the end of an era
i started this blog on january 1, 2016. we had just decided to return to my home state of michigan for david to begin working for my family's packaging business so i could remain home with bina full time. my first blog post covered a brief history of my marriage and what had happened up until that point and then explained the purpose for starting the blog:
"to share my transition from working woman, to working mama, to stay at home mama. to share the struggles of making a new home for ourselves again and learning a new place. though i grew up in michigan, i left to go out of state for college at the age of 18 and haven't lived there since. david and i are both excited about the future. but we will miss the life we made for ourselves in austin. this is where we feel like we really became adults. where we got our first dog, our first home, and had our first baby. we love our home, our family, our church, our friends, our jobs. but we have new priorities now and we're making decisions to reflect that shift. after four years in the great nation of texas, we are moving north to the mitten. six months and counting.
so join me on this journey. there will be joy and laughter. there will be tears and frustration. it's real. it's raw. it's life. it is our journey, our story, and it is beautiful."
on the sunday afternoon before i return to work on monday, i find myself thinking back on this journey once again. i have transitioned from working woman to working mama to stay at home mama and now i will transition back to working mama. i remember feeling like i was not fully present anywhere when i was a working mama and as if i wasn't doing a great job in any of my roles, at work or at home. similar to when i was working full time at UT austin and also part time as an adjunct at austin community college a couple nights a week. i eventually left teaching and focused solely on my job at UT. i actually hadn't made that connection before. at any rate, when i became a stay at home mama, i realized that feeling doesn't change even when i am home full time with my kid. and though i could devote my attention solely to my one job at UT when i left teaching, i have to say the feeling was similar there too. i may always feel inadequate, but that does not mean that i am inadequate. it just means that i am a human with human feelings and an active inner critic.
for the last 4.5 years i have been home. after being home on my maternity leave for 12 weeks, i worked for 8 months of bina's first year before we left for michigan. we arrived in michigan early in the morning on mother's day in 2016. it has been a journey for sure. full of joy and laughter, tears and frustration, just as my first post declared it would. it has been both wonderful and awful, all at the same time. and i think that is the beauty of it. that all these things can co-exist. one doesn't cancel out the other. sometimes we only share the wonderful but that doesn't mean there isn't awful. it just means we're not in a place to share the awful. sometimes we only share the awful but that doesn't mean there isn't beautiful. it just means we're not in a place to share the beautiful. real, raw, messy life. each of our journeys as unique as we are. no two stories exactly alike.
i have a deep appreciation for my time at home with my two small humans. being at home gave me the flexibility to do things i may not have been able to do otherwise. in the last 4.5 years i have done a lot of emotional healing work. i still have much more to do and anticipate that i will continue to grow in this for the rest of my life. the last year has been a crash course in a lot of new things for me. i feel more confident in my own resilience because of it. i am a different person than i was 4.5 years ago and i hope that in another 4.5 years i will be able to say the same. i always want to be growing and changing, always pursuing truth -- wherever that may lead me.
as this season as a stay at home mom draws to a bit of an abrupt close, the last 4.5 years are flashing before my eyes. i mourn that i could have managed my time better. that i could have been more present with my kids. and then i realize i am could-ing myself, just like should-ing myself. of course we could all do more, be more present. i am not a robot, i am a human. a human that has accomplished a lot and yet feels like it wasn't enough. oh the traps we can fall into when we idealize what could have been and then lose the ability to appreciate what was. what was, was messy and beautiful. and i can hold space for it just as it is with a lot of self-compassion for myself going through some really hard transitions and experiences and leaning in through them.
i have two magical tiny humans. the time i feel i was robbed of in bina's first year because of my post partum depression and just being away from her most of the week at work, that time was redeemed by juniper's. i got to do all the things i wish i had done differently with bina, with juniper. i got to experience all that while also enjoying the sweet dynamic of the proudest big sister adoring her baby sis. that is, until baby sis started getting into big sister's toys. the adoration dissipated at that point. their relational dynamic has shifted as juniper has grown into a full blown toddler. now they are either giggling and playing together or screaming at each other. the joys of life with siblings. nevertheless, i find them magical.
