I was raised in a home with a detached and self-involved father, and a stay-at-home mother who made me her whole world, and still does to this day.
At the age of 6, I declared that I want to have a career and liked my first boy because he wanted to be either “an astronaut or a house husband”.
I liked him because of the latter. Well – that and the fact he shared his astronaut ice cream with me.
But mostly the “house husband” thing.
These two facts are important to note because they provide the context to throw my internal struggle into brighter relief. Some of you may read this and declare that I’m ungrateful. I am not. Or you may decide that I think stay at home moms don’t have a life outside of mothering. I don’t think that. I am eternally grateful for what I have. I understand that my upbringing was an anomaly and not that norm. But that doesn’t make things simple. Far from it.
Shmerson and I made the decision to move closer to our office (we work at the same company, in drastically different departments with no overlap) a year ago. In July, we finally pulled the trigger and moved a 10 minute walk away from it.
What was once a 4 hour-a-day commute for Shmerson, and a work-from-home most days situation for me, was transformed into something completely different. My schedule didn’t change by much, but being in the thick of things made me reorder priorities, remember that meetings, networking, heels, make-up, and business trips exist. It brought me back to a very ambitious, career-minded place.
This is something I hadn’t truly felt in almost a decade (pretty much since finishing grad school tired and disillusioned).
Shmerson’s schedule changed drastically as well. Instead of coming home at 9pm long after bedtime, he gets home just in time for Bunny’s dinner and bath. Instead of dropping her off quickly at day care each morning so he can catch a train, he usually takes her in her stroller, and literally has time to stop and smell the flowers. He spends the morning with her and drops her off, I pick her up and spend the afternoons with her.
When once I was the dinner-bath-bedtime officer during the week, we now rotate. We split weekends into time where we each have Bunny separately while the other sleeps, rotating chores, and quality family time.
In short – we’re 50/50 parents. As in – we really are. Yes. For reals.
Sure there are discrepancies. I’m usually the one to make and take Bunny to doc appointments. Shmerson is the one who gets her up and ready each morning. I cook and in general plan meals. He clears the table, does dishes and most of the laundry. I do the grocery shopping, he deals with anything involving paperwork, and running morning errands like going to the post office and bank.
In the 15 (!) months since Bunny was born, and especially in the last 4, we have fought, negotiated, and compromised our way into equilibrium. We both have quality time with Bunny, manage to push forward our careers, and even grab some quality time for the two of us, and with friends.
Granted, we don’t sleep much. But we’re pretty much “in the zone.”
We fought hard to reach this place. I’ve wanted it for as long as I can remember. Before I even knew him. This is what I wanted.
Now that I have it – I’m scared out of my mind.
There are days she clearly wants him to comfort her over me.
There are days I have to work late and I barely see her for an hour.
There are mornings I choose sleep and miss something adorable she’s done. Or a new word she said.
There are things he knows about her that I don’t.
Of course, the same thing can be said of him. Of course there are nights he works late. There are words he misses. There are things I know that he doesn’t.
And I’m just going to go right ahead and say this, my women’s studies minor be damned.
But I’m her mother. I’m not supposed to miss things. She’s not supposed to go to anyone but me for comfort. I should be the one putting her hair in pigtails each morning, and in PJs each night.
This is what a mother does. A mother gives everything to her daughter.
This is the only world that I know.
And now I’m living in one where that isn’t true.
I know I’m modeling a wonderful, respectful and balanced relationship for her.
I know I’m demonstrating ambition, and being a strong independant woman and all that good stuff.
I know that making myself happy is critical to keeping her happy.
I know having two parents that are involved is GOOD FOR HER.
But it goes against what I experienced. It goes against what I grew up on. My mother is my whole world because she was always there, and still is.
Will Bunny feel the same way about me? I want her to more than anything else. And I’m deathly afraid that she won’t.
Every day, logic and experience are in a constant tug of war.
Of course she’ll always love me. I’m her mother, and I’m a good mother.
But I’m not there 24/7. I’m not always her soft place to fall.
That’s good. That means she has multiple soft places to fall.
But I want it to be ME. That’s the way it’s SUPPOSED TO BE.
No. It’s just what you were raised on. It can and should be different, and for her – it is different.
What if she hates me because I’m not always there?
She will always love you, you are her mother.
Yes, but I’ve chosen to be other things as well.
At the age of six, I thought I knew what being an ambitious woman with no desire to stay at home meant.
At the age of 34, I’m starting to realize that it isn’t as simple as I thought it would be.