It feels anti-feminist and uncool to like being a stay-at-home-mom. I don't think of myself as one because I still do freelance work, probably more actual work during the week (besides taking care of Wally) than I've done at any previous jobs. No meetings, no cubical pop-bys, no "going over what I'm doing" with my boss. Giving up a career is nearly unheard of but in my case it was giving up a day-job since I'd been demoted a bunch of times in the last two years I'd been there. Was it related to the office quotes I kept and accidentally printed to a VP's printer? I'll never know. Would I be at home with Wally if I hadn't been laid off? It is such a way of life for me now. It's become this mission to "slow down" enough to get into his world, not to try to force him into mine anymore. I find myself getting ridiculously sanctimonious about it. I was reading How to Simplify Your Life with Kids and it kept referencing this book Your Money or Your Life which I haven't read yet, but just the idea -- just the title -- is so motivating. ("Read any good books lately?" "I've seen some good titles." I sound like George W.)
Which do you want? Your money or your life? Of course we want enough money to pay for health insurance and food and shelter, but how much more than that do we need? Can we make do with less if it means more time with family, more time with friends, more time enjoying nature and quiet? And yet any time I ask those questions I feel so hokey, so uncool. Let's get some horses and cook communal dinners and sing "Blowin' in the Wind".
Looking at my life since I graduated from college, I don't see a lot of deliberate choices. And now I'm at this turning point, this "Can you have it all?" moment where I see most of my friends deciding to put off kids indefinitely or at least for a while. I see most of the ones who have them still going forward with their careers. Can you have a family, a career, a great social life, trips to Morocco? I'd love to hear what others think about this. Woman are certainly entitled to have what men have always had -- careers and kids -- but what are kids entitled to? We've got tons of "fun and stimulating" activities for them to engage in from 6 weeks on, but most of them don't require our participation.
I was talking to Wally's speech therapist two days ago. She clicked with him instantly and like all the therapists has helped us enormously (in different ways, none of them seems to agree with any of the others on what exactly is "wrong" and what needs to be done). She is studying more in-depth speech therapy specifically for kids with Asbergers and switching schools in the fall. I admire her steadfastness, her ability to stay on such a straight course and become more and more specialized. She's known since childhood when she watched her brother receive speech therapy what she wanted to do. Maybe it hit me especially because she is younger than me. Standing outside the playground after she left I thought about all the choices I refused to make, like D.H. Lawrence's line about writing an entire novel like you drive at night by only seeing what's a little bit ahead of you. My friend Kristin Brenneman had a great line about "the continual unchoice of the moment". Now that I am home with Wally I can't see any other option for raising him (other than Alex continuing to stay home). And yet what led me here was an accumulation of all that continual unchoice of the moment. This far into adulthood those non-decisions that became decisions start to catch up with you.
Recently a friend told me her mom likes my blog but is surprised by how much I talk about motherhood. My friend's response: "I think that's a big part of her life now" and while I know the mom knows this, I really appreciated her reaction. There is a fear of being "just a mom" or being defined by your kids, identifying with them too much. Yet the danger I see in most families these days is far too much in the other direction. There's a lot of talk about kids and all the milestones they're reaching way ahead of schedule, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of paying attention, a lot of quiet moments, a lot of time to see where those kids--if allowed to wander just a little bit--might lead us. I hope I am able to make the deliberate choice to give Wally lots of it. I hope that doesn't sound selfish and small-minded and like, God, would you get over yourself? And I hope I can stop caring about whether or not it does.