Home is Here, There and Everywhere

I’m so excited to share this guest post with you. Written by my Best Friend. – MD

Being a stay at home mom is hard work.

Not that I expected it to be easy, but I never imagined that I would feel so lonely and isolated. Things have been made more challenging this week by a profound feeling of home sickness. I have begun to wonder if we made the right choice to live so far away from family. I can’t help but feel jealous when I talk to other mommas who are on the way to drop their kids off at their parents’ house. Or when I see three generations out having lunch together. I hate that Lily won’t really know her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Holidays feel incomplete here, despite the family of friends we have created. And 5 months into my second pregnancy, the lack of a support system feels like an empty hole and I am not sure how to fill it.

Some days, phone calls and Skype don’t cut it. I want a hug from my Mom and lunch with my BFF (the one I’ve known since 4th grade). I realize a lot of these feelings come from being pregnant and hormonal. I’ve been in Portland for 8 years and it feels more like home than Wisconsin ever did.

The realization that I am never moving “home” seems to have sunk it. It’s getting harder to maintain long distance friendships and there is a growing disconnect between our lives. I have a hard time remembering my college girlfriends children’s names and ages. We talk less and less. I see my family twice a year, if I am lucky. This is the first time in 8 years that I won’t make it back for a visit.

I find the whole process bittersweet. I am so happy and grateful for my life, my daughter, my husband, my new home town. It is easy to romanticize what life could be if we moved back. I only remember the good things now.

But I do miss my family. I miss the friends who knew and loved me when I wore head gear and thought drinking out of plastic cup in a basement was cool.

– MN

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Plan C

It’s been a while.

Five months, in fact, since I sat down to write something.

The truth is, I’ve been avoiding it. It’s been nagging at me, but I’ve forced it out of my mind.

To put it mildly, there have been some other things to occupy my thoughts.

Since I last blogged, my life has, in the wise words of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, “been flipped turned upside down.”

We started off the year with a decision. After some serious thought about some big questions, we decided that we would be done having children. We would live our lives as a family of three.

Sometimes all it takes it to lay it out. To clearly outline all the pros, the cons, the expectations, the fears, hopes and feelings. Inevitably, when I get it all out on paper, my true feelings emerge so easily it’s as if there was never really a question in the first place.

My husband and I talked and talked. Could we truly be happy with just us – the three of us, in our little house, on our busy street, with our annoying dogs, in this lovely town? Undoubtedly, unequivocally, yes.

Iris

I couldn’t have been happier, more relieved. It felt as if a huge weight had been lifted. We could move forward, grow up together, make this little home our forever home. It felt right. It felt comfortable. I felt lighter in the knowing, in the deciding of something that had weighed on me for some time.

But truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.

And it’s true, life can throw a curve ball. In this life, we don’t always get to stick with Plan A. Especially after, say, too many drinks at a birthday party. We are lucky to live in a country that still, and hopefully always, offers us choices. When Plan A fails, we are able to move on to Plan B without much worry or concern that our best laid plans have gone awry.

But sometimes, Plan B is simply not enough. It is too late. It is inexplicably, inconceivably not in the cards and and we are faced with Plan C.

I am pregnant.

I found out 10 days into the new year, and since that day, everything has changed.

I fell into a depression, the worst I’ve ever experienced. I sought help, and started to see light again.

We looked at moving away from our beloved Madison, back to family in Illinois. We decided, in the end, to expand our small home here, in the place that we love, though too far away from the family we love. Our basement is set to be finished in June, nearly doubling our living space and adding a third bedroom.

After much agonizing, countless tears and a gut-wrenching goodbye, I quit my job to become a stay at home mama to my Iris and baby-to-be.

When the time came for my 20-week ultrasound, we walked back into the scene of the worst day of our lives with our hearts in our throats. To our happy relief, we are having a healthy baby girl.

And now, five months into the new year, it’s starting to feel like life is falling into place again. I have some catching up to do – with friends, with writing, with myself. I’m taking baby steps back into the world as the new me living this new life.

The spring has been unseasonably cold. But it’s slowing warming up.

And today, the sun is shining.

– ALW

SAHM

I never expected to be a stay-at-home mom, or SAHM, as I’ve learned to call it from the mommy blogs.  As a child my vision for myself was of a woman striding down shiny corridors in high-heeled shoes, the sound of which I associated with feminine power.  Instead, I wear this year’s Birkenstock sandals to the playground and wipe the sand and grit off my feet when I get home.

My right to claim SAHM status is limited. I was home full-time with my daughter for the first year of her life and then worked part-time (just twelve hours a week) for the next two. I’ll do the same with my son, born three months ago, and I don’t plan to work full-time until both are in school.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my decision to be primarily at home.  In retrospect, it seems that it wasn’t so much a decision as the path of least resistance; things seemed to flow in that direction and I didn’t do anything stop them.  It helped that I was in graduate school when my daughter was born and so could simply opt out of teaching for two semesters. A big reason I didn’t want to work was nursing-mother laziness; I flat out refuse to pump. Another is my belief that this is what’s best for my children, but I’ve known for some time that this cannot be my sole or even primary reason; this has to be what I want for myself. Likewise, I recognize that I cannot do this in expectation of some sort of future payoff; I cannot expect or hope that my children will be any smarter, kinder, or better adjusted than those who spent less time at home. The experience of this time has to be its own reward. In this regard, parenting has been one more teacher in what I have come to recognize as my personal life’s work: living in the present, staying in the moment.  As a dance instructor once said to me, I could enjoy the process more.

A friend told me recently that she could never stay home full-time and asked me how I do it.  I have asked myself this very question, and I find it difficult to answer because I don’t really feel that I am “doing” anything.  To me it feels similar to being pregnant: a relatively small amount of time devoted to a particular state of being.  Being pregnant, like taking care of small children, is often demanding and exhausting and tedious and frustrating, but we don’t ask ourselves how we “do it.”  We just do.

So I decided to interpret this question literally. 

Mommy's juice

Here, roughly in the order in which I employ them, is my list of things that get me through the day:   

  1. Coffee
  2. Twenty minutes of yoga or Pilates, subject to comments from three-year old and interruptions from baby
  3. NPR
  4. Out of the house from 10-1, preferably with mom friends *
  5. Nap with baby for one hour in the afternoon while non-napping three-year-old watches PBS **
  6. NPR
  7. Assign husband to three-year-old the minute he steps in the door
  8. Get into bed immediately after children are asleep
  9. Read New Yorker or novel for forty-five minutes
  10. Sleep ***

 *          Mom, or Dad, friends are the key to success.
**        Some people, including myself, consider this cheating, or at least bad form.
***     As much as possible with night-nursing baby.

– AC

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