One consequence of being friends with a lot of teachers (besides their ability to scare the bejeezus out of you with the teacher glare) is that you hear a whole lot of bellyaching this time of year about going back to school. Who knew teachers hated to go back just as much as (more than?) students do? And here I thought teachers lived for school. And at school. With little cots under their desks and cafeteria lunches for every meal.
Also 'tis the season, it seems, for a lot of my new-mom friends to head back to their old jobs, reclaiming some semblance of their old lives even as something very, very new has been added.
Me? I'm not heading back to anything, because there's nothing for me to head back to. Last January -- when I was seven months' pregnant -- I was laid off from my newspaper job. At the time, I was just starting to seriously contemplate how I was going to manage working and being a mom at the same time. It seemed pretty doable -- my job was a 4 p.m. to midnight shift, most days, and I worked weekends. Pretty much the direct opposite of Geoffrey's teacher's hours, so our child care needs would have been minimal. Sweet deal! Until it wasn't on the table anymore. Suddenly, the decision about how to juggle the conflicting needs of working and mothering, and whether to bother juggling them at all, was made for me. Which normally would be great, as I hate making decisions.
But in this case, letting the universe do my decision-making dirty work for me wasn't such a big help. Making the decision to be a stay-at-home mom (hereafter referred to as SAHM, which is an acronym I abhor to the depths of my soul) is wrenching. It requires a lot of thought, a lot of dedication, and a leap of faith about the strength of one's own sanity. Having SAHMitude forced upon you, though? It's wrenching with a heaping helping of resentment on the side.
To be honest, I'm not sure it's the decision I would have made. Why? Because being a SAHM is friggin' hard. And sometimes I tend to go for easy. Also, I loved my job, and my old life, and talking to grownups about grownup stuff (and, OK, sometimes fart jokes), and sometimes I tend to get a little cracky around the edges when understimulated. I would have loved to have added parenthood to all that, even if it would have meant even less sleep than I get now and pumping breastmilk in some sad bathroom somewhere, but I didn't have the option. Which means I get all the suck of the SAHM routine, with none of the rights to self-congratulation that comes with making the choice and sacrifice one feels is best for the baby.
I know there are folks -- probably some of you reading this -- who would give anything to be in my shoes. All day at home with your adorable baby? Not having to worry about someone else caring for your little one and possibly doing it all wrong? Not having to wear pantyhose ever or even pants, technically, if you don't feel like it? Those things are great, I get that. And I don't envy the adjustment to separation that working moms have to make. And -- just to reiterate -- I love Nora and am grateful that I can be with her and watch her thrive. But sometimes I wish all the folks who gush about how lucky I am to be a SAHM could know how much, sometimes, I would give to be in their shoes.