as i contemplate the reality of not being able to be with them during the week, i hold space for the grief of missing the beautiful mundane, daily experiences and interactions. i snuggle juniper a little tighter today, grieving the ability to snuggle her at any time during the week. as a result of COVID i will be working remotely for the foreseeable future. this lends some flexibility and also means that i will not be losing time commuting to and from work. if i am not in a meeting, i can take a minute to nurse juniper or give bina a snuggle throughout the day. i hope this will make the transition a little easier on all of us. mama has to work, but mama is still here at home. at least for now.
i have found myself wanting to throw off the emotional labor of being the mom since i settled into the idea that i would be the one returning to work, even before i had this job offer. chuck it all to david like a hot potato. finding new doctors on our new insurance for the third time this year? not my problem. arranging for someone to check on the hot water heater that is acting up? not my problem. making sure i have all the things and all the snacks for any outing we embark on? not my problem. dishes, cooking, and laundry? not my problem.
being at home the last 4.5 years while david worked long hours during the week and often saturdays, i feel justified in saying: ok let's see how YOU like it! obviously the heart behind that is a bit resentful. and resentment doesn't lend itself to emotional health. i have been honest with david about this and i can see we both have this knee jerk reaction of -- how do YOU like it -- as our roles prepare to flip. and that is okay. we are only human. we can feel our feelings and communicate to each other what is going on in our heads and our hearts without judgement. what's not okay is if we stay in that space over time, losing kindness and compassion for each other. instead of "how do YOU like it," we can say "this is really hard, isn't it?" holding space for the wounded parts of ourselves and honoring them. working together as a team to process our feelings well, pursue healthy interaction, and be clear about expectations. this work is so hard, and so worth it.
this evening we will have a little family ceremony marking the end of this season with mama as the at-home parent and daddy as the working parent, and the beginning of the season with mama as the working parent and daddy as the at-home parent. as much as i hold space for my grief over the loss of my time at home with my tiny people, i also hold space for the excitement of returning to a department i love in a role i am thrilled to fill. i hold space for the excitement of my children having time with their dad. david, the playful parent.
one thing that david has expressed since we have been home together is the realization of how he was missing juniper's life. being home together the last almost three months, juniper has become daddy obsessed. i love it. at nap time today i took her into our bed to nurse. david was in the room with us and then left to go help bina get setup for eye patching time. juniper wailed. like the most devastated cry. sobbed for her "daa-ee" as she calls him. we tried to switch out and i left to help bina. more wailing, this time for mama. juniper wanted both of us. she fell asleep holding her daddy's hand with her mama's nipple in her mouth. oh that kid. i am grateful for this time we have all been able to spend together as a family and i think it will ease our transition too.
i love the four humans in my family: my big one, my two small ones, and myself. what a journey it has been and what a journey it will continue to be. i am ready for this next chapter to begin. ready to turn gender norms on their heads. ready to see where david takes homeschooling and how both he and our kids grow because they are spending time together. ready to start my new job and dive back into the department of biomedical engineering. ready for a quiet christmas at home enjoying an amazing two week vacation because the university holiday schedule is lit. ready for all the promise 2021 holds for a vaccine and the prospect of getting to hug my friends in person, return to work in person. ready to change and grow and model to my small people how to be an awesome adult.
my blog has been in existence for almost 5 years. it began as we were preparing to embark on a journey back to my home state of michigan. thus far it has mostly chronicled my experience as a stay at home mom. 4 years and 4 months after our move to michigan we made our way home to austin. we've had 11 weeks together as we adjust to our new digs and settle in as a family. tomorrow i start my new job and i am holding space for all my feelings about it. there is room for all of them. and i will continue to write about this journey of mine. it is always changing, always evolving. it never ceases to surprise me. i am excited for what is next.