I spent a lovely midmorning with my friend Abi and her daughter Ginger (five days Lucy's junior). We walked along the beach for nearly an hour and chatted.
One thing we chatted about was how both of us are a little nervous claiming housewifedom as our identity. I've been thinking about homeschooling, and am still really not sure if I can/will do it, and part of the reason is I get nervous about thinking of making raising kids my full-time job for the next ten, eighteen, twenty years. Not that I have to commit that full time now, but the idea of it scares me.
I realized recently, too, that I have the best time parenting Lucy if I try to hang out with at least one person a day, and try to get out of the house once a day. At the very least, this provides distraction; at best, I actually enjoy myself a lot.
Sometimes I feel irrationally guilty, though, getting to hang out with friends every day. Shouldn't I be doing something productive? I hang out with people rather than, say, dusting. Or getting other things done around the house.
This guilt ignores the fact that it is often difficult and frustrating to try to be productive with a baby. So one might as well be out with friends as sitting home, not being productive, whilst frustrated.
Why do I feel guilty, then? I think it's because hanging with friends (new ones, of course, not my old ones, many of whom I miss, but don't get to see very much) sounds relaxing and easy and decadent. I have this sense that if I'm a stay-at-home mom, I should have my nose to the grindstone as much as someone at a job.
This also ignores the fact that I used to like my job, generally. That I really enjoyed being in school.
So why the guilt? Why shouldn't I be able to make my life as a mom fun and varied?
Perhaps it's partially that I would also like to be useful.
This ignores the fact that I am extremely useful to my daughter, given that I'm her only food source. It's a very short food chain.
Okay, now we're getting closer to the truth. I want to be useful to other people, in that larger world out there. I want to be important, to feel important. And wiping baby's bums, important as it is in real terms (no wipe=skin problems, infections, etc), doesn't count in our world.
I'm reading The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars right now. The author points out how little mothering is valued, in real terms, by our society. For example, welfare makes moms of infants work at minimum wage jobs while they are given daycare vouchers. If you think about this, it makes absolutely no sense. Daycare is expensive. For what purpose, then are these women working? Is caring for a child worth no credit? (From a purely pragmatic view, wouldn't it be a good idea to support the moms as mothers, so that their kids don't cost the system money when they become delinquents?)
My friend Abi told me she has never really cared about what people thought about her before. But she cares when she tells them she's staying at home with her kid.
I've not had the experience, yet, of not caring what other people think. But I, at least, am mostly in social circles (conservative Christian) where my choice is valued (some might argue a little too much). And even I'm sometimes embarrassed to say, "No, I don't earn a wage right now". Or maybe more: "I don't plan on earning a wage anytime soon."
My problem is compounded by the fact that the work I want to do (write poetry, say*) also doesn't earn a wage. So I feel like a diletante or hobbyist if I say I'm a writer. And a nobody if I'm a mother.
I've also had an idea for a business (helping people write memoirs) that I would like to do at some point, if I ever have an hour of time on a regular basis to actually accomplish things. And yet: part of me knows I want to start this business to justify myself, somehow. Like the work I'm doing isn't enough in itself.
What's ridiculous about my embarrassment is that I'm working harder now than I ever have in my life, in many ways. And this is only my first child. Perhaps the mantle of motherhood gets more comfortable or commodious or normal as time goes on.
I would like to be proud of what I do. I would like to be proud to tell people I stay home, and know that they respect me for it.
Today I looked at my prayer site and this phrase from Ezekiel leapt out at me: "O mortal, eat what is offered to you." It's spoken to a prophet, and God is telling him to be a prophet in the way God wants him to be, even if it's hard. And Ezekiel eats, and it is like honey in his stomach.
I would like to eat what God offers to me, and speak what he speaks to me, and have it be sweet in my stomach.
*In other news: I got another poem published! And yes, I'm getting paid. In contributors copies, of course.