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Kangaroo Spotting

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Finding Value in Being a Stay-At-Home Mom

My first painting in about four years.

I should be going back to work this week but I took an additional 12 months maternity leave.

During my struggle with post natal depression I felt unable to make the right decision about going back to work.  So I did what any responsible adult would do... delay the inevitable.

My gratitude for this option abounds.  I’m grateful laws in Australia allow me to request a second year off and even more grateful that because I work at a not-for-profit, they granted it.

This additional time is, and has already been, a fresh start.  I am doing fulfilling things; writing, painting, cooking, exercising, visiting.  The more I do, the better I feel.

One of my weaknesses is that I have too many interests- both in hobbies and careers.  Because I wanted to live abroad, I never focused on one particular path.  I don’t know what it feels like to be obsessed with one particular thing and doing it every day to earn a living.  I leave that to people I admire.

As a result I have quite the’ well-rounded’ resume however I can’t shake the suspicion that I got off-track somewhere.  Specifically, because I would like to be doing something more creative.

Once again, with my daughter as inspiration, I see life is too important to waste on ‘working to live’.  I would like to know what it feels like to ‘live to work’- even if said work does not allow me to earn an income.  I recently read somewhere that the work you do in your spare time is the work you should be doing for a living.  It's a nice idea.  Even better if I had more of that coveted spare time....

Then there’s the guilt.  I’m taking these two years off when I know plenty of mothers who would love to do the same but cannot.  On the flipside I worry that I’ll lose my identity.  Suddenly I’m this child-centric husk who drives a soccer-mom van....only to be shocked back to life with a mid-life crisis once the kids move out.

Working mothers feel guilty about leaving their children, and stay-at-home mothers feel guilty about leaving their career.  Just because we CAN have both- does that mean we HAVE to? Does anyone really have it all anyway?

As an educated, feminist, woman, I’m grateful to have the choice at all.  I’m sure if someone told me I HAD to stay home, I would be clawing at the ceiling.   Alternatively if finances dictated that I MUST return to work immediately, I would be longing for the days at home with my daughter.

It’s seems as though when the choice is taken away completely, it’s much easier to justify.

Perhaps the real issue is that we feel judged for whichever we chose.  When someone innocently asks, “So when do you return to work?”...It becomes my responsibility to be comfortable and confident in my answer.  Rather than respond ‘I’m just a stay-at-home-mom,” maybe I should say, 'I raise humans and try to stay sane in the process.

In the end, what we do does not necessarily define us.  It’s who we are, and what we value that matters. Right now I'm okay with being the artsy stay-at-home-mom.

And in this moment while I’m learning to pass values on to a new generation I would like to improve mine along the way.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

The Beauty and Pain of Letting Go

"The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." ~Rajneesh caption

Every time I look into my daughter’s eyes I am mesmerized.  The beauty of her hurts, sometimes.

And when she holds my gaze for more than a moment, my breath catches because she looks back so intently.  There is more going on inside her than I ever imagined- so many lifetimes in that pristine 11-month-old body, in those deep blue eyes.  My child is wise.

I try not to be needy for her to look at me constantly- though I would be happy doing so all day long.  I try not to crave her affection- I can ask for a kiss ten times but she doles them out at her own particular discretion.

Almost one year since I gave birth to this precious little person- and she astounds me at least daily.  If I could start all over again with her, I would.  In a second.  This year has gone by twice as fast as any year before and I’m left with a beautiful, headstrong, intelligent little girl.  My baby, rapidly being phased out by a toddler.  I don’t want to blink because she will be a teenager.

Since her first days on Earth I have found that being a parent is a grueling lesson in letting go.  Something I keep reminding myself when I’m so hungry for her attention.  Someday I am going to have to launch her into this incredibly mixed-up, crazy world and keep my fingers crossed that I provided enough guidance and tools for her to thrive. 

It has been a long, long time since I looked forward to each day like I do now, and I will savor it.

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