For most of my life, all I've wanted to be was a mom. I struggled (resisted) to find and settle on any sort of "career path" because I sort of resented the whole idea of it. Why couldn't my "career" of choice be motherhood? Of course I knew that in reality I had to do something to make money but I had a lot of trouble finding anything that didn't make me constantly think "Well, what I really want to do with my life is be a mom, so this just sucks." In college I finally settled on theatre as a major because it was the only thing I really enjoyed spending time thinking about/working on. I was never convinced I'd really make a career out of it, but I went with it knowing it was the closest thing to enjoying work I was ever going to get until I got to become a mother. Turns out, I did manage to make a pretty great career out of it and feel really grateful for my degree. It won't make me millions, but I've always felt like it prepared me for any job that might come my way...life too really. I won't try to explain this theory in detail because this post I read the other day hits the nail on the head for me.
Anyway, once we moved out here and I left my once in a lifetime job at The Lion King, I knew that professional theatre was no longer my career of choice. I do love it, but the schedule you have to keep is not one that lends itself to the kind of family life I want to have. You are basically working when everyone else is not and when our kids are in school full time...well, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd never see them. We settled into a life here where I'm able to stay at home with the kids because of my Family Housing RM job, which is obviously completely temporary. It's the perfect setup for us during this phase of our lives even though money is super super tight. There's just no way I could find a job working outside of the home that would cover childcare and then some, allowing us to actually make a profit. Nathan's schedule changes semester to semester (actually week to week) so drastically that it's not even a matter of me being able to work nights or something because sometimes he's just not able to be home, night or day, for weeks on end.
So, two black clouds have been looming over my head in the last couple of years here:
1) When Nathan is done with school, I'm going to have to get an out-of-the-home job immediately. We will have to start paying back the mountain of debt we are now buried under and also, I won't have this RM job so we'll have bills to pay again. Now that I've been able to have my stay-at-home mother job for a few years, I feel much more picky about what kind of a job I'd want to pursue. If I was bitter about the idea of a job before I even became a mother (because nothing seemed good enough), imagine how I'd feel with actual children at home that I love spending time with. I have to admit that when Zoe was a baby and I worked at The Lion King, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I actually enjoyed going to work and felt good about how I was doing as a parent because of it. However, I will not be returning to the life I had when Zoe was a baby so I couldn't help but dread the inevitable job search.
2) I've had a difficult time accepting that we are really done having kids and feel a mix of sadness and joy whenever either of my kids reaches a new milestone. I cried tears of joy/mourning the day Owen first walked because I knew I'd never have another little baby hanging around on my hip all day. I made a melancholic mental note the day I took Owen to the store to pick out his first pair of big boy underwear. I watched him proudly carry the package up to the cashier and thought to myself "Here's another precious moment I'll never experience again." So yeah, I have a really hard time accepting that this phase I've waited for my whole life is coming to a close. I know I'll be a mom forever, but I've always really enjoyed the toddler-kindergarten age in particular and will be sad to not have these little trouble makers around the house driving me crazy all of the time.
BUT somehow suddenly I've magically gained an entirely new point of view. I don't know how it happened but here is what I do know:
1) I'm working really, really hard to develop and organize Raising Little Heroes and feel extremely proud of what we've accomplished and how much it's grown in such a short amount of time. Although I don't know yet if I'll be able to figure out a way to make this particular group my eventual career, I do know that I feel highly motivated to seek similar work with a nonprofit or to work towards turning this RLH concept into an actual job wherever we do end up after Nathan is done with school. I don't know where I'll start or what will happen but I find myself thinking things like "Oooo! The kids will be in school so I'll have time to actually go and pursue something I find really rewarding and not have to sacrifice time with them! Yay!" Let me be clear, I have never--NEVER--had thoughts like this. Usually I think things like "Well, they will be in school so I'll have to go out and make money somehow and count the hours until I get to go home and that will be fine." Mind you, I know this may happen despite my new found passion but it feels really good to at least have a spark there.
2) I'm discovering the positive things that come with having "older" (not infants anyway) kids. My friend Becca said once, when her youngest at the time was around Owen's age now: "There's something I love about the winter. We are cozy in our house and we can bake and just hang out together"..and I honestly thought: "HUH??!" I could not relate in the slightest. I used to hate hate hate being stuck inside with no other adult to keep me company. I felt like I was doing every single thing for the kids and nothing for myself. Anything I wanted to take care of (cleaning the bathroom, cooking something) had to be done in little pockets of quiet (nap) time and if I tried to take care of it with them around, I felt like I had a time bomb strapped to my ass. At any moment, this could all explode so get it done FAST! Now though, I'm finding myself actually enjoying our quiet winter mornings in the house together. Lately I've been baking and cooking more and have discovered that I really love baking bread--something I thought sounded totally impossible not long ago--I mean, there's no way I'd be able to knead the dough for 10 minutes without someone throwing a fit because I wasn't doing something for them. I can also now take a shower after Nathan leaves for the day..not only take the shower, but not have to rush through it (this does not always go perfectly but still). This alone is huge. It seems like I've spent the last 5 years of my showering life either making sure it was okay with Nathan or rushing through it before someone started throwing a fit because I wasn't paying enough attention to them. I can also now clean the bathroom while the kids play together..or they help me clean and it gets done even faster...changes like this have been grabbing my attention more and more these days...
So, I feel like a major shift has occurred. I don't know if it's because the kids are getting older and this just sort of naturally happens or if I've somehow magically changed my own point of view but I feel this amazing sense of relief. I can now enjoy watching my kids grow without those black clouds over my head. That probably sounds dramatic but I'm being 100% sincere. I feel hopeful and excited for the years ahead and I can't believe I was carrying around so much sadness and dread before. I'm not sure how I did it but I'm glad to have found a way to lighten that load.