Gratitude and Regret

This is actually an apology note, but it’s also a thank you card of sorts. I want to apologize for yesterday’s post – for its dismissive, disrepectful tone and its divisive content. I also want to thank you for not only engaging in what I felt was a very interesting and constructive but dialogue, but also for calling me out on the inherent negativity of my post. I really, really appreciate the fact that instead of telling me off, as you had every right to do, you provided me with constructive criticism that allowed me to learn more myself and my thoughts and feelings.

In St. Louis I spent a week with my cousin and her baby. This is the cousin who got pregnant the first month she was “not trying but not not trying”. This is the cousin who just bought a house. This is the cousin who left her teaching job and is staying home indefinitely with her daughter. This is the cousin that I love dearly but that also awakens the green monster in me.

And I realize I feel a lot of jealousy towards other SAHMs too. I want to be a SAHM. I don’t think I realized, until this week, who worn down my WOHM schedule was making me. I don’t think I realized how little I was seeing my daughter until I started seeing her all the time. I don’t think I knew how great it would felt to be home with her again until I was home with her again.

I was so lucky to have almost six months off when Isa was born. I had my summer break and then my three months of FMLA leave. It was truly amazing to spend those months with her and I am forever grateful for them. And then I went back and it was hard. Harder than I thought it would be. But I sucked it up because I didn’t have a choice. I took comfort in the fact that my very capable and loving SIL was taking care of Isa and soldiered on. I even convinced myself I didn’t mind working so much, that it wasn’t that bad. I tried hard to adopt a Buddhist attitude of acceptance and mindfulness, getting through each day and being grateful for the good in those 24 hours. I cherished the time that I had with my daughter, but I was also, deep down, always wishing for more.

Lately the financial realities of our situation have become increasingly clear. We can barely afford the life we are living. Having another child, if we’re lucky enough to do so, will bring even more financial hardship. My big dream of staying at home for one year, with two children, looks less and less likely. Unless Mi.Vida finds a new job, I will never be able to stay home. I will have to say goodbye to what feels like a modest dream and I’m resentful of that.

Of course this is assuming we can get pregnant and have another healthy baby. I know I’m already asking for too much. I know I’m already asking for everything, and then I want even more.

But other people get to have it. Why not me? Why can’t I have two healthy children and my own year at home with them?

I think I’m mourning what I will probably never have. I’m mourning the chance to be a SAHM. My heart keeps saying that maybe we can make it happen, perhaps we can swing it, but my head sees that writing on the wall. We can’t afford it. We just can’t.

I’m trying to focus on what I do have, my healthy daughter, my loving husband, a FIL who is willing to watch Isa for us next year and a job that is allowing me a part time schedule… and of course the next six weeks of summer. I have so much. I am truly fortunate. I know this is in my head and in my heart and yet I still feel this emptiness, the place where “what I can’t have” lives.

It’s that empty place that drove me to write yesterday’s post. It’s “what I can’t have” that makes me feel those things. I love being home with Isa and I want it so much. Does it make it easier for me when I lash out at those that have what I want? No. In fact it makes me feel worse but I still seem to do it. Self-destructive behavior is so strange that way.

I apologize again to everyone who was rubbed the wrong way by Friday’s post, to all the SAHM and WOHM who don’t want to further fuel the war between two kinds of mothers that really aren’t all that different to be being with. I’m sorry for sinking to that level of antagonism and I thank you for helping me find my way back to the surface of understanding and acceptance.

I hope we can all remain friends.

15 responses

  1. I ❤ you so, so much.

    We always want more…it's just human nature. I want more than what I have, too, and I recognize that I have so very much.

    In addition to all of the wonderful things that you mentioned you have, you also have strong friendships within this community who will hold your hand as you work through all of the feelings that motherhood brings– yesterday's post was just part of that.

    We're all still here.

    • Thank you for your continuing support. It means more to me than I can ever say. And thank you for reminding me that I have that too, and how much that means to me and how much that gives me. It really is invaluable.

  2. First, I think it’s silly that you would think that I’d stop being your friend over your post. Come on, girl. 🙂 It’s our friendship that made me feel comfortable enough to offer my comment on such a hot, button-pushing subject. I think if the post had been written by a blogger that I respect and enjoy less I probably would have just rolled my eyes. But I always enjoy your posts and our conversations, and I had a feeling based on those that there was an unsaid undercurrent to that post. And one of the things that I love about you–a big thing, really–is that you’re not afraid of honest self-examination and that you hold yourself accountable. (From posting pictures of your bedroom, hehehe, to openly acknowledging and owning your complex feelings on this SAH business.)

    It really is fucked up that our society doesn’t support families in the most basic and most profound way in creating more opportunities for parents to do the kind of caregiving and parenting that so many long to do. I hope that you have a blissful, memory-making summer with Isa. She is a luckly little gal to have you as her mama.

