Mothering myopia
Early risers

Leave it to me to go somewhere awesome and come home with angst

I never figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. As much as I love being a stay at home mom, it's not at all what I wanted to Do (and it's still a surprise, quite frankly, that I'm actually doing it.) And the thought of what I'll do when all my kids are in school frightens me. Sure, I could keep staying home, if we could manage it, and get super involved in their schools and all that stuff. I might do that. But mostly I'm terrified of being thrown back in the What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up pool. I didn't figure it out the first time, and I don't feel all that hopeful for the future. 

I went to Phillip's "Capstone" project presentation tonight (although I missed the presentation part). It was basically a giant science fair, with posters and snacks and the best punch I've ever had (like an orange creamsicle, only with a big splash of pineapple) and eager beavers dying to talk to you about the thing they've been working on for nine months. I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but I know I didn't expect to come home and feel like such a LOSER. 

(Seriously, I should be ashamed. 1) I always have to make things about me and 2) why do I always come home from the stupidest randomest things with Existential Crises and enough angst for several blog posts? Why can't I just go SUPPORT MY HUSBAND?)

AAAANYWAY, you guys, I could TOTALLY do this master's program. I've known that from the beginning, honestly. If I were to go back to school and NOT get a completely un-lucrative Master's in English, I would go to the Information School (yay UW for deciding information is a science!) and get the same degree Phillip will have. I've always been interested in his classes (most of them) and the two of us can totally geek out over things like databases and information sharing platforms. I mean, the one thing I'm really proud of from my stint in the paid workforce was building a database/event management application FROM SCRATCH and totally revamping the way a nonprofit ran its meetings and yearly fundraisers. I feel that this gives me nerd cred. Only a nerd's heart goes pitter pat at the thought of coding form buttons, right? Or redesigning her personal website every four months. Phillip's program is all about managing, streamlining, improving and quickly finding information and this little final project fair was enough to give an anal-retentive the overheated excitement vapors. 

You don't HAVE to have a technical background, though it helps. I got into a conversation about Drupal with an international student who was, to my satisfaction, overly delighted that I knew what Drupal WAS, and then I found out that he didn't do the actual development himself, he just had the idea and hired out. I COULD DO THAT. Half the projects were ideas for apps - photo management, receipt management, textbook exchanges, how to find hikes and bike trails, several about finding restaurants, Phillip's included. Another chunk were dry and boring library science projects, doing a bunch of organization and cataloging for nonprofits who hadn't organized or cataloged for years. Then there were just people with neat ideas - my favorite was a girl who put a real estate staging company's artwork inventory (for rent or purchase) online, gaining better exposure for the artists and making it easier on the clients to stage their houses. Her poster was pretty awesome too.

And the guys Phillip worked with were so impressive. Their poster was one of the very best, in my obviously biased opinion, just because one the guys in his group has the right EYE for that kind of thing and the skills to match. The other guy made these awesome app screen shots that they demo'ed on their respective iPads (okay, so THERE'S a piece of the I-School crowd I find a SMIDGE obnoxious), I mean, he must have spent the last several months ear-deep in Photoshop. My adorable husband was the chatty one with the big Oh Yeah I Am Almost Done With This Crap! grin. He gave the presentation and wore the tie and didn't stop smiling the whole time I was there. 

I wandered around drinking my delicious punch and thinking I could be doing this too.  

I still don't know what I would DO though. I don't have professional qualifications for anything. My blog probably cancels out a whole lot of things (you know, like that one time I thought I might being a Senate staffer or something. Ha!) And I'm a SAHM and plan to be one for quite a while. I'm having a NEW baby, for goodness' sake! I will be OLD NEWS by the time my kids are in school. I mean, if I'm not updating my Facebook account NOW and still have no idea what Pinterest is, I will be COMPLETELY irrelevant in another five years. 

I know, really, that I'm afraid. I do not have ambition driving me, or a desire to make a ton of cash. I'm lazy as all get out. I don't have a dream job or a passion in anything that might give me a paycheck. I just like to tinker and efficient-ize and learn stuff, preferably on my own, whether or not I'm paid well and what's the point, really? I don't have to put myself out ANYWHERE right now, and as much as these kids drive me crazy some days, they're my comfort zone. I'm in charge, I know what's what, I answer to me. To do anything else... yeah. Hmm. 

Oh my gosh, I was totally just reminded of the dream I had the other night where I went to LAW SCHOOL. And that is how I will manage to end this droopy blog post on a note of HIGH HILARITY. Because: HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

 

Comments

Elsha

I am pretty much the opposite. I have known since I was like 5 that I wanted to be a homemaker. So even though I have the good degree (chem eng. because I am also a giant nerd) and could easily make more than my husband does, every time I even consider going back to work I think, "oh wait, I hated that."

Renata

I'm with you on this one, Maggie. I am an accidental SAHM, and sometimes I do miss having a great job and a nice title after my name. But in the end, am I defined by my job or by the way my kids turn out? Would I be happier working for some slave-driving company (most are, IMO) or putting in extra hours with my kids even when I'm physically and emotionally spent? Would my kids be happier raised by me or by the sitter/teacher/grandparents (all great, but they are not the parents)?
My kids are my purpose now. And you summed it up so nicely: "I'm in charge, I know what's what, I answer to me."

