day, i’m not a very nice person. i get cabin fever, i yell, i take frustrations out on my family, and i feel like a jerk. i can only hope that making my way back into the wide world will give me the balance i need to be a whole and happy woman.
i know being a mother and a student/professional isn’t easy. but neither is being a stay-at-home mom. all mothers know one or the other (or both) of these to be true; this dichotomy is fodder for endless battles and bullying and judgy-judgy finger pointing. but i’ll have to just close my eyes and shut my ears to the criticism i might feel coming my way in the future, because i know i’m doing the right thing for me and my family.
i see it this way: not all women should be ballerinas; i know for a fact i would look hideous in a leotard. in the same way, not all women are suited to the mental, emotional, and physical requirements of stay-at-home motherhood. is it so bad that i’d rather be a volleyball player than a ballerina? no. no one in their right minds would criticize me for that. and yet, people think it’s perfectly acceptable to malign a woman for her choices regarding motherhood, whether it’s for one thing or another.
well, i don’t care. i’m going to be whatever the hell i want to be and no one can tell me otherwise. i’m going to go to school and graduate at the top of my class (ok, graduate), publish all these novels i have floating in my head and make millions of dollars and be sei’s sugarmama, and most important of all, i am going to be my kids’ best mother ever. because being a mother is my life’s crowning achievement, but there’s a whole lot of other stuff holding up that crown, and i’m going to do it all.