An ex-pupil of mine got in touch with me today on Facebook, a lovely lad I taught some A-level English to. Good understanding of poetic form and character, lovely handwriting. He’s now living in New York working for Prada. Seriously. I can’t tell you how exciting it is to get news like this and not just because I am able to in some way take credit despite having no more contribution to his life success than a solid understanding of the double time structure in Othello and the importance of Iambic pentameter. Which on reflection probably wasn’t that much of a contribution. But to know that someone you have been connected to has achieved a level of happiness and success, that they are really fulfilled is exceptionally pleasing. Plus it is just supercool to say you know someone who works for Prada. People might think I am cool. Well they might.
After chatting with my ex-student I was thinking about times gone by and times right now. I was reflecting on a pretty sucky day where things had jangled, there were dischords, there was, not to put too fine a point on it, bottom leakage all over the house. I handled this with some fortitude and some shouting, it was just one of those days. As I contemplated this young man’s success I considered, not for the first time, that I don’t think I feel about this stuff the way I’m supposed to feel. I have a sense that I am supposed to see my life differently than I actually do.
Now this may well be an example of me making things up for the sake of having something interesting to think about, it wouldn’t be the first time I had created a thesis of life based on not much evidence (my belief that electricity has a plan for example). But with this one I think I am on solid ground. When I look at popular culture I don’t see myself. I see mums, stay at home mums, working mums, kidnapped mums, frustrated mums etc etc but I don’t see my life.
I am a qualified, ex-professional who is now at home with young children. We have the classic ‘mum losing her temper’ moments that we are all familiar with in real life and in popular culture, we have the perfect moments where we sit and read and paint together, more often seen in advertising or on music videos, but what seems most pervasive is the attitude that being a mum isn’t enough. I feel as though, when I hear the news of a friend leading a glamorous life in a big city, I am supposed to look around and find my life wanting. I’m supposed to have the ‘I used to have a corner office you know’ kind of conversations. I’m supposed to envy women who go to work every day, wear make up and have money for posh shoes and smart coats not covered in bottom juice. But I don’t. And I find myself wondering at my own contentedness. Where is my role in society, who am I in the world?
I don’t ‘work’ so I’m not contributing to the economy, I don’t send my kids to school so I am not participating in the community in the way many mums do. I’m not on any committees, I don’t do charity work. But nor am I resentful of my friends who do work (despite the fact that I’d like them to be around so I could see them more), I have no negative feelings about women working or wanting to work. I have been a working mother myself, I taught at a college for 2 years before I had Neirin; we did daycare, we did labeling everything and filling in forms about foods and vaccinations, likes and dislikes.
But then I sat in the office with my boss, talking about returning and Neirin was playing on the floor. She was reluctant to give me the hours I needed and was telling me all this stuff about what had gone on in the 9 months since I’d been gone. And I thought “I don’t give a s**t”. And that was it. Years of training and work, years of loving what I did and caring about it. Suddenly it just wasn’t there for me anymore, that ‘thing’ was gone. That simple.
I may not love every moment of every day but honestly, who does? I remember plenty of frustrations, bad days, crazy bosses, boring tasks. And great stuff, moments of laughter, fun, energy and feeling a connection to these amazing people who are just beginning their lives, who are just beginning to realise who they are and what they could be. But the thing is I have that now.
All the stuff I loved about my job I have in the moments of greatness with my kids. All the stuff that drives me crazy is a bit different but I remember that there will always be ups and downs, good and bad; that’s life. I choose to do what I do, it’s not because there were no options, my religion prescribes it, my family demand it, there is no good daycare or because I couldn’t ‘cut it’. I was good at my job but I’m good at this too. And this lets me be with two people who 1) drive me mental and 2) fill my heart with incredible joy and make me feel that somehow I was chosen to do something amazing, to be their mum.
And I think about my mum and what I remember from being young. I remember making lavender bags and painting eggs at Easter, being forced to eat mashed potato (still hate it) and being told off for reading under the covers. Home knitted jumpers and a large collection of nighties. And I remember my mum just being around, just being there. I’m not perfect, I’m often not patient or even great company but I am here and I am trying.
When I look around the depictions I see of mums are often frustrated, angry, fed up and dreaming of ‘more’. That’s ok, that is how it is for some but there are a lot of us, not wandering through a Swiss meadow of perfection in eternal sunshine, but doing our best and who want this. So when I hear about what others are doing I find it interesting, exciting, lovely. I love hearing stories from my friends about what they are up to, whether they are at home, working full time, whatever. But when it comes right down to it for good or bad, bottom juice or no, this is where I want, with all my heart, to be.
20 thoughts on “Wanting more?”
Well said Emma! Not only do I agree with you about being content to stay home (but wondering why I am sometimes) but I have to thank you for the reminder that I will have a long term impact on these little souls. Sometimes it’s easy to forget in the day to day that we are doing this because it matters.
Ah my friend, your comment has made my eyes all prickly! Couldn’t do it without you. Literally xxxx
Ha, Emma! The answer to all this lies anyway in your pictures, right? Life’s not always perfect and easy, but as long as you suddenly feel you’re doing something that oubeats all the rest, it is somehow perfect! I feel the same way too, when I look at my kids. As if Life had given me a plan that fills my heart with the deepest joy and a sense of being at peace and useful. 🙂
Valerie you are so right! And I do find looking at the pictures of our days really helpful too, in more peaceful moments reminding myself of our achievements and fun rather than the frustrations! I can’t really explain it but I just know this feels important, I think it’s a mum thang!
