What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient... highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it's almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed - fully understood - that sticks; right in there somewhere. (Inception)
(With so much love and gratitude to Lindsay who never stops listening, even when I'm not saying anything.)
An idea had been taking hold of my brain lately. (And don't worry, I'm pretty sure I wasn't incepted. I mean, I'm pretty sure I haven't even had any long enough stretches of sleep for that.)
The idea was this:
What if I'm not cut out to be a stay at home mom?
I know where it came from. I'd been feeling overwhelmed, peopled out, exhausted. My kids hadn't been napping; they'd been on top of me constantly, and my big girl had been cranky and wanting to just sit and cuddle. I'd been feeling frustrated, exhausted, and at the same time understimulated.
I have needs that aren't being met by my kids. I need to do work that matters. I need to do something intellectual sometimes. I'd been starting to really miss a life where I was smart, competent, appreciated.
And I'd been feeling like a failure.
All of these are normal feelings sometimes.
But here's where the trouble started.
Sometimes people say to me "Oh, I couldn't do what you do. I could never be a SAHM. I'd go crazy."
And I want to say "But I do go crazy. I don't love it. I do feel bored and cranky and resentful sometimes. I do have a need for something more."
And one day in my head, I started to question if that meant I shouldn't be here, shouldn't be doing this.
Maybe stay at home moms are supposed to do it differently than I am. They're supposed to be present and constantly on and enjoy every minute of being with their kids. Maybe the fact that I prefer parenting when both of my kids are asleep means that I don't actually want to be here with them. Maybe they'd be better off in daycare, I'd be better off in a classroom. I should be leaning in instead of opting out. All of this is a waste.
And this idea that had worked its way into my brain, it broke my heart.
But I couldn't tell anyone.
Because how could I say that?
Any which way I said it, it meant I was a failure. Either I was a failure FOR being a stay at home mom or I was a failure AT being a stay at home mom.
What would people say? I didn't want them to say anything. I didn't want to hear that I was right and I should be working full time, and I didn't want to hear that I was wrong and this was as good as it was ever going to get.
So I didn't say it to anyone. And that's where the trouble really started.
Because an idea like this, a simple doubt, when kept in silence, can fester. Can start to define everything you say and do and are.
I am a failure and my choices are wrong and I am letting everyone down. I need to fix it.
I had to do more, to do better, to find meaningful work outside myself, to make day to day motherhood more meaningful, to deconstruct my own brain and fix it. I had to do all of this, and do it all myself, or nothing would ever be better.
But what it looked like was a whole lot of me flailing and getting sucked into the Internet for validation and then at the end of the day realizing I had done even less than what I had done before.
Finally on Friday, I just collapsed under the weight of it all and cried. I was just so tired of failing, so tired of trying, so so tired.
And finally, I reached out to a friend. I said, "It's just so disappointing."
And she? Said, "It is."
And I told her the truth. Poured out all the words that I thought would be like poison if I let them come out, but it turns out were only poisoning me if they stayed inside.
And it was okay.
And here's the truth, as I know it.
I don't know if I'm cut out to be a stay at home mom.
But to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure any of us are cut out for anything.
Things don't have to come naturally to be worth doing. They don't have to be easy, and they don't always have to look meaningful or profound or perfect.
I am a stay at home mom because that's what I chose to be. Not because I was made for it. Not because it's more or less right or good than anything else I could have chosen.
But it's my choice. And it's still my choice. And that's okay.
Sometimes it's really freaking disappointing. And uncomfortable. But everything worth doing is sometimes.
And if I want to do more, do different, do better, I can. I can do so many things. But those are my choices. They aren't me. I'm not a failure. I'm not letting anyone down. I'm good enough and worthy, and I'm fine right where I am right now.
Sometimes, however much it hurts, you need to open the wound and let it drain.