A few weeks ago, Matt mentioned to me that we just don’t live long enough to follow all of our dreams. And that there isn’t any point to trying to live vicariously through someone, because we wouldn’t be able to fit in our dreams into their lifetime either. Then later, he mentioned again that he wished that we lived as long as they did in the early Old Testament times, 800 years or so. Then maybe we’d be able to get everything done that we want to do.
As I’ve grown up, I’ve had to let go of dream after dream, only to have another one take it’s place. Then, as time passes, I must let the new dream go as well. When I was a child, I vacillated between wanting to be a doctor, a vet, an artist, a writer, a concert pianist. Those are of the careers that I can remember from my pre jr high days. I forgot those dreams as I grew and started to try and develop some talents and other interests, I wanted to be a singer/actor on broadway, a poet, a rock star, a professional runner and join the peace corps. I let those dreams go when, as a teenager, I lacked support for those types things.
For the short time I was in college, I found myself trying to settle on a major. Fortunately I wasn’t in long enough to have to make that decision. Instead, I dreamed again of singing and acting. But I supported myself with various positions in a small computer training company. I was able to experience marketing, data analyses and finally found an intense attraction to accounting. I was finally in a job that suited my nature. Meticulous and clear cut. And most importantly, no creativity or imagination involved. I think I did a good job. And I think I was able to do it fast and better than the next person. But it didn’t take long before my life moved to a new direction.
There was one dream that I had had ever since I was a child. I wanted a temple marriage and to have a family. That is the only dream I hadn’t let go of. With every crush that this boy crazy girl had, I dreamed of what life would be like with that particular boy and what our children would look like. I must have had dozens and dozens of unrequited loves in my childhood and teenage years, and hundreds of imagined children. I went on a few dates while in high school and a handful when I was in college. I was definitely a “for the sake of the chase” kind of girl. I flirted and teased, but once a boy showed any interest in me I ran the other direction as fast as I could.
That was one of the ways that I knew Matt was the man for me. I mooned over him for a few weeks and then after our first date, I STILL wanted to be with him. And the more I got to know him, the more attractive he was. I didn’t shy away or freak. And I was able to hold a conversation with him without shaking with nerves. I felt more confident when he was around, not less.
That being said, our courtship wasn’t easy. I had a lot of baggage and weird and selfish ideas of what a relationship should be like. And he expected everything to just be super easy. He’s often said (tongue in cheek, I hope) that it was strange that he would end up marrying the first girlfriend he couldn’t get along with. But in spite of the fact that our romance was stressful for him and very new to me, I was delighted that I was in love and for once, had that love returned. It was in this state of mind, that I ended my relationship with Keystone Learning Systems and moved to Washington where Matt and I married and started our life together.
I was going to go back to school! I was going to get my degree through independent study and I was going to be the world’s first “Perfect Wife and Mother”. My imagined majors went from child development to education to exercise science, to music to accounting. Once I realized for myself everything that being a mom entailed, I gladly threw my college courses (and textbooks) out window. Who need college, that is what life insurance is for, right? I could learn what I needed to through experience. I didn’t need a degree. Then when Emma was born, I was convinced that I had done it. I was the perfect mom! All you had to do was look at my two perfect angel children to see that I was doing it right.
Lucy wasn’t a super easy baby, but she was a GREAT toddler (still pretty great, actually). Emma was the perfect baby, but a pretty hard and destructive toddler (though not as much anymore). I had a theory that whatever they are as babies, they will be the opposite as toddlers.
Then Spencer was born. So far, he has been the hardest baby I have ever had and the hardest toddler ANYONE has ever had. But that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.
After Spencer was born, I found myself looking back at my life with regret. Not with the things I have done, but with those things that I hadn’t. I was plagued with “what if’s” and “if only’s”. When he was 4 months old someone mentioned to me that there was going to be an audition in Ellsworth for “The Christmas Carol”. I was so excited to audition. I was finally going try and do something that had always wanted to do, but was never allowed when I was in high school. I tried out and was super surprised the next day when I received a call, telling me that I had gotten a part! I was to be “Christmas Past”. I had a grueling 6 weeks of rehearsals and since Spencer was still nursing, I took him along to almost every one of them. I was so excited and knew that even though I might never be on broadway, I could still be a small town star. I had SO much fun, and I think I was pretty great for a novice. My childhood dream of being Eponine in Les Miserables fought it’s way to the forefront of my brain. But it was hard on my family. So I resolved not to do another play until our children were grown. With sadness I put that dream on a high shelf to collect dust. Knowing full well that I might never pick it up again.
