Exactly what’s needed

Here’s when I feel best: When I’m home with my sons and they are happy to see the first snow, jumping up and down at the window, putting on their coats and boots over their pjs. When they come in cold and rosy, warming up their bellies with hot chocolate and pumpkin muffins. When I put their mittens, hats, and snow pants in the dryer while we get ready for school.

Lunches packed. Library books found. Boys in the van. This is right where I want to be.

When we get to school, Owen takes off (best not to be seen with me), but Noah holds my hand all the way to the kindergarten room. A little hug at the door and he’s off. And from 9:30 to 4:00 I’m alone.

To many women, and for sure for me just two years ago, the idea of having nearly all day every day to yourself would seem a dream come true. And it could be, if I could find a way to be productive and happy and focused. But I’m very unfocused, highly unproductive, and while not exactly unhappy, I certainly feel like something is missing.

And then I realized it was him. My little guy. My shadow. My sidekick. My soundtrack. My partner in all things shopping, cooking, baking, cleaning, and folding.  The reason I left my career, stopped out, and took a chance I’d never pick it up in quite the same place again.

The chance to be home with him before he started school was the reason I left, and, like his brother before him, my reason just left me.

So now what? What do I do? Who do I become? What do I do with all this time, this emptiness?

I didn’t expect to love being a stay-at-home mom as much as I did. I did it because I didn’t want to regret missing the opportunity with our last child, and I did it because our kids needed it. Third grade (two-and-a-half years ago) was not a good year for my older son. He was moody, irritable, and got in trouble at home a lot. He fell in with the naughty kids at school. We actually got calls from the after-school program about his behavior. And while his schoolwork didn’t suffer terribly, it was clear he was.

Our little one, just two-and-a-half then, used to cry and scream the entire “witching hour” from 5-6 p.m.; the transition to daycare to home was never easy for him. He was also a little reserved, less physical and demonstrative as his brother had been. There wasn’t trouble, really, but it was an observation I didn’t like.

So I quit. I left my wonderful team of professionals and friends, my big-time title and good salary, and tried something totally uncharted for all of us. I’m not sure I was exactly good at it, but I am sure it was exactly what we needed.

I know that continuing to stay home might be easier for all of us. Scott’s work life is certainly simplified. The boys aren’t rushed in the morning, and neither am I. I pick them up after school. We have snacks and I try to get them to tell me something about their day. They play and do homework. I issue instructions and reminders and reprimands and break up fights. I administer time outs and empty the dishwasher. Scott comes home, I make dinner, we eat, rinse, and repeat.

It is peaceful, happy, and comforting. But for me, it’s also lonely.

So now what? I don’t really know, but I’m looking for a sign of what we — and I — need next.

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Comments

  1. Hello Jen,
    I just love the imagery of your little guys with coats and boots over their pj’s. It brings back heartbreakingly sweet memories of when my own two were that age (minus the snow here on Canada’s balmy west coast, where a rare snowfall would have been a cause for madcap hysteria in every kindergarten in town!)

    Both of my kidlets (now great big adults) moved back here to their hometown after my heart attack four years ago – ALMOST worth having a heart attack for! 😉 Suddenly, they were the ones worried about ME for a change, an eerie reversal of roles that I didn’t like one bit.

    Before my children came along, I was a journalist. When I first became pregnant, my colleagues didn’t ask IF I were coming back to work, but WHEN. The second I fell madly, fiercely in love with that newborn baby face, however, I knew I didn’t want to leave him with anybody (barely even with his Daddy!) and thus miss out on his precious tiny endlessly fascinating self. I morphed into a part-time writer working from home, still able to write during his naptimes and preschool and play dates. By the time his baby sister arrived three years later, I’d already decided to look at this (surprising) ‘stay at home mum’ phase of mine as I would any work contract.

    And just like all contracts, there are parts of it you really love doing, and parts you absolutely don’t like doing. But all along, you know there are time limitations, and this contract won’t last forever.

    Such is childhood, too.

    Before you know it, yours will be great big adults like mine. It will happen in the blink of an eye before you even know what’s hitting you. These memories of your little guys in their parka-topped jammies out in the snow will seem like yesterday even decades from today.

    Meanwhile, here’s my take on your “now what?” query: you’ll know it when the sign crosses your path. Just the fact that you’re asking the new question means the universe will support you in seeing the opportunity – you just don’t know right now what that step is. Here’s a hint, though: you write beautifully – I’d love to see you focus some of your considerable talent on writing while you’re waiting for that sign.

    Good luck – thanks for this stroll down memory lane. 🙂

    C.

    • Carolyn, thank you so much for this thoughtful and supportive reply. The act of writing does help a lot. I felt better having written and shared this and I’m content to wait for what’s next, even if I spend too much time each day reading my Twitter feed! Take care!

      Jen

  2. Jen –

    Thanks for sharing. I understand your world. I chose to juggle with L and my own business – to stay up late, and work once he was in bed, and to run around like a crazy person when he was at school. It all seems like a gray haze today, the time went so quickly.

    Then, I worked really hard at getting back into a job. It took a few tries, and something finally stuck. Something on my bucket list of career goals. While this was the right thing at the time, I became an evil person in order to make it happen. I was distracted from my job of being a wife and a mom all the time, my mind occupied with thinking of how I could do my job better and get a better wardrobe and more money. I stepped out of the industry I knew for 8 years to run my own business, and now I felt old and out of touch with the new younger workforce.

    And then I got laid off. What is different this time? All the stuff I would not “allow” myself to be doing, because I should be “looking for a job” and “working” All of the things I felt that were non-productive time when I was self employed the last time, now were the exact things I do, and I do without guilt or remorse. I go for a bike ride, surf the net, go to lunch across town, volunteer for school activities, and even sneak in some Downton Abbey in the middle of the day. Why? because it bring me pleasure, and it makes me who I am. To deny myself these things did nothing for me, and well, I was stuck. For me, I don’t really feel like I am unemployed as much as I have a temporary respite. When I started saying – this is a great opportunity for some good fun, doing the things I love, with a supportive family – my brain turned. I firmly believe, that whatever the path is, you will find it, if you are open to it, and take your internal editors out of the equation. It will come to you. Meanwhile, have fun being you, and doing the stuff that makes you awesome!

    • Hi Darby,

      Thank you for writing this – it helps immensely. I do believe the right thing comes along when it should, and I’m okay with the fact that I have no idea what that is. I will think about the things I want to do with my time and will not have guilt about it!

      Jen

    • Darby – Thanks for your post as well! I so appreciate hearing how women have navigated the working/mom balance as I contemplate my own future and the choices my family might make. Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

  3. Hugs sister, you are so good at whatever you do. Maybe you need a job like mine (only a liitle bit less of it would be ideal). I’m home for all of that and I have something pressing to do, something that other grown-ups give me kudos for (I need that), when the bus pulls away. Although its not always easy, working my own way, in my own company, from home has been the perfect fit for me. I long to be a “stay-at-home” mom, but I have WAY too much energy and way too much going on in my crazy head not to have a lot to do in a day. Despite all my energy I fear I would literally eat bonbons and watch tv. 😉 Besides, entrepreneurship is in your DNA. 🙂

    I could see you as an event or party planner. A she-she parties for wealthy families kind of thing.

    Or a writer, duh. In almost any capacity.

    A business and/or marketing coach. We pay a pretty penny for that kind of thing.

    A career coach/mentor. I think Brian paid around $2500 for 8 hours of services.

    You have many talents, loads of creativity and a few hours. Go for it!

    *if you want to do the marketing thing you can use me as your case study. Rock my company and then brag on it 😉 I’d letcha’

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