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Wasting potential as a SAHM. It's true. - Page 4

post #61 of 91
I hope it is ok that I post this here--OK both legally & OK so as to not damage the spirit of this thread.

MOD, if I am in violation, delete me.

Readers, If I offend, ignore me!

This poem was printed in Mothering within the last year or year and a half. I love it & it makes me cry every time I read it.

A Woman’s Choice

It’s the small details:
rat’s nest in his hair,
holes in her tights,
who is whose friend today at school,
making sure the right combo
of green & orange gets into their mouths,
being there at 3:45
to greet the loudmouth bus driver
& rescue my 5 year old from bumpy sleep.
No pay, long hours, no public recognition
yet in my heart a small voice says
cancel all job interviews
hold that resume in a file waiting, like
my high heels & work suits, in the cupboard,
let my degrees gather dust on the wall.
I want to be there when the first tooth falls,
a quiet rite of passage & mine
to revel in.
It means postponing ego strokes.
It means no time just for me,
but also not being split down the middle
working double shifts.
I can wait for the glory
of a pat on the back & a salaried job.
Right now there’s some small things
I must attend to:
this three year old girl in pig-tails,
this fragile boy in the schoolyard.

by Jennifer Boire
post #62 of 91
This is truly a wonderful thread, I hope we can keep it going. Reading this reminded me of an old movie with a similar theme called The Turning Point. It stars Shirley McLaine and is about two rival ballerinas, one becomes pg and chooses motherhood, the other goes on to be a professional dancer. I remember watching this with my mom over 20 years ago and she really liked it. I think it struck a note with her as a person who was always a mother. I am going to rent it and watch it again.
post #63 of 91
Hey El,
It's me, JB! (A and A's mom) As is so often the case, you seem to be sneaking around in my head and reading my thoughts, then expressing them more eloquently than I could hope to these crazy days. Thanks, but it's giving me the creeps already! :LOL

I have SO struggled with this issue and discussed it a million times w/dh only to get nowhere closer to resolution and to find myself still stuck with so many conflicting and confused feelings. I know I still have time to do things when my children are older but I sometimes feel like my brain and talents are molding and like I have to defend/explain myself or convince people I meet that I AM smart and talented, b/c there's no real 'external' confirmation of that right now that I'm not working, iykwim.....

This is one reason I'm exicted (though overwhelmed as we talked about) at the prospect of teaching music classes w/you. It's an opportunity (though still in the 'mom' track somewhat) to use some of my other skills in a professional way. I think that will be good for me in many ways and yet I often wonder how I can fit it in with my current demands of 'just' being a mom.

Aargh. I'm so physically and mentally tired these days I haven't even been able to read all of these amazing posts, much less express all the million things I'm feeling and mulling over. Like I was saying earlier to you about responding to emails, I feel like I sometimes only have the energy and time to read them, but then to formulate and actually write out a meaningful response is just beyond me! And I used to consider myself (and be considered by others!) to be a fairly accomplished and articulate writer/speaker. HA!! Now I feel good if I manage not to come across as mentally deficient in some way. SIGH.

Anyway, I really just wanted to say that as usual you are right on track in being to express something that obviously so many of us are struggling with and that so many of us have longed to have the opportunity to hold up and examine from many different angles. Thanks to all of you for shining light on this difficult part of the amazingly rich and complex job of mothering. It's comforting to know I'm not the only one out there struggling along.

El, let's talk about this more IRL, huh? I'm so glad to count you among my incredible mama friends!

Yes, to all the rest of you- I actually know Breathe in real life! And she's as wonderful as you think she is!

Aren't you all jealous??

Peace and hugs to all of you doing this incredibly important work and thanks for sharing so honestly and eloquently. I learn and grow so much from all of you.

post #64 of 91
Originally posted by mamawanabe
It is not that the work of mothering isn't valued enough by society, it is that we are forced by the nature of professions in this country into choosing career or kids. It is institutional sexism and it won't change because there is no pressure for it to change. There are enough people willing and able to enter these professions permanently full-time when they finish school in their mid-twenties to early thirties.

Excellent point. I recently moved back to the US from Sweden, and have been struggling with the shift back to a model that generally requires one parent to be the primary caregiver. I can't tell you how much harder my life is here in the US. It's not good for my kids that dh and I aren't able to share parenting and work, and it's not good for us either. Hell, it's not good for society--the fact that so few women end up in decision-making positions means that women's voices have little power to chart a course for society. On a personal level, my potential clearly is being lost when I don't have fifteen minutes in a day to think clearly, much less work. And dh, still a very involved father, can't be anything like the full partner in our children's lives that he was in Sweden.

