Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I KNOW lots of other women do it, but

Let's go 1938.

My mom's dad died at age 40, leaving my grandmother with a newborn, a 3-year-old and four other kids.  She had to work, and my mother knew it. But I spent my formative years hearing the story of how my mom loved the days when her mom was off of work because her mom was home when she got in from school.  This experience in my mom's life made her insist on being at home with her kids during their formative years. She worked part-time at my elementary school after my brother started school for many years until her breast cancer diagnosis in 1996. 

If there is any other refrain that still plays in my head, it is my mother saying repeatedly, "I will NOT raise my grandkids." This was part of her badger-your-daughter-to-death-so-she-doesn't-accidentally-get-pregnant" plan.

Fast forward to me.  I didn't even want kids when I married, nor did D, but we adopted my mom's advice to live on one salary from the second we married so that IF we ever had kids, I could stay home with them IF I wanted to.

I didn't think about childcare until I was newly pregnant with N and did some summer portfolio scoring with another newly pregnant teacher who also had an 18-month-old.  It was then that my eyes were opened to the "You mean I have to pay a daycare in the summer even though I'm not working during the summer?" situation.

By the time I told others I was pregnant, I had decided to be a stay-at-home mom. I knew the grandparents would not "raise" my kids, and I knew I didn't trust anyone else besides myself to do it well. 

Being a stay-at-home mom was the best and the suckiest experience of my life. It gifted me years of time with my children and stole years of salary and professional experience from me. 

I have spent this past school year subbing pretty frequently at my former middle school---three days this week--and it has made me miss it terribly.  

But not terribly enough to go back full-time.  

When I am asked about returning full-time (and I am, often), I come out with a comment like,
"I'm still freakishly attached to my children."  And that is true.  This morning, M called my cell phone because he misses me when I sub too many early mornings in a row, and it killed my heart a little bit to know this. 

And subbing is not my only job.  I want to teach at the cottage school because of the freedom I have there.  And I want to write for the magazines because I love to write. And I want the flexibility of being able to visit with my mom, who just turned 79 and will not live forever.

I think I feel like I'm letting someone down, even though I'm not.  Some group of nebulous students who don't know they miss having me as a teacher?  A group of teachers who might like the idea of working with me because I seem pretty great?  Is that why I feel guilt, like I'm letting them down because I am not working with them full-time?  It is stupid to feel guilty for feeling this way, but I think I do.  

Maybe guilt isn't even what I'm feeling.  If that is the case, then I don't know what to call it.  
Maybe longing is the right word.  I feel a longing to do something I left a long time ago but don't want to do full-time, at least not right now. 

When I think about my experience, and I think about what I will tell my own daughter about her own career path and her parenthood path (if she chooses it), I'm not sure what to tell her.

You can have it all, but not all at once?
You can have it all, but you will be freaking tired and feel like you're not giving anything 100%?
You can have most of it, but you will still feel guilt and longing and like you missed out on something even though you wouldn't change it if you could go back again?
Just give up the idea that you can have it all because no one has ever had it all in the history of humankind.  It is a myth?

And I know that LOTS and LOTS of other women have been teachers and have managed to do it, but I haven't managed to do it, which makes me feel like maybe I suck.  Hell, I haven't even tried to do it. I just flat out said, "I'm not even going to try because I think it would be dismal for me and my family because I know how I am." 
(I'm the sub who left sub plans for tomorrow's sub---that is how freakishly organized and anal I am.)
Maybe I'm just a big pussy? Maybe that is what I feel?  Ashamed?  

But this that I am doing, this cottage school teaching and this minimal subbing and this freelance writing, is as close to having it all as I can figure out at the moment.  

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