Last week, when Dave was kissing the boys goodbye before heading off to work, Eli piped up and said, “Why can’t YOU stay home with us Daddy, and Mummy go to work?” Dave’s response, though well-meant, wasn’t quite the one I was hoping for… “Because Mummy doesn’t have a job”, he said.
Great, so basically Mummy is an unemployed loser who has no choice but to stay home and take care of you kids! Previously, when I have talked about roles and jobs with the boys, I say that Mummy did have a job, I was a lawyer (like Sally from Cars) where I got to help people who had been very hurt in car accidents or work accidents, but that I had decided to stop working because taking care of them is the best and most important job in the world. I think my version is slightly more preferable!
To me, though, it isn’t just a version, it is my truth…ever since I read somewhere that children are basically ‘formed’ by the age of 7 and in Raising Boys that childcare potentially can have a detrimental impact upon boys’ emotional development. Also, I’m coming to realise that my issues with control probably play a big part in not being able to let go and allow anyone else to raise my children.
It is also the version that was modelled to me- my mum chose to stay home and take care of us, not returning to work until I was in Year 12 and my youngest sister in Grade 6. Not that I even slightly realised or appreciated the sacrifice that her choice entailed…until I hatched my own kidlets and faced the tumultuous roller coaster that motherhood provides on a daily basis. So, thanks again, Mum- I am very grateful for your choice to teach, nurture, encourage and care for us!
Some days, it feels like the ‘job’ is slowly driving me crazy. When you don’t get the chance to debrief (without having chaos ensue around you) or zoom out to get a dose of perspective, you can become ruled by your emotions or reactions to situations and find it difficult to break the cycle. Today, I completely unfairly became angry at Ivy, a four month old baby, because she was failing to meet my unrealistic standards of timing for the dummy weaning project I have planned out for her. She was hysterically screaming, resisting sleep, and I was fuming, angrily willing her to conform to my lofty ideals. In the moment I couldn’t even talk myself down or properly practice my meditative breathing because I was so consumed in the vortex of my own desires. It really wasn’t until I shut the door after putting Hudson to bed this evening that perspective hit and I felt true sorrow over my actions.
Recently, Eli has been going through a ‘mean’ stage. Last week, he deliberately hurled to the ground all the pieces of the dollhouse I had been setting up to play a game with him, twice, just to see my reaction. He also is testing out the “You are a MEAN Mummy” phrase and Hudson, thinking it is hilarious, parrots it right after him. I know it is just a stage and that I shouldn’t take these things personally, but at times I find it difficult. Also, the commonly expressed preference for Daddy has the tendency to get under my skin when I least expect it. Either I shut down a bit emotionally to avoid taking anything in, or I feel everything keenly. And I’m sure that the insults are just going to get a lot worse, and the button pushing a lot more accurate and relentless as they grow up. So I had better figure this one out soon, to avoid either being emotionally pummelled or slowly growing distant from my children.
I was chatting to Mum about it and saying that, realistically, the kids aren’t going to appreciate my ‘sacrifice’ for another 25 years and I don’t want to be the type of mother that sews on invisible strings to her sacrifices that tether her offspring to the home via guilt or obligation. My friend also shared that her mother often complains in a hurt voice how she did all the work with her and her sister, but they still prefer their father. That is so far from how I want to be remembered, but my every day actions and mentalities are the concrete stepping stones that are inevitably leading to the person that I will become.
In the peace of post-bedtime, I can breathe and appreciate the value of the job that I am inextricably entwined with now. And instead of feeling it like a noose or trap, the strings become threads that knit our family together. I do hope that one day Eli, Hudson and Ivy value the sacrifice that I have made to be at home with them, but if it ever becomes a club that I use to manipulate them into appreciating me, I know that I have fallen far off-course of the mother I would like to be. My choice has to be made out of love, not the fear of losing control, so no matter what the outcome, even if a word of appreciation is never spoken, I choose to make this role my everything because they are undeniably and unequivocally worth it.