At Matt’s prompting, I also tried out for American Idol. I was relieved to be able to put that particular dream in the trash. I didn’t want that life, but Matt didn’t want me to say any more “what if’s” than I had to.
I started designing. That was something I could do at home, with my children around me. And for the first time since childhood, I found myself drawn to the arts. I found inspiration everywhere. Colors, shapes, the weather, food, a smile, a book. Creativity was flowing through my hands and for the first time I called myself an artist. I was selling my designs in a few stores and I dreamed of doubling our household income and I tried everything I could think of to advertise my designs. But, as with any hobby, the more time you dedicate to it, the less you have for other, and in my case, more important things.
After a massive priority shift, and a fair amount of introspection I have realized that the releasing of my dreams has been a very freeing experience. And in doing so, I have discovered that I haven’t let them go after all.
I grew up hearing about how “Women can have it all” only to hear, as an adult that those who tried, realized that they couldn’t have it all, after all. There is an entire generation of women who chose to have careers instead of families, and while I am not at all judging that decision, it was their right to make it, I do feel sorry for them. I know many are happy with that decision and I’m glad for them. Nothing is worse than a life filled with regret. There are also many of those women who live their life wishing that they had made a different choice when they were young enough to do so. There are also women who have successful careers and families and look down on women like me. I also know that there is a large group of women who have no choice but to work outside the home. They would rather be with their children, but finances or other circumstances keep them from doing that. Also there are those who can’t have children. And those who had careers instead and still think that what I do is great. It is not of these women that I speak. It is those who look at me with pity when I take my kids to the grocery store and speak to me like a “poor little brainwashed girl” who is too stupid and uneducated to do anything else. You’d be surprised how many times I have to deal with this.
I imagine if more people read my blog, there would be a lot of criticism and backlash from a post like this. I recently saw a book by Dr. Laura entitled “In Praise of Stay at Home Moms”. I haven’t read it yet, but I say, “It’s About Freaking Time”. I am so sick of the patronizing looks and the well meaning “advice” that other women give me. I was fully aware of my options when I chose to be a stay at home mom. Their ignorance astounds me. I am lucky enough to be married to my best friend and I have three absolutely wonderful children. I have the best job in the world.
I am a stay at home mom and have been since the birth of my first child. And in all of my dreaming about fame and fortune, I have never once regretted my decision to be a stay at home mom. And to those women who turn up their noses at me and think I’m wasting my life, I defiantly say that Stay at Home Moms are the ONLY women, who truly can have it all. I spent years wasting my time thinking that I needed others to validate me in order to be successful. Once I took my head out of it and woke up, I realized that I really don’t care about what other people think. What I care about is that my husband and children know that they are the most important things to me. Not money, not a standing ovation and not even a pat on the back.
Every time I read a book to my kids I am an actress. Every time I sing them to sleep, I’m a singer. When I blast music while we clean the house, we’re all dancers! I’m an artist every time I get out the paints or crayons. I’m the world’s greatest doctor, who can heal anything with a kiss and a hug. I’m a therapist when they come to me in tears for one reason or another. I’m an accountant every time I balance the checkbook. I am a chef every time I’m in the kitchen, and let me tell you, I’ve got to cook for the biggest food critics around. I’m an interior decorator. I’m a maid, manager, technician, computer geek, electrician, nutritionist, horticulturist, photographer, movie screener and critic. I’m a builder, and economist, a politician, a professional complement giver, the “it’s not fair” police and a drill sergeant. Within my little family I have fulfilled every dream I have ever had and more. Now, that I have added homeschooling to my list, I’m finding a whole new set of dreams that I am so excited to follow with my kids. I get to be a scientist, a mathematician, theologist, botanist, literacy specialist and historian. I get to read great literature and be a scholar. And with the help of this blog, I’m a writer. Anything I want to do? Guess what! I can do it. I’m a mom! I can tell by the looks on their little faces that to my kids, I’m better than the biggest rock star and cooler than the little mermaid. And the best part? I’m having fun doing it. Matt can dabble in this life that I have but he will never experience it as I do. He’s gone 10 hours a day, how can he know them like I do?
I don’t get paid with money, the currency in my home is more valuable. They pay me with smiles and hugs. Kisses and “I Love You’s”. I even get the occasional “You are the best mom ever” and “I never want to move away from you”. Nothing is worth trading that. I am a Stay at Home Mom. The woman who has it all.