Tuesday, March 1

A Guilty Breath

Last night I sat down and made a ridiculous list of things that i would accomplish today.  I didn't really accomplish any of them, but today made me feel good.  Guilty, but good.

Last year at this time I was teaching at Sonshine School (a mother's day out program at our church) and at OCU on alternating days, while pregnant.  Needless to say, I only had one child at the time but I was exhausted.  The mother's would come to drop their children off for five hours and I would resent them.  I would hate them.  I would envy them beyond any measure that is normal.  There was never a day when I would be able to drop my child off and spend a few hours doing grocery shopping or laundry or nap.  And I loved my naps when I was pregnant.
But about a month before Sweet Caroline was born I quit.  I quit working at Sonshine School, and OCU let out.  And i kept sending Jonah to school.  When I worked at SSS Jonah had (more or less) free tuition and the social interaction was good for him, so it made sense for him to be there.  When I quit we had to pay for it.  And I didn't have other obligations to blame on sending him.  I spent time wandering around Target and looking at fabric in Hancock's.  I napped.

We sent Jonah through the summer so that I could spend a little uninterrupted time with Caroline, but really it was that blessed magical time before Caroline and after quitting that I remember so well.  The freedom that I had during that time was familiar.  It was like having shackles removed.  I didn't have to convince a preschooler to obey, or carry large and heavy bags everywhere that I went.

But I felt guilty, just as I did today when I dropped Jonah off at SSS again.  Caroline and I had the day to  wander Target, run errands that weren't that pressing, and take a nap.  I was still carrying a baby, but I still felt so free... and so guilty.

What is it about wanting time away from him that makes me feel so guilty?  The knowledge that I can watch him, but would rather have a nice long break, doesn't mean that I don't love my child.   We've made a lot of financial sacrifices so that I don't have to work a full-time job, so that I CAN be home with him all the time.  If I really want to be away form him, why don't I get a real job?

Oh, how I rail against the bars of my own self-made prison... or so it seems.

But you already understand- needing a break doesn't mean I don't want to be with him.  It doesn't mean I should give up being a mostly-stay-at-home-mom.  It means I'm human.  It means I'm a woman who desires some personal fulfillment.

I've put myself on the waiting list for a copy of "The Feminine Mystique" from the local library.  Apparently, there are a lot of us waiting for it.  I heard an interview on NPR about it recently, which is what sparked my interest.  The interviewee was pointing out that the book was written for upper/middle class women who had plenty of money, good families and technically very little to complain about, except that they were unhappy.  Most of them had some sort of higher education and they were asking themselves, "Is this all there is?"  It recognized a fundamental truth- That women need to feel a higher purpose for their lives, just the same as men. We need to feel a sense of accomplishment and the ability to exercise our brains and unleash our curiosity in order to be happy.

I do not feel that I am imprisoned in my home by my family.   I choose to love them and work for them.  However, I also want to follow my own pursuits.  I need to follow my own pursuits in order to be happy.  Sometimes that means learning to sew, or reading a book, or leaving the house to go run.

So why do I feel guilty?  Maybe it's because we have sacrificed financially for me to stay home, and it costs us a lot to pay someone else to watch him.  Maybe it's because I feel so relaxed after I leave.  Maybe it's because I think I'm supposed to feel angst at leaving him and I don't.

Maybe it's just what come with being a mother.

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