I want the best for my children, and in my experience they get the best of me and the best of dh when we are both caring for them as well as doing something else. In Sweden it helped that society was incredibly respectful of children, so we weren't having to protect our children from society. (The fact that 50% of the positions in national government were filled by women certainly played a role in the amount of support the society provided.)

Dh and I are working toward creating balance here in the US, but it's hard, and if we hadn't had a very balanced relationship in Sweden, I don't think we'd have had a clue how (much less the motivation) to make balance an attainable goal. As it is, it's going, but it's slow going, and dh and I feel like we're fighting the system here every step of the way. It makes me feel so tired....
post #65 of 91
Hi mamawanabe,
You make some great points about the bias our workplaces have against individuals who take the time away from the business world to raise children. This is why it's so important to re-enter the workplace and be an advocate for change.
I don't see how it will happen any other way: how can those judgemental future colleagues believe you've been doing anything less important than they?
Pass you over for a promotion? Why?
Technical expertise is a dime a dozen...unless companies are hiring trained monkeys (and believe me, there are days I wonder!) -- the most valuable individual in the workplace is someone with a strong background in child-rearing!

I was 39 when I re-entered the workplace. I also worried about keeping up with younger folks on the job, my gray hairs, my doubts that I could resume my job with the same zest and enthusiasm I had at 25 or 26.

It wasn't easy but I did it. Truth is, I gained far more than I thought I lost, including a sense of humor
On my first day, one of my colleagues asked how it felt to be among adults all day.
I told him at least at home everyone acts age-appropriately!
We had a good laugh.
We are so much more than our jobs and isn't it wonderful.

My post is meant to reassure you it's worth it!

Hugs, Ocean_Swimmer
post #66 of 91
Wow, I think this is probably the best thread I've read on MDC! Thank you mamas -- it has been refreshing and illuminating and reassuring to read such honest, heart-felt, well-thought out posts.

I work part time out of the home -- 2.5 days/week. And I must admit, I feel it is a GREAT balance for me and my family. I have a career that I worked hard for and am good at, and which contributes to the world and pays well. I'm also lucky enough to be in a profession that can accomodate p/t work easily. And still I feel like I am home enough to feel like a SAHM too. I too have the struggles and joys of being home all day with dd.

Most of the time, I feel that I have the best of both worlds. But at other times, I too find the grass greener. Just today I was thinking "well, if I were a SAHM full-time, I'd be willing to take dd to the YMCA daycare for an hour so I could exercise and be physical. Or trade a few hours a week of childcare with a friend so I could dance more, or take a painting class. I feel like I am losing part of me here, not fully realizing all of me." But I don't feel I can do these things now because I'd hate my sole "outing" of the day with dd to be to drop her off with someone else, when I'm already out of the house 2.5 days per week!

But the truth is, mothering does take sacrifice. Something has to "give." And when I think about it, I'm really happy with the balance we have. I sooooooo agree with a previous poster about being a SAHM in our current culture -- relatively isolated, without the bustle of family and walking to market and tending chores in the same way as it has been in the past, and remains in other places. I wonder if our culture were different, if we'd feel less isolated, more supported, more validated, and ultimately happier and more fulfilled on a daily basis being SAHMs.
post #67 of 91
This thread has been on my mind all weekend long. Thanks you ladies, for your warmth, candor and wisdom! I really feel energized and uplifted by reading of others' experiences that are so close to my own, and knowing that there are others who have felt the same frustrations somehow makes them seem easier.

