There’s something about parenthood that at once creates a permanent change in your life but at the same time necessitates the greatest need for permeability of who you are and who other people think you are. In my first year as a mother (I can’t believe my baby will be one in just a few weeks!), I have never felt more that my identity has shifted both internally and externally. But at the same time, I have never been more challenged to be nimble and creative in how I see myself and my relationship to others.
Turns out, this parenthood thing is messy in more ways than one. Let me explain.
Since May of last year I have gone through so many changes including becoming a mother, nursing and transitioning to being a stay-at-home mom. That was the first six months. Then I stopped nursing, started getting back to volunteering and community organizing, became a board member of the Nevada Coalition Against Sexual Violence, became the social media coordinator for the Nevada Women’s Lobby, got back to working on my book, started this blog (my second after The Sin City Siren, which celebrates its 4th anniversary this week)… and I still stay at home with my baby every day. But am I really the stay-at-home mom that people imagine? I do paid work. I am active in my community. And I’m more busy than I’ve ever been in my entire life! (And somewhere in all that I had a serious illness and went vegan to cope with it.)
If the roles you have in life are about the hats you are wearing, I feel like I’m wearing 15 hats at once! Maybe that’s why I’m so tired!
What is interesting to me is that even as my roles have been shifting over the past year, how I’m seen by others keeps shifting, too. There are many people I know who think that because I stay at home with my daughter, that is all I do every day. That being a stay-at-home mom is an end-game, not just one piece of a much larger mosaic. And now that I do paid work from home — which, as a freelancer, is what I did before I had my daughter — that experience or piece of my life is sometimes negated or somehow canceled-out by the fact that I have a baby here at home with me, too. Because I don’t have an office I commute to every day, somehow my work doesn’t count the same.
But I wonder if all this is just our hopes and desires playing out. So many of my so-called “working mom” friends — I put it in quotes because just using that identifier negates my experience as a working mom because the subtext is that working moms leave the house to work — have privately intimated that they wish they could be at home with their kid(s) every day. (I should point out that there are some who say that going back to work was the best thing for them.) So, is the tunnel vision on what I do and what counts as work part of the greater guilt that so many parents feel about their decisions? Is all this anxiety just a meta Freudian slip?
The fact is, if you are a parent, you are working. And you are working hard. Because being a parent is the toughest job on earth! (It also comes with the best rewards.) And as for me, I have decided that all this anxiety and consternation doesn’t change the reality of my days and nights. I work. I parent. I’m at home. And truthfully, most days I feel like I’ve put one over on the system because I get the best of both worlds.