P.S. To all of us here, you already are not only a SAHM but also a WRITER. You could have told that to all those geniuses at the party, if SAHM sounded too humble.

Colleen

I'm 44(45 next week!Big Crisis) and have a 4 year old. My husband and I have this chat all the time
about what I could do when he goes to school. I have an English degree (my parents warned me about that!) and am sort of qualified for nothing at this point. Nor am I really passionate about anything. We owned a children's bookstore when my 10 year old was really small but had to close that a few years ago. When I talk to other women I get sort of panicky and feel grossly inferior. But most days I am happy to be available to be with the kids, pick up and drop off the oldest. He's still at the age where he loves me to go on field trips so I enjoy that too. In two years when the little one is at school all day, I expect to re-visit this.

Beth

So the MA in English? It's not so useless, particularly if you want to be a MOSTLY SAHM. I have a PhD in it -- finished my dissertation scant weeks before the first baby was born -- and if you're willing to not really make any money and teach as an adjunct at a community college, it's actually a pretty good job. I teach MWF 8-10 (2 classes) and there's some out of class prep, but not much after you've taught the classes the first time. It keeps my brain active, it gives me something to say when people say "what do you do," and it pays a little bit of money. Actually, it pays our student loan payments.

And I've just landed a gig teaching one class at a high school, so I'm hoping to transition to full-time high school employment once the kiddos are in school. And it's at a Catholic school which gives me TUITION BREAKS.

So not totally useless.

Heather

I always had thoughts of what I wanted to do, I knew there were limitless possiblities, but I always knew I would be at home. And yes there are days that are hard, and horrible, but the good ones, the awesome ones, those make up for the bad ones 1000%. You will figure it out, just breathe.

HereWeGoAJen

I have YEARS to decide what to do when I no longer have kids in the house and I get all panicky thinking about it.

Kristina

Oh Maggie. I hear SO much of myself in this post that I almost cried. I have a Bachelor's in Psychology (totally useless w/o a Masters or PhD.) I was a social worker for 3 years and loved it but quit when I had my first child. Then I got my paralegal certificate and worked for lawyers for 3 1/2 years and was miserable. Just this week I started a part-time job (and now I'm TOTALLY freaking about money) so that I could spend the extra time with my kids and try to make freelance writing/editing my full-time job (which is hilarious because who the hell can make that work???)

I'm terrified too. Mostly that I'm going to wake up one day in like 15 years and feel like I've not done anything important or anything that makes me really proud. If I can make the writing thing work I think I would be happy doing that forever, but what am I going to tell people, that I'm a freelance writer? Me, with no English degree who just likes to read??

Ugh. It's so hard. I know my kids will always be my greatest accomplishment, but I still want to be proud of my contributions to the world as an individual. I want to know that I've done what I was meant to do with my life.

And now that I've rambled on for WAY too long, I will leave it at this: You (and hopefully I) will figure it out. What's meant to be will be, right?

craftyashley

Um yes. All of what you described up there? That would be me. I COULD do stuff. I just have zero drive to do such things. I have a could be lucrative degree, but the competition is REALLY fierce, and I just don't want to spend all my waking hours begging someone to like what I'm doing and working my tail off to get "credentials." Meh. Let the young bucks who can live on 2 hrs. sleep and a Cup Noodles do it.

I don't know what I'll do when all the kids are in school either. A couple Moms have told me there is not as much time to yourself as you'd expect.

Redbecca

Wow, I could have written this post, except I work full time at a job that I specifically took because the hours were less but the benefits awesome (let's hear it for non-profits!) deliberately because we were going to start a family.
I've always envied the folks who knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. Your post, Kristina's and craftyashley's are all the thoughts that swirl through my head. I'd LIKE to be the SAHM but we live in a super expensive area and I have to work to pay bills. It sucks. I'd like to devote more time to my son, get more involved in his education and maybe be able to take him to therapy (autism) without having to juggle 2 schedules and work weekends to make up the time, etc.
When people ask me what I'd like to do I say anything 9:30 - 3pm Tuesday through Friday with awesome medical coverage and a 401k. And I'm not kidding.

katie

I had one dream job growing up: be a park ranger.
I came close in college when I was hired as a seasonal worker for two summers by the county park system to plant, weed and water flower beds along the lakefront. Man, it was the BEST JOB EVER.

Now that I'm pregnant with baby #3, I can delay any prospects of an actual real-life career for 4 more years.

katie

p.s. I LOVED what your wrote for Parenting about Jack! For some unknown reason our girls are super into Magic School Bus books - the old ones about the solar system and human body and ocean exploration. They are kinda fictiony - but loaded with facts. I bet Jack would eat those up.

p.p.s. You are a supremely talented writer. True to life, completely honest and oh-so-relatable. Thanks for sharing your gift with the rest of us.

