Friday, February 18, 2011

::at home::

My generation of woman - the daughters of Baby Boomers – is a product of the age of feminism. It was raised to have high self-worth, believe in the power of positive thinking, and achieve every dream we ever dreamed. Women today are expected to be "equal" to men, and even surpass them in the workplace. But the feminist mentality leaves a gaping hole in our society: who is left to raise our children?

The very heart of feminism – the theory that we can “do it all” – leaves no room for it’s own continuation! If caring for children is viewed by the masses as a mind numbing and suffocating life of drudgery, how will these children learn to perpetuate the prized feminist mindset? If mom is at the office 10 hours a day, surely the nanny or day care worker isn’t be expected to shape a child’s worldview in her place, especially one so radical and finite…or is she?

Thank goodness we live in a country where maternity leave is an entire year long, and our employers welcome us back with open arms. At least we have that year to bond. But what will our daughters learn if we are constantly "burning the candle from both ends" as they grow up, coming home exhausted, valuing company loyalty over family time, keeping in touch with them via text message, and serving Pizza Pockets for supper? Well, they'll learn how to prioritize income and achievement above family relationships, and spread themselves so thin that they break down at 40.

Let me be clear: I admire and support full-time mothering. But that does not mean I condemn mothers who work outside the home. I know that if we still lived in B.C., there is no way I could stay home full-time to raise a family. In fact, most of you who know me know I am quite career-driven, and I take a lot of pride in my work. I enjoy it! I sincerely look forward to returning to the workforce, when the time is right. But for right now, I recognize that my family needs me most at home, more than a second income. And we have changed our lifestyle (significantly) to facilitate that.

I recently read this blog post by Dr. Laura, which discusses the responsibility of mothers to be available (read: at home) to oversee and monitor their children's daily activities and diet in order for their kids to stay healthy, combating the North American obesity epidemic.

And it makes perfect sense! It's not to say there aren't other factors contributing to children's rising health issues. Our culture, built on convenience, makes it too easy us women to do the bare minimum for our families, shortchanging our kids, our husbands, and ourselves. All this, while living in an age when technology is designed to maximize our time and efficiency, and the concept of the "working mom" is prized as a superhero, a woman who "does it all"! Talk about irony – no woman does it all. Someone pays for it in the end, and it’s not usually her boss.

I'm not bringing this up because I have the answer to maintaining a balance between keeping up with the cost of living and raising a family. I understand that while we can’t do it all, neither can we have it all (white house, picket fence, two cars, dog, etc.). Certainly, I do not feel that joining the Armed Forces is something everyone can - or even wants - to do! It works for us, and I am thankful we haven't yet experienced an overseas deployment. But it is a sacrifice we will undoubtedly have to make, and many people would say the risk of Daddy being maimed or killed at war far outweighs a mother working outside the home. "At least she is home every night, and isn't volunteering to dodge bullets for a living," you might say. And I would agree! Most families would never put a parent in that situation.

I am addressing this, however, because until recently (yes, I'm talking about after Heidi was born; after we joined the Canadian Forces so that I could raise our kids; after we were posted from beautiful B.C. to the barren Prairies), I subscribed to the mentality that women should be able to do it all! And I was sorely mistaken.

It has taken me a long time to get to a place emotionally and spiritually where I can accept that, at least for this time in my life, being a stay-at-home mom is what I am called to do. For a long time, I questioned whether full-time motherhood would keep me interested, and I wondered if my brain would slowly turn to mush without consistent professional engagement. (It turns out that pregnancy and childrearing turns your brain to mush, no matter your level of professional involvement!) In fact, moving to a new province while on mat leave was quite scary, knowing I wouldn't have a job to return to. I have always had a job! Relying on my husband to provide for our family was difficult to wrap my head around (not that he's ever given me any doubt). I have always been a self-proclaimed independent woman, perfectly capable of providing for myself. But this is the very attitude I had to release in order to embrace my new role as mother. And now that I have, I wonder why I didn't do it sooner? 

The mental and emotional battle I endured as I faced the prospect of sacrificing my former identity was long and cloudy. I often was left wondering what was that nagging feeling in my mind, the one that said, "Shouldn't you be doing something more important than changing diapers and singing nursery rhymes?” I felt I shouldn’t get used to this 'cushy' lifestyle at home. I instilled fear in myself by constantly remembering that one day, I’ll have to catch up to all the younger women whose training is more current than mine and be expected to compete with them for the jobs I want. And that attitude - a defeatist one, I admit - got me down. 

Why is it that the blessings of family life are so hard to see through our own selfish desires? Now that I have come through the fogginess, and am beginning to understand the significance of my role in Heidi's upbringing, I kick myself for thinking so pessimistically. Why couldn't I apply that self-worth, learned so thoroughly from my own pop culture-saturated upbringing, to my new profession as a mom? Why was I so doubtful that raising a child is the single most important thing I'll accomplish in this lifetime? 

Surely, I am not the only woman who has struggled with this “identity crisis.” And so I'm posting this to start a conversation, and hope that, if anything, it brings relief or a sense of camaraderie to those of you who may have experienced the same thoughts, regardless of whether you are a working mom outside the home or inside. 

How did you get through the Mommy fog? Or are you still working through it? 

How has embracing this new identity changed you for the better? 

What would you change now that you look back on your experience transitioning from working professional, to mommy, and perhaps back? 

I’m particularly interested to know if, like me, you now realize your outlook on this subject (full-time mom vs. full-time professional) has changed significantly since having children. And if so, how has it affected you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually?