Thursday, July 17, 2008

Retrospective: On Stay-at-Home Motherhood

The conclusion of our adventures in Denmark marked the “equality point” of Michael’s and my ventures as primary caregivers of our children. Michael was home with John for ten months after my maternity leave and I was the stay-at-home parent for our ten-month stint in Copenhagen. I thought of our trip as a chance to “try on” being a stay-at-home parent and, as you’ve read, its had it’s ups and downs.

I very clearly remember the moment when the glow of staying home wore off. On this particular day I tripped and fell quite ungracefully on the bus, experienced a heavy dose of ‘Mom guilt’ from a well-meaning acquaintance, locked John and myself out of the apartment, thought I'd lost our digital camera, cried openly for a whole city block over it until I realized the camera was in the back pocket of the stroller, and then was pooped on by a rather large bird. At dinner that night every time John would accidentally drop food on the floor, I felt like crying. Later I consoled myself by going to the mall, child and stroller-free, to ride up and down the escalator, and it was then I knew the honeymoon was over.

I spent the majority of this year trying to negotiate a new identity of sorts for myself. So much had to change – even down to things like my "personal fashion concept" – business casual is great for the professional world but not so much for Mother World. The success of my day was measured in the cleanliness of my apartment, the number of tantrums my toddler had and if I managed to get both children to nap at the same time when it was once measured in things more tangible and permanent. I discovered to my chagrin that new acquaintance’s initial impression of me was that I was "just a mom" when I still thought of myself as a working professional. And I came to hate how trivial and dismissive the word "mom" or especially "mommy" seemed when applied as a label. But I’ve slowly been learning how to find my way through all of this; allowing myself a little time away to exercise some of the skill sets I particularly enjoyed in my professional life, getting enough sleep at night, and learning to be as confident in myself as a primary caregiver as I was as a professional.

At the core though I’m both surprised and not surprised to find that I genuinely like my children and actually enjoy seeing their small selves grow and blossom up close on a daily basis. I get lots of little comments about how close they are in age and how energetic John is, all with an undercurrent of "how-in-the-world-do-you-survive-I-would-never-want-to-live-your-life." But I am not sorry and I don’t pity myself. I love that John already doesn’t remember a time when there wasn’t James, and even now you can see a bond of brotherhood between them. They’re both energetic but it’s a focused energy that is full of infectious enthusiasm.

This coming year I’ll be back for another round of staying at home. There are many reasons why this makes sense – lack of affordable quality childcare on short notice and possibly only being in our new home for one year among other reasons. And while I have persistent internal questions about whether I’m being a good model of womanhood for my sons and as we face certain negative financial implications of my not working full time, I’m rather looking forward to it.


John L. said...

I doubt that anyone besides yourself will ever question whether you are being a good model of womanhood for your sons. I'm pretty sure Karen and I will call you for advice in a month or two!

Rachel said...

You are absolutely my hero. I want you know that!

Anonymous said...

What could be a better model of womanhood than to ignore what our materialistic culture says you should do and to stay home and instill godly values in your children? While I am not against working outside the home (obviously), I think there are seasons where our families need us at home.

I do agree that there is a mental shift you must make to be able to enjoy being "just" a mom, and there are plenty of ways to not lose yourself in that role and still be who you are.

Praying for you as you transition (yet again!).
-Elizabeth S.

Anonymous said...

i love to be a mom.

Molly J. said...

hi Rebekah! Have you switched blogs or just gotten busy and not written? I miss reading what ya'll are up td :)

Rebekah said...

I've been on a blogging vacation as I sort out my blogging identity crisis. I'll be back soon!

Raúl y Pablo said...

me gusta muho tu blog lo visito a diario visita el mio y si t gusta deja un comentario y nos linkeamos los blogs

Alex said...

Hi, I found your blog in the expatsblog website... I keep a blog also and just moved to Copenhagen with my husband and my 11 month baby... if you're interested in my blog or to keep in contact just email me to