15

Who I am vs. who I’m “supposed” to be.

So. It finally happened.

I was on the phone, today, with a deceptively-kind-sounding salesman, when he said something that revealed the wolf beneath his sheep’s clothing.  He asked me what I ‘do,’ and I replied that I’m a stay-at-home-mom. This guy replies, “Ah, one of those ‘domestic engineers,’ eh? I laughed for about 15 minutes the first time I heard that one!”

Wait.

15 minutes? It’s not that funny. And not all that far from the truth.

Perhaps I was already on edge after reading an article that an acquaintance posted on the lovely Facebook (if you must read it, you can find it here). The gist of said article is that women who choose not to chase after a career for fulfillment are inferior to women who do.

Say what?! Oh no, she didn’t! (But yeah, she really, really did.)

So here’s this poor guy who’s just said exactly the wrong thing to me at exactly the wrong time. Only, I’ve never been faced with this situation before and never even considered how I would handle it because it wasn’t until reading this stupid article that I realized people actually still feel this way.

What a slap in the face. First, some lady writes some obnoxious article arguing that the role I chose to take on in my family contributes nothing to society, and then this guy, this stranger whom I have never spoken with before, laughs at the term ‘domestic engineer,’ as if to say, “Why on earth would you compare something that doesn’t require a college degree to something that someone without a college degree couldn’t possibly have the aptitude to understand?”

Wait, wait, wait… Let me give you some background information.

I got my discharge papers in the mail yesterday. My attempt to go back to school courtesy of the United States Army collapsed around me in the wake of a surprise pregnancy.  And BAM: the unspoken-of, not-so-happy ending to that story arrives yesterday via certified mail.  I am no longer a member of the military. My bonus? Gone. My GI Bill? Nope. That 97 I scored on the ASVAB? Doesn’t. Mean. Shit.

So the message that I’m some sort of failure isn’t just coming from all around me.

If I’m 100% honest, it’s coming from within me, too.

I am so disappointed in myself.  I am such an intelligent woman… I have test scores out the wazoo to prove it. So why the hell can’t I finish anything I start? Why can’t I be that person who powers through college and walks away with a diploma to show for it?

The truth is, it just doesn’t matter enough to me… And the reward isn’t worth the risk. What I’m afraid of (and I think many men and women of my generation can relate) is taking out loans, investing four to six years of my time, doing everything everyone has told me I “need” to do to get ahead – and coming out with a job that pays just over minimum wage. Or, worse, not being able to find a job at all.

There are five or six things I think I would enjoy doing, but the only thing I have ever known I needed to do, the only thing I’ve ever felt called to do, was to be a mother.  I know I’m capable of graduating college.  I just can’t bring myself to give so much to something that matters so little to me. I’ve never been a career-minded person. I’ve always felt most alive with family.

I don’t know that I need to justify this to anyone else. After feeling angry over the whole deal for a couple of hours, I decided Ms. Amy Glass and Mr. Salesman-guy can suck it.

Sadly, I do feel like I need to justify it to myself.

So:

Dear Lindsay,

You are doing something so very worthwhile.  If you need a reminder, just look at the man who’s closest to you – look at the hurt he’s suffered at the hands of a woman who should have made sure he only ever knew what it felt like to be loved.  This world needs more mommies.  Its children need hugs when they’re afraid. They need someone to take their picture, so they know they’re worth remembering. Someone who will stop anything she is doing at any time to make whatever is wrong, right. They need someone to accept them just as they are, wherever they may be. They need to know that, yes, they can make mistakes, and yes, they are still worth loving. Someone in their lives has to take the time to create opportunities for memory-making. Someone has to perfect the art of making a house a home. Someone has to be patient enough to recognize that even though all of the little things she’s doing can sometimes feel like ‘nothing,’ together they add up to something really, really important…

…Love.

I know that sometimes you feel like no one sees the things that you do. No one recognizes the value in the person who washes the dishes and does the laundry and makes the beds and cooks the meals. No one sees the sacrifices you make for your mission, your goal.

But God does.

Please know that everything He’s brought you through up until this point has prepared you for this, and you will not fail. This is what you were created to do. Sometimes you wish you were one of ‘those’ people, and that’s okay. Go ahead and let yourself feel that way if you must. But after you’ve felt it, let it go. You are right where you need to be.

Maybe the people you’ve loved will, one day, recognize just how much of yourself you’ve given. But probably, they will never fully understand.  And that’s okay, too. What you are doing has a forever impact. An eternal impact. For now, make peace with not always being able to see the big picture. And quit trying to change your ‘stripes.’ You are more than enough.

Hugs and kisses,

Me

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3

Who needs who, here?

Happy New Year! Kenneth turned 4 months old yesterday…. I wish I could say that it’s gone by so fast, but truthfully, it feels like it’s been WAY longer than four months. I have to admit, there’s been a huge learning curve that I never anticipated when it comes to caring for an infant. Don’t get me wrong, certain things came naturally:  Showering him with affection? Done. Easy. Changing diapers? Middle-of-the-night feedings? Check, and check! He’s a baby, and he requires a lot of attention, but I love the crap out of him so it doesn’t really phase me. 

It’s the little things that no one explains to you about becoming a mother that get me.  How do you balance keeping a home with caring for such a small, defenseless being?  How do you deal with the anxiety of putting him down to walk away and do something else that just doesn’t seem nearly as important, big-picture wise? It’s been really difficult for me to let go. At first, I felt so uneasy any second that I spent not focused on him. I had to have him within arms reach every second of every day (imagine my husband’s disdain when I realized I was a co-sleeper, and he realized he wasted tons of money on nursery furniture!).

I just went out for a few hours alone for the first time this weekend. When I say “for the first time,” I mean for the first time of my own accord. My husband dragged me out on my birthday, so we left Kenneth with a sitter for a few hours, and twice we’ve had to have someone watch him for a couple of hours when we went to counseling.  But just the other day, I had this very sudden, very strong feeling that I needed to get out. I needed to take my ‘mommy’ cap off for awhile, and just be ME.  It felt so good to hang out with one of my girlfriends sans baby, and though I felt a twinge of guilt when I walked out the door, it was appeased when A) I recognized that I left him with his daddy, and I can trust him to take the best care of our precious baby and B) I felt like a new woman when I got home. 

Today, I discovered that having him next to me is part of the reason I’ve found it difficult to get anything done around the house. I left him in bed, turned on the baby monitor (which we’ve used, oh, probably less than 5 times since he was born), and kept it close by as I worked on laundry, cleaning, etc. while he slept. And oh. My. Goodness. I got so much done! It’s hard to explain, but when he’s in the same room as me, I find myself checking on him constantly. Even now as I write this, he’s sleeping in his swing, and I’m glancing over there every 30 seconds, then losing my train of thought. It’s like my “maternal instincts” have been in overdrive since he was born, and are just now starting to wind down.  (I’m glad I’m seeing improvement, otherwise I was going to ask my doctor for some tranquilizers at my next OB appointment! Holy anxiety.)

Re-reading this, I know I sound like a crazy person.  There are probably lots of mommies out there who have had all of their shit together since day one, but I must admit, I am not one of them.  I don’t know if this paranoia is related to my miscarriages, or postpartum hormones, or sleep deprivation, or what… But it could be worse, right? I’m certainly not neglecting him! On the contrary, he is so adored by myself and his daddy. And he’s such a happy baby, you can tell that he knows it! 

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