I was thinking about what I said earlier, about my old job hiring someone to replace me, and how that had really thrown me for a loop. Well, as I was nursing my little one this weekend, I realized that I was glad that I was replaceable there, because I knew that I could never be replaced at home. My younger dd is just getting to the stage where she is very aware of all the different people around her, and all she wants is Mommy. Tiring and frustrating sometimes, yes, but also gatifying to know that she is so secure with me, and loves and literally needs me in that way. And my 2 1/2 year old came running in the kitchen today with her first pair of skinned knees this season (thank goodness for spring!) and I kissed them better and we spent a few minutes in the rocking chair, and I knew that there was no one else who could do this like I could. Before I had my first baby, my boss was really desparate to keep me working full time. He told me I could bring her to work with me as long as I wanted, and he let me pick the hours. It worked out okay for about six or seven months- I worked about twenty or so hours a week, but then she started getting too old to want to be in the sling for hours on end. He really offered up a lot of different suggestions, trying to get me to stay, including offering to open up an on-site daycare for Abby, and paying for it out of my dept budget. It was tempting, because I knew I could keep nursing her, and see her severla times a day, but one night I was thinking about it, and realized that I still wouldn't be there all the times I wanted to be. Someone else would be reading her stories, someone else would be picking her up and kissing away her hurts, and I just couldn't give those moments away to anyone else. When it comes down to it, yes, my potential as a career woman and a mother is being wasted by soothing skinned knees, singing lullabies, and spending countless hours in the rocking chair. But, I was lucky enough to be able to make that choice, and although there may be people who can be better at my job than I was, there is no one who can mother my kids like I do!

(I hope this isn't seen as a slam against moms that do work, choose to work, or have to work, it's just my thoughts and experiences.)
post #68 of 91
Count me in as another person swimming in these same thoughts (inspired partially by the recent Brain, Child article).

I'm trying to decide (still, Breathe!) if I should finish my PhD or just let it go. I've invested so much to get where I am (I'm not even going to tell you how many years), but I'm not sure that's the way to think about it.

One of the things I've gained from mothering is a much greater awareness of what types of work give me energy (community organizing, political agitating) and what saps it (too many shoulds, my dissertation?). I've been trying to think about what feeds me and focus on doing those things in my free time. We need to feed our souls in order to be able to feed the souls of our family and friends. I often have to think twice about it what feeds me (ah ha, mindfulness), b/c often what I think will feed me (baking cookies with ds) doesn't; it's more of a should. I'm working on peeling those shoulds away one by one.

I think that it's important to focus on the whole sum of my experience as helping shape who I am and thus, valuable, even if sometimes it takes me a long time to hear the message that I'm not really interested in what I got my BA in or my PhD. It's still learning and that self-awareness is priceless considering some folks never get there.

Nice to have so many soul sisters on the same road, carving out meaningful lives for ourselves with whatever we can find lying around.


PS - And I agree that the institutional factors (sexism, ageism, and the structure of work as full-time) in the US really make it difficult to find balance. But I'm also amazed at how creative we all are in our efforts to find it. The Equinox is the perfect time to think about the issue of balance...
post #69 of 91
Thread Starter 
Hey LiminalOne, My immediate reaction was to say, "Don't you quit now!!!" But I hear what you're saying about needing to find an authentic reason to continue. Or not. It's a tough road, and one I remember SO well! PM me if you wanna talk about it more. Hugs to you!

I think what I love about this thread has been our ability to support each other in our mixed emotions regarding motherhood. I almost said ambivalence, but it doesn't really sound to me like anyone is ambivalent about being a SAHM, or a P/T SAHM, etc -- we have said *repeatedly* that we KNOW we've chosen the right combination for our children.

And I believe that we all feel inner peace about our choices, most of the time. But we do have our moments of doubt . . . like the one I had when I started this thread.

But it is possible -- in fact LIKELY? -- that we can feel comfortable in our choices and yet uncomfortable with some of the consequences? And if there's anything I've learned about motherhood, it's that people often want to paint it, or our experience of it, as "either/or". Either you're happy being at home, or you're not. Either you're in the moment, smelling your child's hair and getting playdough happily stuck under your fingernails, or you're not. And the implication seems to be that if you have moments when you're wishing for more -- or even just *wondering* about more -- then you're not truly "in the moment" of motherhood.

And you all are smart enough -- critical enough in your thinking -- to realize that this is just not necessarily the case. I can love catching my son at the bottom of the tunnel slide AND STILL wish that I were playing my piano more. I can feel pure bliss when he falls asleep on my shoulder AND STILL believe that the public schools are worse off bc I'm no longer there teaching kindergarten (and feel a little guilty about it).

Isn't it a sign of intelligence when you can assimilate dichotomous ideas? Let's say it is, and I believe this has been an incredibly intelligent thread for that reason.

And so I thank all of you, once again, for helping to bring this to light for me.

Hoping you're all feeling peace today, and if not, hoping it will return tomorrow!

post #70 of 91
Oh mama! LiminalOne, your post makes so much sense to me. Should I finish my art history degree? Should I try out midwifery school? Should I just stay at home and happily do nothing at all?!? Sometimes I even wonder if I should really follow what makes me happiest or what my family needs.

