My husband said to me:
You want to be a full-time writer and a full-time mother
so you’ll never be happy.
I corrected him: I’ll never be SATISFIED. I feel happy quite a lot.
He’s right. I want to spend eight hours a day taking care of my children and another eight hours writing, and I’d be willing to put in two hours of grocery shopping, errands or cleaning. I’d like to hang out with my husband a few hours a day, which leaves three hours to either relax by myself or see friends.
So if I stop sleeping, I’d be satisfied. AND CRAZY.
I’ve let go of some of my obligations, but I can’t seem to get ahead. I have nothing left to give up. Or I have nothing more that I’m willing to give up.
I thought that I had bypassed this internal struggle by leaving medicine.
An opinion piece by Dr. Karen Siebert came out in the New York Times this month about how female MDs need to work full-time because they have a higher calling and owe it to the world. And while I certainly don’t think that this mass exodus of women from careers that our foremothers fought for us to be included is confined to medicine, I have written about how I do feel like I let the feminism movement down. And the arguments that feminism gave us choice to stay at home or work don’t hold weight in medicine. I didn’t have choices. I had 60-80 hours a week away from my firstborn for 3 years. Or nothing. And I think that business executives and partners in law firms have the same bleak prospects.
I have always believed that my decision to stay at home was right for myself and for my family. I am not condescending towards mothers and fathers who stay in medicine or other time-consuming careers. I think that the greatest gift we can give our children is an acknowledgment of our limitations and then making choices that reflect this. In fact, I admire women who continue to break the glass ceilings that I chose to walk away from.
And I thought that walking away meant I would stay at home until my children were in school full time. At that point, I would consider a career. But within a year, I was so wrapped up in mothering that I was only E’s Mom. No Alex. And I was neither happy nor healthy.
So I went off to find Alex. I imagined that I would reconnect to a passion or finding a new one. A would develop a hobby. I chose to return to poetry as I had written poems since I was 14 years old. But one thing led to another and within a few years, I was working. And staying at home.
Happy and dissatisfied.
I love writing. At first, I didn’t realize that I was working. Or dissatisfied.
Now, I have deadlines and finances and schedules but in an area that my passion exceeds the doldrums of the job.
And I suffer from my expectations and desires: If I had more time to write, I would be better. My posts, my articles, freelance opportunities, my book, my poetry would improve so much if I had 40 hours to dedicate to them. 60 hours. 80 hours. I could do it all.
I WANT to do it all.
Until I see myself annoyed at my children needs. And I look around my dirty house. I don’t read books or watch movies or make time for my husband. Going on vacation makes me anxious.
And then I am annoyed at the needs of my words and social media. I despair at my passion. I am miserable not writing, but I am unable to contain it.
The constant pressure to be available on every front is crushing.
The push and pull begins. I drop one project. I put N in school an extra day. I rush them to grow up so I can have more time to write. Until I remember that the point of stepping away from medicine was to not miss these moments so I beg them to slow down and for my writing opportunities to wait three more years.
I left medicine because I didn’t believe that I could have it all. And I didn’t love medicine enough to pay the price.
Writing and blogging offer more choices. The price seemed less, but perhaps my love of writing colored my perspective.
Because when my children won’t sleep while I’m trying to work, I am not always kind. And if I didn’t have work to do, would I be more patience? More forgiving of their unpredictability?
I create as much space as I can for them, but in the back of my mind, I often think: I have work to do.
I am a stay-at-home mom.
I am a writer.
I live each day happy, purposeful and dissatisfied.
I didn’t know this was the price I’d pay.