    XX

    • Thank you for not wanting to ditch me after that post. I have had friends in my life that would have, I’m sure. I guess I do try to put myself out there, for better or for worse. There have been many posts I have read later and regretted but I guess in the end I’m glad I put them all out there. I guess the whole point of this blog is to show people what I’m really thinking and feeling so that they can know, if they in similar situations, that they are not alone.

      Sometimes I think I need to move to Canada where I can get a year off after I have a baby. That would rock! It really is insane how little support out country gives us to raise our children, children our country needs us to have. It’s the American way to pay for yourself and your family, we are not a culture built on helping each other. We are a culture built on the notion that if you work hard you get what you want, but you need to get it for yourself and you certainly can’t expect someone else to give it to you. And as families live farther apart and support networks falter, people are stuck fending for themselves. It really is unfortunate. I would love to hope that it will change some day, for the better, but I’m a pretty cynical person and I highly doubt that. In the meantime I guess we’ll all have to make huge sacrifices and do the best we can do, in our individual situations.

  3. I wish more women were able to make a choice when it comes to staying at home or working outside the home. And I wish that society valued that work within the home AS work … because if we did, we would pay child care workers better, we would respect women who chose to stay home, etc. I think it’s important to recognize it as work — work that we LOVE, perhaps … but wouldn’t that be ideal? To work at what we love, all our lives? 🙂

    I don’t think you’ve lost any friends or readers over this. I respect you for trying to sort things out, and being honest about what makes you happy.

    • I also wish more mothers could make a choice when it comes to working inside and outside the home. It shouldn’t be as hard as it is. And you’re right, we don’t respect people who do this work enough, just like we don’t respect teachers enough. It’s funny because our society regards children very highly, but we don’t want to spend much to ensure they are raised under the best conditions. I honestly don’t get that.

      And it would be amazing to do what we love in our lives, to have what we love to do be our job. I used to believe in that possibility but I don’t anymore. At least not for most people, not for me. It’s not that I assume it’s impossible, but I know it’s very, very unlikely. And I’m coming to terms with that.

  4. I was so impressed with the discussion on Friday’s post- I think people were honest and forthcoming with their opinions but at the same time respectful. Exactly what blogging should be about.

    Jealousy IS a monster, isn’t it? I let it get the best of me far too often and it causes so much tension in my marriage. Mostly I’m jealous of my friends who are SAHMs but don’t struggle financially. I see them as truly having it all. I am a SAHM but I feel like we sacrifice and struggle so much financially in order to do it.

    I am so, so sorry that you can’t be a full time SAHM- I really am. I hurt for you, and I wish there was some solution so that you could. I guess you are really tied to the area of the country you live in? I hope you don’t feel like I’m being ignorant or insensitive when I ask that. I just know that I definitely could not be a SAHM if we lived in a more expensive state/city (the cost of living in the Houston area is relatively low and housing is very low compared to, well, California especially). I know for me, moving would be extrememely hard because my roots are here- family, friends, church, etc. But for some people, moving is more of an option- I’m wondering which would be the case for you. Also I don’t know about your husband’s job- how geographically tied he is.

    Is there any way you could make money blogging? (I’m really clueless when it comes to that, and wondering that for myself). You are SO good at it and your posts are so thoughtful and you seem to be gaining more of a readership based on the number of comments you are getting.

    Anyway, thanks for this post, even though I really wasn’t offended by the last one – because I knew before how badly you want to be a SAHM. I really, really hope you can find a way to do it, or find more of a peace about working. Either way, you are a fantastic mother to Isa and she is so blessed to call you Mommy.

    • I am very tied to this area. Mi.Vida grew up in San Francisco. He wants VERY MUCH to raise our children here. His parents live 5 minutes from us and are a huge part of Isa’s life. My parents are about 40 minutes away, near where I work (my mom and I teach on the same campus, but at different schools). So yeah, staying here is pretty much a must. We could move across the bay to Oakland but I would have to get another job and I want to keep my position in my district because sending Isa there for elementary school is my back up plan (SFUSD has a lottery system and it’s hard to get into the school of your choice).

      As for making money other ways, I’ve thought a lot about it. I would have to make about $20K for us to survive and I just can’t think of a way I could make that much. Maybe I could watch someone else child with Isa, that would be the easiest way to do it, but I’m not sure how exactly that would work. And if I got pregnant again… I don’t know what would happen then. There are so many questions and so few answers. If Mi.Vida could get another job, that might be the answer, but he’s been looking for months so I’m not banking on that happening any time soon, not in this economy.

      Thanks for your support!

