I hesitated for a considerable time before sharing my first post. I wondered if it made me seem miserable. I wasn’t sure if my honesty might be misinterpreted as unhappiness. I was also concerned that I might be crossing a line in terms of the sanctity of our family life. I share a lot on social media, Instagram in particular, but I have always been very mindful not to post anything that I think could upset or humiliate my children later. I asked myself: what would they think if they read this?
Would they worry that they weren’t enough?
As I said in my first post, these reflections on my life, and my confusion as to my identity presently, don’t stem from feelings of sadness or regret. So why the need to (over)share them now?
I think my current wistfulness comes from a couple of places.
The first is my belief that, as a society, we do not value the role of a stay at home parent (or, in fact, the act of caring for anyone, whether as part of a family relationship or professionally). Even the terminology* feels derisive: as though a person who chooses to be the primary caregiver for their child has failed to maintain a meaningful contribution to modern society. They have ‘stayed at home’; checked out. Few people seem to recognise any worth in what I am doing. And I’m not looking for a medal, incidentally, or my name in lights. Just an acknowledgement that caring for children all day, every day, is hard work, as well as a privilege. I haven’t become a “lady who lunches” (that particular gem was, quite genuinely, said to me by one of the male partners when I went into the office to resign in person at the end of my maternity leave). I do not believe that I am “Helping Kill Feminism and Mak[ing] the War on Women Possible” (thanks for the solidarity, Elizabeth Wurtzel**). I do not accept the suggestion that I have let myself, or anyone else, down by making this choice. I know I shouldn’t let these stereotypes bother me and, on a good day, they don’t. But I’m unfortunately not quite so robust so as to manage perpetual indifference as to what others think of me. I’m working on it.
The second is more significant and also much simpler: although I am confident in the decision to stay at home with my children for this stage of their lives, it has involved a sacrifice in terms of my identity and my career (perhaps in part because the former was so wrapped up in the latter). It would be too easy if I saw motherhood as my vocation; if there was nothing else I wanted. That isn’t realistic. I will not do myself or my family the disservice of pretending that I am one-dimensional. When my children grow up, I want to be able to show them how much I adore them but also how important it is to find a balance.
When my son was born, I was completely overwhelmed by the gravity of my love for him. It was all-consuming and disorienting. It left almost nothing in its wake. Combined with his fairly poor health and a temporary move when he was just eight weeks old, far from family and friends, I was submerged by motherhood, completely. It took quite a long time to recover and, by the time I was beginning to raise my head above the parapet once more, I was pregnant again!
Although I currently find myself thoroughly engrossed by life with two children, the arrival of my daughter hasn’t subsumed me in the same way. I have felt much better equipped to cope. I think that’s why the time feels right to explore and enjoy something beyond motherhood. I know that it won’t be the same something as before. Life has changed, irrevocably, and I have changed with it.
And so, the question of whether my children are or should be “enough” just isn’t the right one. They shouldn’t have to be “enough”.
They are so much more than that!
They are my everything.
But at the same time, they can’t be my only.
*I do use the term “stay at home mum/parent” for convenience but suggestions of any good alternatives would be welcomed!
** I appreciate that I haven’t managed a very timely rejection of this piece but reject it I certainly do https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/06/1-wives-are-helping-kill-feminism-and-make-the-war-on-women-possible/258431/