In my ongoing identity transition or should I more appropriately say, my frustrations with having to morph myself into a reluctant SAHM identity, I have many struggles. Daily. I am just not the stay at home kinds as I have previously written. I am just not made of that grain. I don’t know if I ever will be.
I understand the preciousness of the time spent with one’s kids. I understand the immense pleasure one gets, that I get, from some pretty spectacular times I have with both my children, sometimes many times a day. I understand how much of a long-term influence my presence and nurturing care will have on my children. I understand how privileged I am to be able to afford this time with them, something I know a lot of people might want but can’t. I understand all that.
Someday I may even kick myself for ever getting frustrated with these times, times are so fleeting, so fast; times that I will never get back; times that constantly remind me that the days are long but the years are short. But I am just me. I am my kids’ mom with all my flaws, warts and all. I cannot feign happiness because even though most days I am genuinely, truly happy with my life, I find the nagging fact that I do not have a job extremely identity-shaking and ego-jarring. On those days, I am an okay actor, an okay mom but most days, still an okay mom, I am just me – loving, affectionate, caring, educational, instructive, and also angry, frustrated, ready to scold or punish while softly (and occasionally, not so softly) muttering swear words under my breath. The latter is a side of me I’d rather the kids not see but then I somehow justify it as me simply being a human being. I am authentic to my kids. Will I be ruining their childhood if I scold my son or yell out to nobody in frustration when my daughter refuses to sleep? I don’t know. Time will tell. I want them to see me in all my shades though. I want them to know that mom is not perfect. I have many flaws. I truly love them to the moon and back but an honest part of me feels unaccomplished and unfulfilled for a lack of a professional identity. I hope they know that, that has nothing to do with them. It is not their fault.
I sometimes feel trapped in a life that was not of my choosing or so I tell myself. “This is not what I signed up for” is a sentence I have mentioned a few times to Aaron. I know he felt, still feels, rather guilty for moving us all here to SJ especially because I had to resign. I know for a fact that he blames himself for what could have been a great career for me. I try not to make him feel bad about it but most of the time I am so busy wallowing in my own sorrows that I fail to recognize how awful my whining makes him feel. In the midst of tears, many times, I have said, “I wish we never left Chicago. I wish you had found a job in Chicago.” Then I feel horribly, terribly guilty about having said that.
Fact is, this is exactly the life I chose. I chose this. I decided to resign from my job. I encouraged him to look for a job anywhere in the world and told him that I would follow him, unconditionally. I decided to follow my husband to San Jose. I chose, with my husband, to have another child. My children did not choose to be born. We chose to have them. It is when things seem to be going all wrong – when E has had her third poop blast which in and of itself is not at all a big deal but combined with what else might be simultaneously going on – when J has a meltdown because he wants to keep watching YouTube videos that I momentarily let him watch so I could peacefully change diapers, when they are both crying at the same time, when one of them is inconsolable and the other one is demanding my absolute attention at that very moment, when one refuses to nap/sleep despite hours of holding, feeding, rocking, singing and the other is trying to break through the door not allowing for a restful sleep for the baby….that I feel let down. I feel let down by the choices I made. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. Then, how? Not sure. Never really did think this through.
You love your kids. No matter what. Well, you know what, sometimes it is just hard. It is just goddamn hard to pull it together even for love.
My kids deserve better. I better get my act together and give them the mother they really deserve – a patient, kind, and loving mother. Besieged as I am with all these thoughts in my head, I cannot help but lament the loss of a ‘me’ identity (There we go again. Sigh!). If one is unemployed and a mother then all that everyone ever sees is you as a mother. You don’t exist outside of that identity at all. I have a doctoral degree. I am smart. I am super educated and have work experience collected since I was 19. I have more years of schooling than most people do in a lifetime. I am not saying this to brag about who or what I am or used to be, just to put my frustrations into perspective.Yet, when others see me, they see me as J or E mom, as Aaron’s wife. No one sees me as my own intelligent person.
I am a feminist. I covet female empowerment and choices and yet despite me having carefully made my choices, I sometimes regret those very choices I was “forced” to make. The worst part is, sometimes I see myself as how others see me. At J’s daycare, that he attended twice a week for two months, one day after I picked him up, the husband of the daycare lady, after inquiring what my husband did, asked me, “…and where are you working?” (in typical Indian English syntax). Without wasting a breath I answered, “Oh, I don’t work”. WHAT!? I regretted that answer as soon as it left my tongue. I wanted to hold on to it and push it back where it came from.
What do I mean I don’t work? Isn’t being a mom, work? Isn’t staying at home work when you are working your ass off at home? How did I, a feminist, someone who absolutely values work in all its hues so casually dismiss my own contribution to my family, to my child’s upbringing (I was pregnant then so E wasn’t born yet)? I was so ashamed of myself, I didn’t know what to think of myself anymore. How could I? Had I bought into the whole, “just” a housewife discourse? Couldn’t be. What was it then? It is a work-in-progress.
This month would have been the culmination of a much sought after career goal – tenure – something for which someone in my previous profession always strives. Achieving that goal lends legitimacy and a certain gravitas to those in my profession. This year would have been my year. This month, my month. Had we been in Chicago, we would have celebrated. The congratulatory wishes would have been pouring in and I would have basked, albeit humbly, in the glory of my hard work and determination over the years. Alas! That is not meant to be for me anymore because I chose to be a SAHM having relocated to San Jose without a job.
For now, I just want to cry. Letting out a good cry is great. It cleanses me from the inside out. It helps me put things into perspective. I am usually only a cautiously optimistic person skewed toward pragmatism. When I cry, after considering all the negative aspects of my tears, I let them get washed away, making room for more uplifting thoughts. Sometimes this is the hardest thing to do and does not always work. Allowing the past to be just that, knowing for a fact that, that past cannot be changed despite the ‘what ifs’, worrying or dwelling on what could have been is pointless. Power to the future.
A happy mother is what every child deserves. I want to be happier with the choices I have made, for my family’s sake, for my sake. I find the greatest joys in those moments that come unexpected – this morning when we were rushing to get out the door so I could take J to the library’s storytime on time, I had E in her carseat in the foyer (she has a protective mesh cover over her carseat) while J was putting his shoes on next to her. I needed to run upstairs to get my car keys having forgotten to grab them earlier. E was crying inconsolably because she was tired and sleepy. I was worried about leaving J with E because he is known to jump (not literally) on her to kiss her and sometimes inadvertently ends up hurting her but I needed those keys.
As I climb down the stairs after getting the keys, I hear J’s voice going, “Baby. Baby. Baby”….my heart races to dark thoughts of whether he is going to unintentionally hurt her with whatever he is doing as he is saying ‘Baby’.
Instead, when I get down the stairs, I see him rocking her carseat to calm her down just as he has seen us do, while chanting, “Baby. Baby. Baby”….Aah…the ache in my heart.
I am crying now. For an entirely different reason.