Monday, August 20, 2012

Goodbye Summer

Yesterday really felt like the mother of all Sundays, the way Sundays felt a million years ago when I was in high school. The day would start out as a weekend, but by noon the specter of another school week loomed large and suddenly it wasn't the weekend anymore at all, it was a school night. Z let me sleep in until 8am because I was up twice with Master C in the night. And we did have a lovely lazy morning. But yesterday was the last real day of summer, the last day before Z went back to work full time and dread settled in the pit of my stomach in the afternoon and is still sitting there now.

I know that it is small and selfish of me to resent the start of the school year. But it is more than just being sad that our magical family summer is over. I feel stuck. Classes begin next Monday and it looks like I won't register for one yet again. I'm telling myself I can't because Z is teaching so much this semester that his office hours are already limited to less than he likes. But mostly the anxiety is winning, and goddamn it I feel trapped.

How did this become my life? I was a good student, I got into an excellent college, and here I am in my mid 30s without a career. How did this happen? My 20s were lost to temping while I never quite successfully pursued acting jobs, then to mental illness. Yes, I eventually began working in bakeries and that did lead to the gig at Whole Foods which went really well. I loved working there, I was able to make a good living for me and Zeke while he was in grad school. But even if we didn't live several hundred miles from the closest store I don't think I would still be there. Retail work is taxing on family life, in store leadership there were no set hours. You had to work two opens, two mids, and a close. I was always tired because some days I needed to be at work by 7:30am while on others I was at the store until 11pm. I worked at least one weekend day. There was no traveling possible during Thanksgiving or Christmas. That lifestyle doesn't work for us now that we have small kids. We don't live near family, holiday travel is important, as is weekend time.

So now I'm a Mom with a capital M. And I think about Z getting to eat lunch, and take a shit, and have conversations with other adults without a three and one year old climbing all over him. I think about how fulfilling he finds his work. And I am eaten up with envy and guilt. I don't really begrudge him those things, I am proud that he is so happy at work. I want him to be successful. I just feel left behind.

I know finding a career is my responsibility and well within my means. But my anxiety whispers that I am useless, that no one wants to hire someone who is starting out at 35 years old, that I am a failure and pathetic, that all my friends are laughing at how little I've done with my life, that the mental illness took the best years, the formative years from me. But the only thing standing in my way is me.

The decision for me to stay home with the boys was not arbitrary. We love that they get to be with a parent all day. I feel lucky, we really can't afford this set up but we are managing anyway. I want to give this time to them. It's also really hard. I miss grown ups. I miss working and getting recognition for what I'm doing. No one gives you a raise or a pat on the back for cleaning up yet another poop diaper, or for successfully potty training a kid (ok-not buying diapers does equal a small raise), or for getting dinner on the table again. The boys themselves are the reward. But when one of them is going through a bratty stage it feels like you are the real failure for not raising him better. And the anxiety disorder makes me feel like this is the only thing open to me.

The set up Z and I developed as he was teaching a summer course over the last month and a half really worked for me. My Monday and Wednesday writing mornings helped me get through the rest of the week. It's not like the writing is leading to anything, or making us any money, but it has made me feel better to be producing something for me that has nothing to do with the boys. It's made me feel like more of my own person. I'm writing this as C naps and T watches the Muppet Show and I feel guilty as hell for not playing with him in order to indulge myself. Once T starts back to preschool I'll try to continue to write during C's morning naps, I know it is good for my mental state to work things out on the page and I don't want to fall out of the habit again.

So, yes. Back to real life. I need to figure out how to stop hiding from it.

My littlest Jedi. 

Practicing his lower case letters. 

Z and our friend C rehung a wind chime Z made from a fire extinguisher from a cluster of trees in our yard on Saturday. 

While I was wearing an apron in the kitchen while making lemon bars. Because we like to perpetuate stereotypical gender roles in our house. I kid, I kid. I swear I'm a Sarah Lawrence girl. 

Our friend C hanging out in our tree. I really love this one.


  1. You see, that little picture of T practicing his letters? That is exactly why I would be a terrible stay at home mother. I want to believe that I would do things like that, engaging my kids with actual learning, but I'd be kidding myself. So instead I head to work all day while my boys are in preschool/daycare, where someone who is really good at that level of engagement teaches them the days of the week and alphabet.

    We all do what's best for ourselves and our families -- don't feel guilty or apologize for it!

    1. Ha! I think you are reading WAY too much about my parenting into that picture. My awesome sister-in-law got that for him for his birthday and he picked it up and started playing with it. There was no impetus from me to have a "learning moment". In fact, I feel guilty all the time for not doing more constructive stuff with him....

  2. Just pointing out two conflicting thoughts. Want a career, don't want to go to school....why not just take something you've always wanted to do, buy the super large size Iomodium and go for it? Um, pun not intended until I saw it....

    1. I love the straightforward way you attack things, J. The thing is I want to go to school. It's the anxiety that gets in the way. It becomes suffocating when I'm self directed. But when I was working for you it was easy to function. I had to be at work at a certain time, so I went. And I found I did pretty well and kept getting promoted. It was one of the best times of my life because I proved to myself I could not only function, but thrive in a work environment. When left to my own devices my anxiety convinces me I'm worthless and I can't do it. Kind of a catch 22. Trying to work through it....

  3. I to wonder how I arrived at 30 with no career...3 children a 15 year cycle of self harm, depression and an eating disorder. Know you are not alone in your adventure of finding peace in your mind.

    1. Thank you so much, and also wish you well.