In a word, that is how I feel lately about the whole going to work / staying home deal.
When I was at home full time for all those years, I thought my brain was melting away to nothing. The sheer tedium of simply raising children was going to kill me. Quilting, sewing, blogging, baking bread and obsessively reading parenting books were all strategies I used to keep myself engaged in some way. But it seemed so boring. So under stimulating. Here we go to the park - again. Here we sit down to a snack of bananas and cheese - again. Here we are wiping smeared banana and regurgitated (on purpose) cheese off the baby, floors, and walls - again. Here we are breaking up the same fight over the same toy - again.
Then I had to go back to work. And suddenly, the last place I wanted to be was out of my house. I wanted to be the one who said when my children went to the park. I wanted to be the one reading "The Busy Spider" for the 500th time. I wanted to be the one breaking up the fights, handing around the healthy snacks and cleaning up the mess. Because while I was there I could be sure my kids were getting to the park, being read to, eating healthy and learning the ropes of rudimentary civilization. Not that I was particularly good at cleaning up, keeping things organized or being a disciplinarian. But at least I was responsible when things went wrong, not someone else.
The last year and a half have been a lesson in letting go. In allowing other people to share the burden for my children. In allowing my children to adapt to different situations and different parenting and care giving styles. And we are all okay.
I realized I had made my children, and my role as mother, into an idol. I was putting my role as Mother, and my children's needs -real and perceived - ahead of myself, my marriage and God. This was not a healthy state of affairs for anyone.
But now I come to another impasse. I love my current job. I love the students, I am having fun teaching my courses, and I like the people I am working with. I love the action and stimulation and quick thinking required to be a high school teacher. I love the repartee, the funny things teenagers do, and the necessity of outsmarting them before they outsmart you. For me, although teaching is serious business, I am at my best when I treat it like a game. It energizes me in a way that staying home does not, even as it drains away the energy I would love to be putting into my own children's lives. Yet the possibility of having an impact on even a handful of students every year over the life of my teaching career is thrilling. To think I may have helped them through the hell that high school can be - that I have given them hope, helped them to feel like they belong, inspired them to learn, to grow, or to become kinder or more responsible human beings - is a huge payoff.
In two months, I go back into the role of stay at home mom. Back to that new baby place full of mindless, sleepless repetition. Back to trying to nurse the baby while you read to the toddler and do a puzzle with the 5 year old (and help the 7 year old with his homework). Back to trying to get everyone to sleep at the same time so I can get enough sleep to make it through the day (or night). Back to that place where excitement means you went to the library before the grocery store instead of after.
Yet it also means going back to the world where I can be the one guiding and caring for my children. Where I can truly get to know them and build the solid relationships that will allow me to keep being influential in their lives as they grow and change. Where I can learn patience, discipline and organization and hopefully pass on a little bit of it to my kids. Where I can be there when they leave on the bus, and when they come home and when they go to bed. Where we can take our time in the mornings, instead of rushing everyone out the door by 8:30. Where my kids don't ask me, "Do I get to eat breakfast with you this morning, mom? I miss eating breakfast together."
And how do I feel about going back to that world? Ambivalent. On the one hand, I want to stay home with my kids until they hit grade school. That was always my plan - to be there for them in those early years. On the other hand, I love to teach, and I know I will miss it as much as I miss being at home now.
I suppose the best I can do is to go back into that stay at home mom world with a fresh perspective. Remembering what a privilege it is to stay with my kids and raise them. Appreciating the relationship that will be formed between myself and my children by putting in those endless hours or reading, puzzle building, breastfeeding, changing and feeding them. And keeping this new balance between the real needs of my children and the needs of my marriage, my personal well being and my faith that I have been discovering in the last year and a half.
So my friends, here's to my last two and a half months of teaching high school. And to a hopefully more balanced return to full time parenting. Wish me luck.