I've been happily married for seven years now, but four years, three months, and fifteen days ago, I fell in love with another guy. It was and remains the worst crush of my life. My heart sang when he finally noticed me, and when he smiled, I melted. Nothing can ever replace those heady first days of infatuation and love. Luckily, my husband wasn't too jealous, because he felt the same way! No, we don't have an "open" marriage, we had a new baby boy. Derek's arrival in our lives cemented our marriage and brought unexpected joy. I felt crushed when I had to return to work, but I also knew that, if we were going to eat, there was no choice. My husband was still in school and I was the primary breadwinner. It helped that Derek was in a daycare close by and I could visit at lunch (and feed him). My sweet husband brought me lunch there every day for three months and we played with our special boy. It also helped that I had just started a brand new, exciting job with lots of interesting stuff to do and more money for doing it. Any boss who would hire someone who was eight months pregnant has to be family friendly! I had only been there four weeks when Derek was born and then went on maternity leave, which left a big hole in a three person office. Nevertheless, he hired me and I am grateful for that to this day. He gained a valuable, loyal employee when he took a chance on a big-bellied applicant!
Two years later, I fell in love again, this time with a chick! Luckily it was my little chick, Alyssa. She's the second light of my life and my crush on her was and is just as bad! This time, I was able to take four months off work (unpaid) and I looked forward to it intensely. While there were moments of joy, staying home with a colicky newborn and a jealous, unpotty-trained two-year old was less than paradise, to say the least. After a month, Derek was BEGGING to go back to "big boy school." I gratefully took him to his preschool most days, which kind of took the sting out of being a temporary "stay at home" mom. Unfortunately, the person hired to cover for me at work was awful.
After repeated pleas from my soft-hearted boss, I ended up firing my replacement and returning to work two weeks early. It was nice to be needed and I was ready to return. I missed my co-workers, I missed my work, I missed feeling productive, and I missed the money! Getting by on one salary was very tight and I don't really enjoy pinching pennies. Most days, I'm very happy to be here. Lately, though, I find I miss the kids. The strangest thing is that, until about a year ago, I had no choice and I felt fine about working. I HAD to work for financial reasons. Having no choice is freeing, because there is little to no guilt.
When my husband moved up career-wise, the guilt kicked in. I know I could, with stringent economies, stay home. Hey there, guilt, welcome to my happy home! I have excellent child care and I know my children are doing fine. They are both very "bonded" to me and I don't think they are being hurt by my working in any way. In fact, I think I am setting a good example for them. My mother worked, my mother-in-law worked, heck, three out of four of my husband's and my GRANDMOTHERS worked. Successful careers, too. I'd be weird if I stayed home!
I'm also fighting that little voice inside that says "you went to ALL THOSE YEARS OF SCHOOL to stay home?" Heck, I still owe on my student loans from college and law school. Unlike joining the Peace Corps, they don't forgive your loans if you're a stay-at-home mom. Lately, the only one who has real questions about my life is me. I don't want to be rich and fifty and regret missing these days. Alyssa and Derek are so darned cute sometimes (and sometimes not). But, I also don't want to look a brilliant (I'm biased) child in the eyes at eighteen and explain why I can't send him or her to Stanford. If I keep working, they'll have many more options and opportunities and I'll have the little extras I have grown to really appreciate, like buying hard back books fresh off the presses and eating filet mignon on Saturday night. I ask myself, what am I really missing? I work 8:30 to 4:30, no nights or weekends, and spend virtually all my off time with them. Derek has always been in preschool and he KNOWS who his parents are. He genuinely loves his school. Even if I was home full-time, he would want to go. Alyssa has always been with a nanny and she definitely knows who her mommy is. She will start preschool soon and visits there often. She loves it and screams when I come to take her home. I think preschool gives kids something most stay-at-home mommies don't. Lots of interaction with other kids, frequent activities, no TV, a great playground, and always healthy food (as opposed to the Froot Loops I serve).
As I sit here and internally debate the issue, I waffle back and forth. Choices, schmoices. All my adult life I have gone to school and worked to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm finally there with the husband of my dreams, two beautiful children, a great job, a nice home, and enough money to enjoy life and I'm still not fully satisfied. I'm taking it day by day right now and reminding myself OFTEN that life is beautiful and I am very, very lucky. Most days I believe it. However, I now know that I personally need to have difficult goals and because of that I may never really fully step into the sunshine. Perhaps a little dissatisfaction is what I need to keep striving. Bummer.