Can I confess something to you? You intimidate me. A lot. I know that sounds crazy, but its true. When we talk, I'm usually feeling insecure and uncertain about me, my life, and my mothering. Let me explain.
I am a "working mom" (I put that in quotes, fully aware that the label doesn't work because all moms work their tails off). Although I'm not in a typical "job," per se, I am enrolled full-time in a doctoral program that requires me to be away from home five days a week, for anywhere from two to eight hours a day. The great thing about being in an academic environment is that there's a lot more flexibility when it comes to my hours, but at the end of the day, I have responsibilities to fulfill (if I want to pass and pick up my stipend check, anyway).
Thankfully, my husband has a job that allows him a lot of flexibility too. He could get another part-time job to supplement our income and give us more "creature comforts," but instead, he takes care of our son when I'm at school. This means that Ronnie is William's primary caregiver most mornings and afternoons. This is a really wonderful thing! I'm grateful that they have such a close relationship, as a result of their time together. And, I'm thrilled that William's dad, rather than someone outside our family, gets to be so involved.
Yet, often, I wonder. And these "wonderings" happen about every couple of weeks. That's where the insecurity and intimidation comes in. I wonder if I'm making the right choice. I wonder if its all going to be worth it. I wonder if I'm scarring my kid (soon to be "kids") for life. I love what I do. I love reading, studying, writing, and teaching. On the days when I am the most clear-headed and at peace with God, I know this is what God made me to do. When I am teaching or writing, I can feel God's pleasure. But... And, that's the kicker. The "but"...
I look at you, my non-working mommy friends and acquaintances, and I'm jealous of you. Really, I am. I long for an even semi-clean house (I can hear you laughing at this, even now), or to experience some point in time where there's not laundry piled up, or, even more importantly, to know what its like to walk William to the park and not be thinking about my next paper, presentation, reading assignment, whatever. Often, I see you with your kiddos and I wish I were living a less complicated life. That's not to say being a full-time mom at home isn't complicated in its own right. I know it is! But, it would be much less complicated than mothering and studying at the same time.
And so, on my really down days, the days when William is whiny and needy, and I have to leave him with Ronnie because I simply must write, I cry and feel terribly sorry for myself. This is silly, I know. I'm blessed beyond measure to be able to do what I do and get paid to do it! But, on those down days, I struggle to see the point. I feel like all the books and papers and teaching isn't worth it, after all. And, I doubt.
Even as I write this, though, the insecurity is coming back. You see, my fellow moms, I'm afraid of what you're going to say in response to this confession. I fear, especially from my fellow Christian mommies, that you're going to use my struggles as fodder to try to convince me that I'm not doing the right thing by being in school. Its happened to me a lot, actually.
In fact, I don't share these feelings with stay-at-home moms anymore because so many have responded with something like this: "Well, maybe this is God's way of telling you that you're making the wrong choice." And, the really tough responses are those that sound something like this: "Well, Emily, I think your struggle is just proof that it is God's intention for women to stay home with their kids. You should stop fighting that and accept God's best for you."
I respect my fellow Christian moms who think this way. But, at the end of the day, I'm convinced that this isn't the case for all women. In fact, I think its realistically unworkable for most women the world over. (But, that's another blog for another time.) And, maybe more importantly, when I'm in my "right mind," I'm convinced that its not the case for me. At least, not right now.
Yes, I struggle to keep up with my husband, my son, and my "domestic" life (for lack of a better term), and to keep up with my academic studies, too. But, I'm truly afraid to be honest about it, because I'm afraid that you'll discourage me, without meaning to. Often, I feel like I have to pretend to be super-woman, undaunted by stress and unfazed by a tough work schedule. Because if I show weakness, if I cry, if I say I miss my kid when I'm in class, you will think that means I'm wrong and should quit. And, if I'm really honest with you, I'm afraid that if you tell me that enough times, I might just do it--and I know that's a mistake.
So, all this is to say, when it comes to mothering and studying, I'm new at this whole thing and I still feel quite fragile. Some of you may find this silly and I guess that's OK. But, I wanted to be honest. I wanted my fellow moms who don't work outside the home to know how I really feel--what's really going on inside my head and heart. Thanks for listening.
And now I have to ask, even though it kills my pride, and even though I feel silly and stupid and weak doing so: Please be gentle with me. Please don't use my struggle against me. Thanks in advance.