  5. Like the other commenters, I agree that your particular genius is that you are so honest about what you think and brave, and you allow us to break down our own walls. My normal, everyday interactions with people, whether SAHMs, WOTHs are filled with awkward moments, and sometimes remarks that hurt me. We are all guarding ourselves from jealousies and hurts. For me, I get really jealous of women with more than two kids, and women who have hard-driving careers AND kids. Or, Lord Forbid, the trifecta: the doctor I know with three kids. For me, it’s because I feel such women make me look bad to my husband.

    • It’s interesting that you are jealous of women with hard-driving careers. I am not at all jealous of those women. I guess because I never wanted to have that. As I wrote to someone on Friday’s post I always wanted to be a mom and really only a mom. I became a teacher because I felt I had to become something and that was the most mom-compatible. But I believed that my husband would support me financially and my working would be completely my choice, something to do if I wanted to do it. I wish someone had shaken me and told me it wouldn’t be that way, that it rarely is that way anymore. I would have done things so differently.

      The women I’m most jealous of are the ones who are doing what they want to do, and especially those who get to stay home to do it. People like Mel, she has my perfect life (job wise). She gets to do what she loves all day (write novels and read/curate blogs) – that is so awesome! And she’s with her kids all the time because she works from home. That is my dream situation, but I know that will never happen for me. I can point to Mel because she’s the exception, not the rule. And I’m not going to be the exception.

  6. I float around, and rarely comment, but wanted to say that I was encouraged by the respectful dialogue by you and the other commenters.
    I never planned to stay home. We actually planned for my husband to. But then my daughter was stillborn, a switch was flipped. And i do often get comments about not having a job outside the home, so your post hit a tender spot for me. We live in a part of the country where we can afford for me to be home, so I know how lucky I am. But from my 5 months home with my son so far, my experience is that what I do is not considered valuable (my husband is overwhelmingly supportive of me being at home though).
    I’m glad for your honesty and willingness to not only speak, but to listen and be thoughtful. I wish you many good memories for this summer. I’m sorry it cant be longer.
    You’ve not lost me as a reader.

    • Hello! Thanks for commenting. I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your daughter. I’m sure that would change the choices I make as a mother as well. I also want to make sure it’s clear to everyone that it’s not that I don’t value what SAHMs do. I know they do really important work. Really, really important work. That is why I want to do it so much, because I feel it’s the most important work, though I do recognize that it is, by and large, under appreciated a devalued by our society in general. I think one of the things that inspired that post was I had been recently with a SAHM and she seemed to be implying that it was the same to be a SAHM or a WOHM because both had a job. But I don’t feel that is accurate. When you’re a WOHM you have two jobs, and one of those jobs (being a mom) you never really stop doing. You never stop being a mom, even when you’re at work and it makes your time at work very different than it was before you had children. At least, that has been my experience. So I think my post was in response to that, because I honestly don’t think it’s the same to work outside the home or work at home as a mom. Now whether one is harder or not, I realize now, depends entirely on the person. For me it’s much harder, and lot more work, to have both jobs. But, as some people commented, that is not everyone’s experience. And just because for me doing both is harder, it doesn’t mean doing one still isn’t hard. It is, I’m completely aware of that.

      I’m glad I haven’t lost you as a reader! I will definitely start following you now as well!

      • I didn’t feel like you said SAHM are not valuable…I’m sorry if I made it sound like you did. I just wanted to share what I hear where I’m at. I have respect for the choices that other moms make, especially WOHMs, because it is not always a decision made with ease. I don’t have that experience, so I can’t speak to that it.
        In my real life, I wish I was respected just as equally though.
        It will be interesting to read your thoughts at the end of the summer, if you choose to do a follow up post. Again, glad for your genuine dialogue. Thanks.

  7. It’s funny. We seem to have taken exactly opposite paths. I NEVER thought I would choose to be a SAHM (perhaps my losses had a lot to do with this changing, but that’s difficult to say). This means that I never prepared for it and, had I known this was where I was going, I’m pretty sure I would have done some things differently. Sigh.

    There really are no easy answers in this game. For most of us, there are a series of difficult choices. I’ve come to realize that I have an enormous amount of respect for pretty much every “type” of mom. There is only one kind of mom, and fortunately I have only encountered a couple of these, with whom I just can not identify and she is the mom who is not only completely happy with all aspects of her choice but also sure that it is the only choice worth making.

  8. I’m sorry that you may not be able to have your dream life. I married Nav knowing that his career would dictate my life. Where we live, the hours he works, the trips and deployments are 100% out of my hands. Perhaps that’s why being a SAHM is easier for me. I had a job/career before the boys but consciously made the choice to leave it behind because my having a job + children would interfere with Nav’s job. The Air Force and military is kind of like that though. They encourage SAHMs. The environment is definitely pro-SAHM.

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