Thursday, December 20, 2007

A suburban housewife for one year

A year ago today, I woke up with nothing in particular to do. It was the first day after I'd quit my job to be a stay-at-home mom. I tried writing about the strangeness of it that day, and again a week later, judging by the dates of unfinished files in my Google Docs folder. I was exhausted at that point, so every time I wrote a sentence I needed a nap, which wasn't conducive to getting much writing done. And what was there to say? It wasn't a very exciting thing to write about:

This morning when the alarm went off, I stayed in bed. Brian got up, turned it off, and went downstairs, while the cat curled back up beside me. About half an hour later I wandered downstairs for some orange juice, just as Brian was heading back up to get ready for work. I did the Sudoku and puttered around a bit. When Brian left for work, I wandered around the house aimlessly for a little bit. I had told Brian that on my first day at home, I wasn't going to set any goals for accomplishing things. I was going to eat and sleep, and just enjoy not doing anything. Getting things done could wait until Thursday. But after I checked my email, I started a load of laundry, made the bed, wrapped some presents, and tried to clear out the slow-running bathroom sink with baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water (which totally failed, but did make cool noises).

So it wasn't particularly interesting, although no longer being required to show up for work was a relief, even if I had had an easy desk job. It was nice to not have to commute up to Glover Park from Alexandria each morning. When I got tired during the day, I could lie down and nap for an hour. I tried to get something done around the house each day, and I tried to get out for a walk every day, but other than that, my only task was growing the baby. It was strange to become "a stay-at-home mom with no kids," although apparently, according to what I wrote last year, one of my friends had noted when I described myself that way that the Bush Administration would probably just call me a stay-at-home-mom, and even give my fetus Medicaid. (I have no recollection of that conversation, but I know exactly which friend would have been the one to say that.) I ended up with three weeks off before Adriana's arrival--three weeks to rest up, to allow myself time for the quiet contemplation of the end of pregnancy, the strange turning inward that seems to happen for most women. That was a huge blessing.

Then Adriana arrived and everything changed. Moments for quiet contemplation seemed few and far between, even with our easy-going little girl. IN the early days, when I wasn't busy with her, I was too exhausted to think. But there wasn't that scary end-of-maternity leave date looming six- or twelve-weeks ahead on the horizon. I found it comforting that for the time being, my sole job was to nurture my baby.

Before we were ever married, Brian and I talked abstractly about kids ("our subjunctive children," we referred to them), and I recall him saying that he assumed that if we had children I would continue to work afterwards. I was thinking along the same lines at that point, but as we began to talk about starting a family more seriously, I realized that it was important to me to be able to stay home with our baby, and Brian agreed with me. I feel incredibly lucky that we were able to afford to give up my salary. That means it's important for us to stay a one-car family, and that it will take longer for us to get to a position where we can buy a house. Most of the people around us were very supportive of our choice, although there were a few comments that annoyed me because they made me feel defensive ("Your brain will turn to mush!") and others that made me want to jump to the defense of families where both parents work ("It's really the best thing for the baby."). For the most part I haven't felt the need to proclaim that "Of course I work!" or that "Adriana is my job!" when people ask me if I work, although when couple of (childless) friends have commented that they wished they didn't have to do anything Brian has had to listen to me bitch about them that night.

There are days when I have my doubts, days when Adriana and I are both sleep deprived and cranky, days when I wish someone else were dealing with her refusals to nap and the constant fussing. Then I think that trying to do another job on so little sleep wouldn't be fun, either, and I'd really only get to spend time with Adriana at the end of the day, which is not her finest time. There are those days. But most days we play together and I use her naps to take some time for myself or get things done around the house. She holds my finger and leads me around and around the apartment on her wobbly legs, stopping to laugh at the cat or investigate a magazine that was left on the couch, and I am completely aware of how good life is, how lucky I am.

In one of the posts I began last December, I wrote, "I spent most of my final commute home wondering if I'd made the right decision. All that time and money spent on grad school to become a stay-at-home mom? Would I go absolutely crazy in the first three months of being home alone with the baby? Should I have at least kept working right up until when the baby came?" A year later, I do feel that it was the right decision. That's a nice feeling to have.


Jay said...

I was thinking about you being a stay-at-home mom the other day. With Ruthie, I have been in that role most of the time. Yeah, I did spend a lot of money getting that PhD, but I have never regretted the time I've spent with Ruthie.

Probably the best year I've spent with her has been this last one, though. When she turned 13, everything seemed to change: she had always been mature for her age, but there was a quantum leap last January. We have SO MUCH fun together. I'm so glad we homeschool and are together so much.

I'm glad we had all the previous years together too. I always wanted to homeschool Sky, but we were never in a position to do that.

Being home with your children can be more meaningful than any other "job" you'll ever have. But sometimes it takes a while to see the fruits of your labors. And sometimes you find out what a rotten job you did along the way! (Happens to everyone: there are no perfect parents!)

the sister said...

In about 5 months I'm going to be a house wife without the stay-at-home-mom title or even the soon-to-be-mom title. It seemed silly to me at first to take a month off before looking for work. I don't exactly know what I'm going to do all day. But I didn't want to get into a brand new job and immediately ask for two weeks off work. Besides, with my ideas about having children, this will probably be the only time I am ever jobless until I retire.