SAHM No More explores the the ups-and-downs of navigating a new world of parenting, transitioning from married stay-at-home motherhood to a full-time working, divorced motherhood. And there are a lot of adjustments being made—a lot of adjustments and not a lot of sleep.
Lately, it’s been feeling like I’m crawling toward the weekends. By the end of the week, after five straight days of waking up early to walk the dog, making school lunches, getting the kids to school on time, rushing off to work, rushing home from work, picking up the kids, making dinner, supervising homework, forcing showers on grubby, unwilling children, and then getting them into bed, the weekends always come as a huge relief. A relief, but not exactly a time of rest. This is because a good deal of my job is dependent on me going out and doing and seeing things that are happening around my city. So, I wind up going out to concerts and readings and new restaurants and bars. All of which are great things to do, but don’t exactly contribute to relaxation or, frankly, my mental health.
What I’m trying to say is that the state of my undereye circles is not good. And sometimes, when I am hustling my younger son to school and see other moms in their yoga gear or I run into them at a local cafe as I grab a cup of coffee to take on my morning commute while they settle in to a good conversation with a friend, I get a little wistful. Is wistful the right word? Is it more like flat-out jealousy? At times, it’s kind of felt like that.
The whole “grass is greener” mentality isn’t groundbreaking, but my feelings were only made clearer to me by a conversation that I recently had with a friend who is a stay-at-home mother. This conversation followed a long period of time when we just hadn’t had the opportunity to see each other. We had made plans here and there, for lunch or coffee, but the plans had been broken after I had to take care of stuff at work. I had always apologized profusely and we had finally managed to reschedule, but we hadn’t had any face-to-face communication in a while.
But still I was surprised when she flat out asked me, “Are you sure that you’re not bored of me?”
I immediately assured her that, of course, I wasn’t bored of her. I tried to explain that I envied that she had more time to do things for herself and that it might sound like I was doing exciting things but that, really, I was just the same old person. How could I be bored of something that had been remarkably similar to my old life?
Later, though, as we ran out of things to say to each other—and this is a friend who I used to chat with for hours without ever coming up for breath—I wondered if maybe I was a little bored. Maybe I had been bored before I started working full-time and making a real effort to fill my life with things that were creatively and intellectually stimulating.
It’s not that I’m bored with my old friends but rather the routines of my old lifestyle. And the sort-of blindered lives that many parents live, focusing only on their children and not much else that’s going on in the outside world. I mean, I’m not saying that all mothers are like that, but I am saying that it is easy to fall into that trap, where your life revolves solely around your kids to the detriment of the rest of the world.
Now, I’m constantly participating and living in a way that has nothing to do with the fact that I’m a mother. Is this lifestyle exhausting at times? Sure. Totally. Again, just look at the circles under my eyes. They’re huge. But as busy as I am, my working life is also so much more fulfilling to me than stay-at-home motherhood.
I’m being fulfilled in a way that is not only separate from my kids but also, paradoxically, intertwined with them in a really important way. It’s separate, naturally, because it has nothing to do with them. My work is something that is defined by me and my own skills. But it’s also connected to them because they share in the pride that I feel in my job and they benefit from having a mother who has more to talk about at the dinner table than her exercise routine. One of the best parts of my day with my kids has always been sitting down to dinner and sharing one good thing and one bad thing about our days. I was always fascinated by whatever they would tell me. But I used to honestly struggle to come up with my own answers that didn’t rely on “the best part of my day is sitting here with you.” Sometimes, of course, that is the best part of my day. And that’s great. But it’s also a lot more beneficial for me, and for my kids’ perceptions of me, when the best part of my day is something new and exciting for them to hear about.
And so while, no, the lives of my stay-at-home mom friends don’t bore me, neither do I envy them as much as I might have thought I would. I might not have time for yoga or a morning run through the park anymore, but it’s worth it to me. The grass where I am is just fine.