I loved reading this. I to am a stay at home mom and I like what I’m doing. I choose this. Thank you for your honest and sensitive writing about this topic.
Thanks for your kind comment Dawn : )
Well put, friend. I’m not a mother (unless you count the three cats currently sleeping upstairs), but I am a teacher. Oh, the highs and lows! And I am all too familiar with the comparisons friends and colleagues make about work, life, and the balance we need to strike between the two. I don’t know who The Jones’ are, but I’m kind of tired of trying to keep up with them.
I love hearing from my students when they are all grown up and living spectacular lives – some of them (gulp) now teach ballet as well. (Yes. That makes one feel incredibly old.) There are so many days when I think: I could just walk outta here and never give it a second thought. And then some kid goes and does something amazing, and I have to stay.
Keep enjoying where you are. It sounds pretty great…
Oh those Jones’! I have to admit the more I move away from a ‘conventional’ attitude to life the more interesting it gets. There is so much nonsense we are supposed to care about and do, totally gets in the way of a real life!
I think the only thing that could have made me walk away from teaching was my own kids, even now there are things I miss about my students, but the rest I don’t miss! Those ‘aha’ moments, and the sparkles that kids bring to a day are addictive : )
I was touched, moved, enthralled by your blog! It has had an impact on my day so far. I considered not for the first time, do I feel content or am I jealous of other peoples lives? I figured that I suppose I am both. There seems to be no correlation to my jealousy, I am envious of your Canadian idle and your beautiful children, but I am also envious of my boss whose job and house I want. But I suppose jealousy drives you forward to achieve the things you dream about. And perhaps that is it, you have had your standard professional life and now you have your new profession, taking care and creating perfectly formed British boys in Canada.
I have probably painted a picture of me being this twisted ball of envy, but I suppose I define envy and admiration as similar things.
Bask in the thought that you are COOL now. Its seriously uncool of me to say this, but I always thought you were cool, too cool for school :-).
Oh you lovely creature, thank you for your comment. I know what you mean about admiration vs envy, it is difficult to disentangle them. When I am riddled with jealousy I try to say ‘what do I think I am missing?’ and genuinely look at what I can do about it. Or let it go. I think saying opening “I’m so jealous!” is actually healthy, it takes the sting out of things. But there are times when jealousy takes the joy out of what I am doing and achieving and that is unhelpful so I try and let it go.
Being driven to achieve is a positive I think, we just have to be sure of our motives. The kids keep me pretty level with that stuff, their well being and their little hearts are the priority but it is a struggle to balance it all. But I love it : )
Btw you are a sweetie to proclaim my severe uncoolness to be cool but it was being a part of seeing you all grow and learn that was the really cool bit. Cool by association ; )
I apologize for all of my spelling and grammatical errors….. I have become the personification of laziness, plus I just got off a plane from London so I will use jet lag as an excuse.
I forgive you ; )
Emma: Well said. You should be giving yourself all the credit you deserve. I think it takes a very brave woman to look at her “career” and say screw it! Being a mom is a lifetime career. Not recognized by the taxman or even on a resume but it is far more important than any job anyone will ever have. More people should be jealous or of in awe of us mum’s how decide to give it all up to have what? MORE!
Cheers to you my friend and great post!
Thanks Jenni, you are so right. There should be some kind of ‘heart’ form that we can fill out at the end of the year to show fulfillment earnings. We’d come out very much on top!
brilliantly done, emma. this post is in my sidebar of links. it is so incredible to hear you say this. validation is sometimes hard to come by in the midst of bottom juice. however soul-shaking in moments of grace. <3
Ah thanks Kendra, that is so flattering. Validation is a good word to use, it is hard when the people we ‘work’ for aren’t yet able to say ‘well done’ or ‘thanks’ quite as much as we might like! But then those moments….you know the ones, they pay for it all tenfold. I just need to stick around and remember them : )
Lovely post bean. Pictures of the boys are great. They look so happy despite you being a terrible parent!
Dad will be happy to see Huwyl wearing his t-shirt. He really is a miniature Jones at the moment. It is hard to keep up with the Jones’ but you are doing a great job. My benchmark is rather high.
Billions of love, Smaller Bean
Lol, my poor children, smiling despite the horrifying adversity they face with their harridan of a mother! I hope that Huwyl does inherit some of his dad’s qualities you know like patience and maths! Luckily they have a great aunty so that pays for all!
Those double barreled Jones’ are a tough bunch to compete with, I should know! Luckily they buy amazing presents so it all evens out ; )
I am there with you on this one. I like working before I was a mother. I got great satisfaction from doing my job well. But, I have also been a working mother and I hated it. I hated feeling like I couldn’t be there for my child (there was only one then). For all the sleep-deprived frazzled days, there are moments of pure bliss, where my baby wraps her arms around my neck while my toddler cuddles in next to me and my oldest stands up chatting excitedly at me that I feel their love and how much they love having me there and I am so completely content with my life.
I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. I agree, those snuggle moments when you are just there with them, enjoying their freely given love are so special. Make up for some of the less special moments! I think there are many of us mamas out there who are happy to be at home and many kids benefiting from it but we are a sort of ‘silent’ breed in terms of the wider society. I do love hearing from other families though, shows me we are not alone!