Friday, May 3, 2013

This Woman's Work

I didn't plan to be a stay-at-home mom. Or, really, I wasn't planning to be a mom at all when I had K, so these matters had yet to enter my thoughts. I was planning on going back to school when I found out I was pregnant. To take time off from work (taking classes on their dime), but life is funny in that it never works out the way you expect. At least not for me!

I always thought I'd eventually go back to work. I left my job when I was 7 months pregnant, taking a package deal, instead of waiting to see if my position was eliminated. I figured I would just find a new job after the baby.

But, K wasn't the easiest of babies. For the first two weeks, things were pure bliss. The child barely cried being born, and was pretty quiet the first couple weeks home.

Then, she wasn't.

She cried anytime she wasn't sleeping or eating, and that's not an exaggeration. We bought books, DVDs, white noise CDs, we tried every trick we could find. Nothing worked. I couldn't even take a walk with her, because she would scream at the top of her lungs the whole time. No one could babysit to give us a break, because it was too much dealing with the constant screaming.

Somehow, the thought of finding another job never entered my mind during that time. Then, when K was 4 months old, my husband was laid off, and we decided to move to North Carolina. The move firmly placed me  in SAHM-land, and I got used to the idea.

I figured it would be great to be at home with K, and any future kids. I would be around for school plays, sports, dance classes. I'd be there to see them off in the morning, and when they got home in the afternoon. I could volunteer in their classes. The possibilities were endless.

Of course, like I said, life has a funny way of throwing curve balls when you least expect them.

By the time K was 18 months old, my time was spent shuttling her to therapy appointments, instead of baby dance. As she got older, the appointments increased. Different doctors and specialists. OT, ST, Social Groups, psychotherapy, home ABA...

I dreamed of being the quintessential soccer mom, but instead I was a full time case manager...therapist...chauffeur.

Staying at home took on a whole new meaning. I tried getting a part-time job at one point, but it was during the most stressful time in our lives, and after a year and half it proved too much. I never expected to stay at home because I had to. I never expected that my years as "just a mom" would be spent not choosing cute recital outfits, but instead managing the schedules of children with special needs.

Do I love being home with my kids? Yes. I can't imagine handing them over to anyone else, or not being around for school vacations. Even sending them to school is hard for me. That might just be because of who they are, and what they need, but I do feel that my place is at home. At least right now.

I've  been out of the workforce for almost a decade. The chances of anyone hiring me are probably slim to none, anyway. I recently toured a local community college, because I am interested in doing something different than I did before. Unfortunately, even community college these days is expensive. Too expensive.

I feel like I'm at a crossroads. Back to square one, asking what I want to do with my life when I should have it all figured out. At 18, it was OK to take out student loans, and worry about the future tomorrow, but I don't have that luxury now. It's difficult taking that next step in life, when you are still bound by so many things. Right now K isn't even in school, so I have no choice but to stay home. Sometimes I feel like I will never have another choice, because what if?  I seem to always be needed here. I just wish I felt 100% OK with that.

Part of the problem is feeling guilty that I don't contribute to our family financially. Even though I do a lot, I don't get a paycheck, and a lot of people don't value anything that doesn't come with a W2. We spend a ton of money on therapies and doctors, and I wish I could help with some of that burden. It's always a challenge, feeling valued as a stay-at-home mom, but lately I get the feeling I should make peace with it. This is my life, it's what I'm meant to do, and I do it well. Sure, I'm not a soccer mom, and I don't spend my days volunteering at school, but the job I've been assigned is incredibly important...being the best mom and advocate possible for my two special kids.

And maybe, just maybe, I should be proud of the work I do, and not devalue myself so much.

Just maybe.

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