I think … I might actually … like … staying at home.
No one is more shocked about this than me (followed closely by my husband).
I’ll just say it: I was afraid I was going to hate staying home with my son.*
I feared I would miss the adult interaction, the professional stimulation, that moment in the morning where I decided which heels best matched my dress and rushed out of the house because I had so many important things to do at work.
I feared I would be bored by the daily routine of tooth-brushing and hot-dog-making and laundry-folding. I worried I would resent Mike as he walked out the door every morning to prepare for meetings with “new clients.”**
Mostly, I panicked that I would lose myself.
“I am giving up my career … Who will I be?” That’s the question I asked a good friend a couple of months before I left Phoenix to move back East to Pennsylvania. It felt like I was giving up a huge piece of myself that I had worked so hard to develop.
You’re not giving up your career, she told me. Remember that you have lots of priorities in life: work, family, travel, writing. These things are all important to you, but they take turns being the “most” important. During college and the years after college, building your career was the most important thing, so that floated to the top of the priority list. That didn’t mean family wasn’t important. Family is always important. It just meant that for those years, you needed to focus on establishing your career. Now things have changed and family is moving up to that top priority spot. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever have a career again; it just means that Ryan is going to take most of your focus for right now.
It was a moment of clarity I will never forget. I even remember the booth of the local brewery we were sitting in, that I was facing the door and could see how the light shone through the windows as the sun set, how it brightened before it softened.
Of course, I thought. How simple; she’s right.
I still worried. (Because that’s what I do.) I worried that ideally, my plan sounded good. Staying home with my son, working part time as projects came my way, making my own hours. But I worried that realistically, it would be frustrating and exhausting. That I would lose my patience and snap at my son and not teach him anything and feed him hot dogs every single day*** while I daydreamed about the days when I click-clacked into work and felt like I mattered.
But the truth is that my relationship with my son has not gotten worse or more strained. It’s gotten better. So, so much better. When he speaks, I understand him. I’m finally around him enough to decipher the nuances of his language that were a mystery to me before.
We’ve become sweeter to each other. He has become much more attached to me. He is protective of me. He pleads “come sit by me” a dozen times a day. He yells at bees that get too close to me.**** He bear-hugs me and says “I yove my mommyyyy!” several times a day in the sweetest, most innocent voice. He tells me I’m beautiful.
I thought he was the light of my life before; but I am more in love with this kid than I have ever been. He makes me so happy. Even when he is making me completely crazy – and boy does he – he is making me so happy.
I worried I would be cranky when Mike got home from work. That he would walk through the door, all stimulated and successful, and I would resent him.
I don’t. He walks through the door and Ryan’s face lights up the same way mine does.
We are happy to see him. And while I might imagine what his day was like or daydream myself into his position for a moment here and there, I also know I am doing the right thing for me, for our son, for our family, right now.
Here’s the thing: Being a mom doesn’t need to define me the same way being a communications professional didn’t define me three months ago. I’m just me. I am reserved but sarcastic, impatient but kind. Whether my job is in an office or at home, I’m just me. And that’s ok.
Maybe one day, I’ll look back and decide this was the most important work I ever did.
*But I’ve only been at this for a few weeks, so I reserve the right to change my mind and blog about how awful it all is in a couple of months.
**Again, reserving the right to totally resent him later.
***Ok, the hot-dog-every-day fear came true, but I’m working on it. Or at least, I intend to work on it, which is essentially the same thing.
****That’s NO NICE, buggies! You NO scare Mommy!