Carrie

I'm with you on this one too. I have the degree and had the big fancy career and all, but I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up either. I've been spending a lot of time thinking about it as the kids are getting closer to school and my desperate need to do something other than fold laundry grows stronger. I'm praying for a giant billboard to tell me just what to do :)

This SAHM thing is so hard, but you're doing a good job, just like I know you will do if you decide to be a kick butt classroom mom, or if you get a Master's degree or become an information superstar or do something else entirely.

Life of a Doctor's Wife

Well, I'm just glad that I'm not the only one who has A Major Existential Crisis when I am around my husband and all his colleagues. Stupid doctors and their stupid zillion years of education and experience saving lives. It's so hard not to compare yourself to others, even if it's a useless and soul-crushing endeavor.

I work and we don't even have an INKLING of a kid on the horizon, but I'm terrified about that. About working whilst trying to raise a kid. About deciding NOT to work in order to stay home. About lots of things. And this is all to say, well, you aren't alone in your feelings. Sometimes I think men have it so easy, this decision to be The Provider is pretty much made for them (which I'm sure isn't easy to THEM). But that's just me, comparing myself again.

Okay this is the most useless comment ever, so I will end on: You will figure it out. You are smart and talented - apparently in MORE ways than I ever imagined - and you will find your place.

Sarah in Ottawa

I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. For reals. I have a Master's in Scientific Policy but work in HR (when I'm on on leave - did I tell you that I am taking another year of unpaid leave? I'm due to go back the week V turns 2). I loved my pre-Teddy job, but I couldn't do it with kids - too stressful and the hours were nutso. The job I fell into while on leave with Teddy is...not my thing. But we're open to more kids so ???

I'm praying and trying to discern what's the right path. And even though I am a long term planner, I kept getting the message: "Chill out. One step at a time." (I'm paraphrasing). I am trying to do just that and figure it out when the time comes. And I have no doubt that you'll do it, too. xoxo

Amanda M.

I feel that way sometimes too. I graduated with an English major ready to jump into small town journalism, but when I went looking for a job NO ONE was hiring. At least not a green (even with internships) journalist right out of college, especially since they could be hiring experienced journalist that were recently laid off thanks to the print journalism reductions. So I feel you. I was actually relieved when we figured out I could be a stay at home mom because I didn't have to fight interviews or settle with retail anymore.

Glam-O-Mommy

I'm a working mom who has been with the same company since I graduated from college 16 years ago. (Just celebrated that anniversary-ACK!) Sometimes I wonder what the hell I am doing devoting my life to my company, even though it is a great one. I certainly did not think when I started I'd still be here 16 years later. However, I have four weeks of vacation, only work 32 hours a week (every Friday off with my kid-my SAHM day LOL), and terrific health benefits. In this economy, that's not too bad. This what-am-I-doing-with-my-life-thing crops up all the time though...I really thought about it watching Oprah's three-day finale. There's a woman who can make you feel like you've done NOTHING!

And what the hell IS Pinterest? Everyone's talking about it on Twitter, but I have no idea what it is either?!

Charlotte

And so I've been thinking thoughts about this, as one does, and I kind of think you'd make an awesome dabbler. Hold on, let me finish. The word has some pretty awful connotations and I haven't the slightest clue why. Why not just tinker, efficienterize, or whatever, wherever you please, and just move on when you get bored? Okay, fine, money. Always in the way of everything, that. But seriously, who's to say you can't?

One day when wee Charlotte Cheung (I'm pretending that's the name of the third Cheung-lette. I think it works on a very serious level, just go with it.) is less of a hassle, and everyone is off to school, and you find yourself with some time and sanity, why not get a GRE prep book and hammer on through it, then apply to grad school? Just to see what happens. I think that the experiment is worth the few hundred bucks. You'll never know unless you do the doing of all the pre-decision stuff.

I think you'd make a kick ass grad student, and that your blog actually helps you in that regard. You like to think, for fun. Then you problem solve through rhetoric. Then you manage to synthesize information from other corners of your life to meet a certain end, be it faith or poetry or kick-ass makeup recommendations. I second Beth's suggestion of a PhD (though they pay you in paper clips and spit) and adjuncting (okay, department politics = less than fun), 'cause, you know, this is a vote.

Or just do what you feel like. Be a filthy hippie, Maggie. Yes, I know I'm oversimplifying, but it's just that you're twelve types of awesome and would continue being said twelve types of awesome no matter what your career, because what you do and who you are are two separate matters. However, that doesn't diminish the importance of the former. But how will you know how to reconcile the two unless you just start doing stuff? Not a rhetorical question, oddly. It's something I struggle with every day (well, not the awesome bit). I'm a workhorse, and I tend to be good at random things, but I don't really find fulfillment in what I do, per se, which is probably why I'm writing you a book-length comment about this as I have to live vicariously through someone. I'm going to stop talking now.

Free Weights

I hear you!I've never known what I REALLY wanted to do. With both kids now is high school, I'm having a go at a number of things... but I dies feel like its all passed me by. Perhaps some have drive and passion for their work and maybe some of us just dont?

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