It's hard to find those interests that you follow for genuine love (though for me mothering is definitely one of 'em). I used to think that doing something like writing a dissertation would be really hard, perhaps impossible, but I realize now from watching DH do it that though it is of course hard, that love and interest lead research and that it all spills out from an initial question pretty naturally.

And Breathe, doesn't every choice have consequences? Aren't we always pretty much unhappy about something? Or maybe not unhappy, per se, but at least not particularly thrilled? Sometimes I don't like making dinner just because it means dishes to wash! I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I hadn't married DH. Where would I be? Sometimes I'm just totally surprised by where I am. And of course I always always wonder where it is I am going. Mostly I try to be mindful and just follow where my feet take me. At times I realize that my path is already written, not for me by something else, but by my own hands through every choice I am going to make. That's destiny in my mind - something that springs forth from inside me; the writing of my life by my being. I see it in my son - he was born with a temperment and a personality and it will color who he is and where he goes.

Oh thank you everyone.
post #71 of 91
I haven't read all the replys but needed to just say THANK YOU for having to courage to write this thread! I feel EXACLTY the same way...and will elaborate more when I don't have a crying toddler to attend to.....
post #72 of 91
Ok, I know it has only been a few days - but PLEASE don't let this thread die.....I just got the chance to read all the posts and my mind is just a jumble full of questions and thoughts.

I LOVE the idea of a support thread of some sort and hope that something can come of it.....
post #73 of 91
Graceoc, please ask those questions! I'm sure you'll get some replies. I've been meaning to compose a new post for days and just haven't had a chance to do it yet. I've been thinking a lot about different needs/personality types and how that might affect our perceptions of ourselves as SAHMs. I'll try to get it down on paper tonight...
post #74 of 91
I hope you understand why I'm putting this here but I failed my test yesterday and I'm feeling like I haven't been successful at anything. This was the only thing I had outside the home and I freaking *failed* and I'm feeling depressed. My dh doesn't understand, he called me a baby (can you believe it someone at my age being called a baby and actually getting hurt by it?!) But I really don't know what's wrong with me.

I've been a mom and nothing else my entire adult life and I think I'm really having a lot of trouble dealing with the feelings that I'm middle aged and have nothing (not even a good test) to show for the effort.

Sorry this is depressing but I thought some of you might understand.

post #75 of 91
Thread Starter 
Hey Debra, I'm so sorry. That must be really disappointing and discouraging. How brave of you to put yourself out there, though. I know that dh and I both have had some shocking professional setbacks, and it is always hard to take, but I imagine it's especially so when you feel like your options are limited. Hang in there and allow yourself to mope for a while, kay? You'll regroup and figure out what to do next, but not until you've wallowed a bit! HUGS to you! E.
post #76 of 91
Haven't read through everything, but I posted this awhile back and it sums up my reaction to my own friends who have expressed similar feelings to yours.

Found this in my “Holiness for Housewives” book – doesn’t matter if you are religious or not though (or what religion for that matter) – this applies to all of us.

“…I cannot, with the utmost energy of imagination, conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called DRUDGERY…the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If DRUDGERY only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home – as a man might drudge…But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is TRIFLING, colorless and of small import to the soul, then, as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, books, cakes and boots; to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology and hygiene, I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No, a woman’s (read SAHM) function is laborious; but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.” From GK Chesterton, “What’s Wrong with the World” – 1927, p 165.

We are not MINUTE – what we do is not merely DRUDGERY – it is certainly not TRIFLING (watching soaps and eating bon bons – anyone?)

You are EVERYTHING to your child(ren). You are QUEEN and ARISTOTLE and COUNTLESS OTHER THINGS to them even when you have locked yourself in the bathroom and are half crying/half yelling at them to just leave you alone for five freaking seconds already!

No one else going to WORK or their CAREER or their JOB every day is making a difference the way you are. NO ONE – I DON’T CARE WHO THEY ARE! You cannot pay anyone, any sum of money, to be your kid’s mom like you are. It doesn’t matter one damn if you are PERFECT at it. Besides, you think anyone going to “work” is doing their job 100% 24/7? Please! Doctors lose patients. Lawyers lose arguments. Accountants miss numbers. Fill in the blank with the career of choice that makes you tingle with it’s PRESTIGE.

