Friday, September 17, 2010

dear readers...

So we had a friend visiting from out of town, and while I was chasing the tots around with our cacophonous instrumental marching band, he quipped: "And you must be thinking: 'I got my graduate degree for this?'"   Of this I have two things to say:

1) Ouch.  Hit a stay-at-home mama right where it smarts.  There's nothing that gets my life anxiety revving higher than the thought that I'm, you know, 'not living up to my potential.'  Add the thought that others may believe I'm 'not living up to my potential,' and just sit back and watch me implode.
2) He's right.  Sometimes, I am thinking that very same thing (though, just for the record, never during a rousing session of marching band, which really I kinda dig), but not for the reasons one might think. 

But it's not the fact that I have a graduate degree, and therefore should be doing something 'better' with my time that gets me down from time to time about where I am in my life.  It's the fact that while I was getting my graduate degree, and my undergraduate degree for that matter, I was kind of a super star.  I don't mean this to insinuate that I was the best of the best - I'm sure there are/were plenty of folks smarter than me in grad school.  What I mean is that I worked my heiny off.  And then, I got LOTS of external validation for my diligent work.  People thought I was smart.  And they told me so.  I got plenty of life-affirming, self-affirming feedback, and the big fat A's didn't hurt either.  Sometimes, my work even got published, which believe you-me, is some heady stuff in terms of feeling like you are offering something of value to the world. 

Flash forward in time.  I've been out of the school world and work force for just under four years.  And I'm still working my ass off.  Doing work that I believe is really, really valuable and important.  It's not necessarily intellectually challenging (although sometimes it is) - but it more than makes up for that lack in its ability to be emotionally challenging. (Holy crap does it ever!)  And have I mentioned that it's freaking hard yet?  But this time around, the external validation is nil.  Zip.  Nada.  In fact, quite the opposite.   I get queries about 'when am I going back to work?' as if what I am doing now doesn't really count.   Or, as I mentioned in my second blog ever,  getting treated like a total moron/nobody by the folks at the bank, car dealership, salespeople and random telemarketers.   (And you're going to have to trust me when I say here that being treated like you are a total loser by a teenage telemarketer is a particularly special experience).   Or other parents confessing they don't understand how stay-at-homer's can do it all day every day, because they'd be so bored or unchallenged or explaining how they're too ambitious to bow out of the workforce, or something of the like (without thinking about what these declaration might be saying about me).  And then there's the whole 'I'm-capitulating-to-the- patriarchy-and-contributing-to-the-downfall-of-feminism-by-regressing-to-50's-housewifeyness' bit, which you know, can sometimes make a feminist mama feel like having a bit of a rampage.  Oh, and government(s) not really thinking our work matters (to social welfare and the economy).  All of those things piled on top of each other don't exactly scream:  Hey yo Mama!  The world around you thinks you're hella super great!, if you know what I mean.

I've felt really out of touch with the external world for a good portion of my stay-at-home career, and most acutely after the birth of Girlio, with two smalls at home and a hardworking wifey in a job with no paid parental leave (insert big old birdie directed squarely at the Government of Alberta here).   It wasn't until I discovered the world of blogging, which affords me a space to express myself externally, with the added bonus of not having to leave the house, that I really started to find my groove (not that it isn't still often difficult or challenging).  I'm not sure if I can adequately relate how much the feedback that comes back to me from my blog really keeps the feelings of isolation, and the fears of losing that old 'superstar' self  part of me at bay.  (And how being nominated by a reader for Babble's Mommy Blogroll, well, let's just say it made me almost pathetically happy.) 

It's this near-pathetic euphoria that really made me realize how freaking important that external validation is - and how very, very little of it us stay-at-home mamas get in our worlds.   It's really quite a shame - because you know (and I'm speaking for the lot of us here) - we're quite a crafty lot now and again. 

At any rate - I guess this is all a round about way of getting to - thanks peeps.  For finding my little blog-world, for sticking with me, and for telling me from time to time that you think I sometimes stumble upon something to say that resonates.  It means more than you know.

(And yeah - I totally got my masters degree for this :))


  1. Ditto. To all of it. I love reading your blog. You're super awesome.

  2. I recently started reading your blog and am already hooked. Thanks for writing! :)

    (currently stay at home mama in vancouver, bc)

  3. I could have written that. Thanks for voicing what is on the mind of many of us. I got my MA and worked for a very talented cutting edge research team. I started my PhD and did really well. When I left that world permanently when Robbie was 2. I came to the realization when I looked at the world of those I worked with and for and admired. There was no time for a life outside the ivory tower. It was all research, teach, write, conferences, and meeting. No time for family. I felt I needed a world where I had more time to watch my miracle grow-up. Now, I work for a family website and occasionally supply teach in public school. None, of these is as intellectually fulfilling as my old academic world. But, the time I get with my kids is so worth it. The expression, they are only young once is so true! Robbie's baby days are long behind us, and I am glad I enjoyed them and will enjoy Jasmine's. I do sometimes feel bad that I am not out their contributing to certain important academic discussions, feel like I let my supervisors down, and wonder how some of my friends stayed in that world while raising kids?

  4. Thanks Kim :) You da

    Marlas - thanks for saying Hi!

    Catherine - yes - I too know people who have managed in academe with kids, though most had kids post-Phd, which I think makes some difference (even though they too, constantly struggle to find balance, I'm sure). I am constantly toying with the idea of returning - I miss all of the things you mentioned a lot - but I know I don't have the energy and time to do both things to the best of my ability... Not right now, anyways.

  5. People just don't know, including me before I became a parent. I'm doing all the things I used to mock (serves me right) and loving it twice as much as I ever expected!