I couldn’t be a SAHM
By Melody Gee
I’m happy to be guest-posting for Jessica while she’s busy being a mom of two. Our daughter, B, was born in February, 2011. I wanted to write about a recent big change in our lives: my return to work this August.
Thinking I knew myself pretty well, I planned to return to work soon after my daughter’s birth. Then she arrived, one week past her due date and by emergency c-section, and no place mattered besides where she was. No work other than meeting her every need mattered. Before her, teaching was my vocation and my primary identity. I was not prepared to feel that identity shift so sharply, or for my job to fall completely off the cliff of my consciousness. So I pushed back my return date until the next semester, giving me six whole months of maternity leave. I took the pay cut and felt like the luckiest person alive.
Every day of my leave I thought about quitting my job, which made me both panic about our finances, and realize that I was reluctant to leave, even temporarily, the career I loved. And still the thought of going back to work left me profoundly sad. Not even guilty, exactly. It was the thought of our separation that crushed me, that felt like a break up, or a death. As I tried to pretend August wasn’t creeping ever closer, I unexpectedly found myself feeling less like I wanted to stay home full time, and more like I should want to stay home.
The difficult truth is that while I desperately wanted to become a SAHM, I learned over my leave that I couldn’t do it. Whereas I handled teaching with confidence and stellar time-management, I felt easily overwhelmed by a day of child care. I scoured the internet (this blog included) and joined a local mom group, looking for advice. Ultimately, I knew I was doing everything right–my daughter was happy and thriving and fun to be with. But I wasn’t.
Maybe I should have been screened for PPD, or found some more help, or improved my organization. There are probably many ways I could have done better at home, but the truth is I didn’t want to. Only, I couldn’t admit it at the time.
In August, I returned to work at a new school closer to home, and at first my fears actualized: I was miserable, guilty, distracted, and resentful. I cried when my daughter went to bed, having spent 8 hours at daycare, and only 3 hours with me. Despite regretting my decision at first, I did manage to enjoy my students, my colleagues, and my new classes. The new school was a good fit, and I felt my teaching mattered there. To my relief, my daughter loved daycare. Our family caught up on playtime during weekends. One day, I realized that things were actually good. When I finally let myself feel satisfied with work, I found that it didn’t undermine being a mom. Being good at my job didn’t equal neglecting my child. Feeling good about my job didn’t equal loving my child less.
Sometimes, I’m still disappointed and guilty about working outside. But it’s not for me to figure out why I am the way I am. All I can do is make the best of what I know about myself. My husband is supportive. My family is better because I love my work. I still miss my daughter every day. I suppose I always will. But if my first priority is to be a good parent, then I need to stay healthy and happy for her, which for me means continuing to try and balance outside work and home.
Wasn’t that a great post? Thank you Melody for sharing your story.