That’s all you’re missing ladies. PRESTIGE. Stay-at-home-mom conjures up PRESTIGE for few except those that might say “Oh, that means they have money and don’t HAVE to work, how nice!” (Blech. I really doubt one SAHM here is not making a financial sacrifice to be home. I really doubt one SAHM here couldn’t have more things, take more trips, drive a nicer car, live in a nicer neighborhood and then complain that they HAVE to work if being a SAHM wasn’t so important to them and they didn’t realize the VALUE it will bring to their children’s lives. - I know, I know there are single mothers out there, I’m not talking about them! How sad that this blessing has been ripped away from them!) Anyway, back to my rant…

You might not have had to get a degree to get your position as mom, but that doesn’t make you uneducated or worse - wasting your education! Heaven forbid!

You are missing APPRECIATION and PAY and PRESTIGE, ladies. Well, I can’t pay you, but I do APPRECIATE you and I do think of your position as the MOST PRESTIGIOUS ON EARTH. I do! Grab your kids and give yourself a freaking hug already! You think anyone else gets to hug their “boss” on a regular basis? When they’re having a bad day? You think anyone else going to “work” gets a little relief now and then by watching their “boss” do or say something SO CUTE that tears well up in their eyes? Forget it sisters, we are BLESSED and WE WORK HARDER than anyone else on earth and our work is MORE IMPORTANT, so there!

Okay, off my and back to your regularly scheduled programming…
post #77 of 91
Just another post to add that I believe a SAHM can "have it all" - you just can't have it all - all at once! kwim? If it's important to you (and you're lucky enough to be healthy and live to ripe old age ), you can have a career, be a "mom", play an instrument, be an activist, etc. etc. - we just can't do it all at once!

I don't think "society" necessarily says we have to be "supermom" but b/c we live in an enviornment of immediate gratification, we put that pressure on ourselves to do everything and be everything all at once! "Turn, turn, turn, to everything, there is a season" - yes? Of course there are sacrifices in every decision b/c you can't do everything and be everything you are all the time.

That has been the key to balance in my own life experience. I'm a forward thinker by nature. I tend to be constantly thinking ahead and I need to be more "in the moment" - that is indeed where the joy is (if not the happiness). Other people live in the past - what if? what if? Of course I have memories that make me but it's when I'm most depressed that I find myself focusing on the past. When I have true JOY - I am in the moment. And at the moment,

I'm a mother.

Completely fulfilled... if not completely happy and living up to my "full potential" at every given moment... kwim? And Breathe - though I hate the title - what an awesome THREAD! And I completely agree on the dichotomy thing. It's hard to wrap your mind around it, but yes, that's it!
post #78 of 91
OH, that I could be as eloquent and philosophical as you all are! I visited family for 10 days where there are a lot of stressors for me (sibling issues, selfish niece, traveling, traffic, weather, aging parents with health issues) and noticed a constant tension in my shoulders and neck. I haven't felt that since working fulltime when it was almost a constant.

Magically, it disappeared when we got off the plane in Hawaii! For me, that validated my choice to stay home with my son.

"I've been a mom and nothing else my entire adult life and I think I'm really having a lot of trouble dealing with the feelings that I'm middle aged and have nothing (not even a good test) to show for the effort."
originally posted by Debrabaker

You have a wonderful family to show for it!

If it is any consolation, I think that women who realize late in life that they missed having children feel worse...
post #79 of 91
Originally posted by DebraBaker
This was the only thing I had outside the home and I freaking *failed* and I'm feeling depressed.
Wow. Just this past Saturday my dearest friend here in Cleveland, mom to 2 girls (2 and 5) failed an exam for the second time. She studied so hard, but you have to see this woman's life to believe it. She works from 6 pm to 2:30 am four nights a week, gets up at 7 am with her girls and is a mom to them all day, running the older one to school, she's a clean-a-holic always doing housework, and she cooks wonderful homemade meals every single day for her family. She gets no help from anybody. Her DH shares child care duties willingly, but nothing else and scoffs at the idea of a cleaning lady.

She was devastated and basically said *exactly* what you did. She thinks she's a failure, that her life has passed her by with nothing, and that she is not good at anything. She called me in tears and my heart ached for her. Anyways, I suppose this is totally off-topic but my heart went out to you, DB.
post #80 of 91
Thanks for understanding. I'm feeling a lot better now and realize that there is more even testingwise in this life than the test itself....I'm developing my character and I wouldn't likely be able to do this well if I *passed* all the time.

I just get frustrated I try to make my old body do something and, heck, it just doesn't cooperate with me. I'm going to school in the fall and I'm really worried I will bomb in school as well.


Debra Baker
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