There are a few constants I struggle with as a stay-at-home mom: how much Elmo is too much Elmo when my daughter could sit comatose, mouth agape, and watch all day; should I buy this really cute pair of kid's shoes, even if she doesn't really need them (the answer to this one is usually yes, yes everyone always needs a new pair of shoes); is she eating enough whole grains, did I cut her fingernails too short, should we be practicing more words and numbers, am I depriving her because I suck at Pinterest crafts? The list is never ending, and new worries accumulate as each day I become a mother for one day longer. But there is one issue that haunts my brain, plaguing me from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep at night. I strive to be the best possible role model for my daughter. I want to show her how she can be strong yet vulnerable, practical but still emotional, empathetic but with a streak of realism, and most importantly, self driven and eternally motivated. But, and this is what gets me: how can I possibly demonstrate all of those traits without being a total and utter hypocrite? How can I expect her to make the life choices that lead to success when my life choices brought me here -- sitting on the couch -- as a stay-at-home Mom.
Don't get me wrong, 99 percent of the time I love my life and would never trade it in. I usually have no problem repeating what everyone else always says, "staying home is really hard!" But sometimes, sometimes, I just don't buy it. Sometimes, my life feels like it's too easy and I get this overwhelming rush of guilt, and even worse, shame. I would like to add here that I have been blessed with an incredibly well behaved, happy, sleeps 12 hours a night and naps two hours a day kind of kid. So my personal disclaimer is that when my life feels easy, it's often times because of that, and not because I have some magical momming ability. She'll sit in the stroller for my doctor appointments (and having autoimmune diseases, I have lots of those), she loves riding in the cart at the supermarket and waving to all the Costco employees - she's an amazing kid and I feel lucky everyday. But it's because of this, because my life can feel so easy, I worry I am doing her a whopping and giant injustice.
I was texting with an old Law School friend with a daughter the same age as mine, and she casually said,
"How did our Moms do this? This is so hard!"
Clearly, she assumed I too was practicing law, a logical assumption since I graduated from law school. As I read her text I felt it seeping in, slowly, but then in a moment, a super fast rush of it. Shame. Shame.
"Actually, I stay at home," I said. "But I have such immense respect for you guys who do it all. I can't imagine how hard it is to juggle both."
She was very kind and made some remark about how it was just as hard to be home, blah blah blah. No it's not. I graduated from an Ivy league school, I have a law degree, and I'm a poop wrangler. I cook dinner, I do laundry, I vacuum (although admittedly less than I should), I take my daughter to music class and I build legos with her and read books in our living room. This is not rocket science. And I chose this. And she will grow up knowing that. I had all the opportunities to become a professional success, and I didn't take them. And sometimes it feels like I took the easy way out. And I don't want that for her. I don't want her to be like me.
My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and her mom was a stay-at-home mom. This is one legacy I don't want my daughter to carry on -- I want more for her than that. At 10, I remember thinking, I want to be just like my mom, except I want to have a life. Yet here I am. I find myself saying to my daughter, you can grow up and be whatever you want to be, you find what makes you happy baby girl (one day she'll understand this, and for now, it quells my own inner guilt to repeat this). But what if she turns out like me? (side note -- fortunate enough to have the ability to stay home and not work, yes, believe me, I know we are lucky this is an option for our family). What if she shuns her education for a life of diaper changing and Daniel Tiger? By staying home with her, am I doing her a disservice? If I had a nanny who took care of her everyday, but my daughter saw me as a successful business woman, would I be modeling a nobler version of the woman I want her to become? And this is where I'm constantly torn.
I don't want to go to work. I want to stay at home. I love staying at home. I love changing her diapers, I love singing to her and having dance parties and going to the park and watching her laugh as she runs and falls and runs and falls. I love it all, and I don't want to go to work, I don't want to be a lawyer and work late hours and come home after she's asleep. I just worry that by making this choice, by choosing to be home, I have become the kind of woman I don't want my daughter to be, and that hurts my heart and my head and my soul. Shouldn't my being a happy and fulfilled woman, while staying at home, make me the kind of role model I want to be?