Before we had Nora I had a serious decision to make – whether to return to work (I’d have to get a new job, as there was NO WAY we could make my being a flight attendant work with a baby – nor did I have any desire to remain at that job) or be a stay-at-home parent.
That parenting is transformative is surely not a revelation (or a truth) exclusive to me, as I imagine motherhood – parenthood – changes people in huge and unexpected ways. But I can only speak to my experience, which has been resoundingly positive so far.
I’ve not worked full-time for a couple of years now, since before I even got pregnant, because of some issues at the company where I technically held a full-time position. I worked very part-time but was on call most of the rest of the time so I couldn’t even get a second part-time job. I was so bored with housework that it made me question whether being a SAHM was the right choice for me. I didn’t want to spend my life being bored and frustrated, tied to the house and responsible for all the chores I hated doing.
I also struggled with an idea of feminism that at one time had made a lot of sense to me but as time went on, made less sense and caused more guilt. Would I be setting an anti-feminist example for my daughter by giving up my job and income, being fully financially dependent on her father? Or does feminism mean – should it mean – that women have a choice about what we do with our lives and are not just expected to stay home and take care of the children? At the end of the day I discovered that it didn’t matter what feminism meant to other women; to me it meant being able to make my own decisions and it meant my husband not having the expectation that I would automatically stay home with babies. It was a conversation we had over and over, and continue to have, to make sure that it makes sense for us, that I’m still happy to stay home and he’s still comfortable being our family’s sole provider (which is a role I think often gets overlooked in the conversation about SAH-parenthood; it’s a big burden to have on one person’s shoulders these days and Zack wears the burden with exceptional grace). I’ve known as long as I can remember that I want to have a family and be home with my kids when they are small. I’ve never been passionate about a job or the idea of a career. I decided not to give up on my dream of being a SAHM and I am so glad I didn’t.
As it turns out, I still hate doing the dishes and I let the laundry pile up until Zack or I are down to our last pair of clean underwear. I am endlessly trying to stay on top of the pet hair situation in our house. Zack and I go back and forth almost every night about what to have for dinner because by the evening we are both so done making decisions. But I do all the things I would rather not have to do because being home with our baby is so awesome. I’m grateful every single day that my husband has a job that is able to provide enough income for me to stay home. I’m thankful that I have been there for every milestone our daughter has reached and when I leave Nora it is always on my terms. Don’t even get me started on how thankful I am that I don’t have to pump breast milk every day, many times a day. The women who do that are straight up heroes in my book; pumping sucks.
Anyway, since Nora came into our lives my life has made so much more sense. Finally, this mom gig has given me a purpose that no other job has ever even hinted at offering me. The passion I feel for my child is incredible; much different than I ever imagined, and much more powerful. I am GOOD at being a mom, at being Nora’s mom, and I’m confident in myself as a mother. It’s inherent, as natural as breathing in and out, and I didn’t expect it to be.
I expected to spend at least one day a week totally exasperated with being home and going through our mundane routine. I expected to be tired of silly songs with hand motions and dirty diapers and somebody always touching me, crying for me, the endless need. I expected to want to hand Nora off every evening as soon as Zack got home and sometimes escape to the closet to cry and eat ice cream in private and with NO ONE TOUCHING ME. I expected to run out of patience every day. I just hoped that the good would mostly outweigh the bad.
Generally when Zack arrives home I hand Nora over to him, but not because I need a break (though that does happen). I give her to him because they only get a short time in the evenings to be together before Nora’s bedtime. I usually sit with them while they smile at each other and I recount whatever new and wonderful things Nora has done that day. She makes us both laugh. My patience is slower to run out than it has ever been. I have never been called a patient person, yet somehow I’ve found a way to be that for my daughter. It’s just amazing.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to pretend like we haven’t had our struggles since Nora’s birth. Those early weeks were filled with trying to decipher exactly WHY our baby was in such gastrointestinal distress until she was diagnosed with reflux and put on Zantac. There was an element to her stomach problems that only time helped as her system figured itself out and matured a bit. I cut A LOT of foods out of my diet as we tried to figure out if anything I was eating was a source of the problem and we finally narrowed it down to a couple of (beloved) food items that I had to avoid for six months. Now that her stomach is normal and she’s outgrown the reflux we are struggling with sleep. I am up usually more than five times a night with a kid who just. won’t. self. soothe. She just doesn’t get it and I am mostly too lazy to sleep train her. Sleep training means I lose so much more sleep in the short-term and right now I can’t bear that thought. We co-sleep and we’ve mastered side-lying nursing (a genius invention) and while my sleep is very broken I seem to function fine most days even without a nap. We are making it work.
Being a parent has its obvious ups and downs but for me the ups far, far outweigh the downs. Being a mom has allowed me to grow and change in ways that I never thought possible. Every day I get to wake up and hang out with the coolest person I know. I get to be there as she grows and learns and with every forward step she helps me grow and learn, too. I look on while my husband sings to our daughter or volunteers to change a poopy diaper and I love him even more now that he’s her dad (he’s such a good dad).
I guess what I’m saying is that as far as jobs go it’s not perfect but it’s pretty damn close.