I never knew if I would be a good stay at home mother. I never really knew if I would be a good mother, period. Many people, family and friends had a lot more faith in my hypothetical abilities than I ever did. When Reid and I decided to take the huge leap of faith into parenthood, we chatted about what I would do, work or stay. I had just completed a Master's degree in Education, was certified to teach Theatre, Biology, and Elementary school, and was at the very beginning of a promising career. The general consensus was to give it a shot, stay flexible, and see how it went.
The first evolution of this journey to stay home with wee Finnegan was seeing if I could keep him alive for any length of time. This tiny bundle, who couldn't even hold his head up, couldn't focus his eyes to things more than a few feet away, and totally dependent. It really gave me something to focus on, everything was a blur, especially with initial nursing woes. I counted days in three hour increments to the next nursing session. I couldn't think too much about anything because I was so focused on solving the breastfeeding dilemma, changing, rocking, adjusting to this new, mostly wonderful, but extremely difficult existence.
The second big evolution came when Finn started moving independently. This brought such new fear and insight into my views of myself as a mother. Some days it seemed as though we would just get by, narrowly dodging one near death experience after another. But, what was more of a challenge, and the biggest one so far, was how to keep this little being engaged and entertained aaalllll day, while keeping my sanity. The days that didn't go so well, I plunged into wondering if this had been a good idea. I heard all the voices of people I knew saying, "You're going to be such a fabulous mom, you're so creative!" and I felt as though I was failing. Some days I was just too exhausted to think of things for him to do. He would get, it seemed, bored, or frustrated, and start being an inquisitive boy....which would take the form of digging into houseplants or the toilet or heater...my attitude would shift for the worse, and it went downhill from there. Reid would come home, I'd be totally burnt out, and he would let me go play piano or hike for an hour to recharge. It was this part of the journey where I really questioned whether staying at home was right for me...perhaps being around the same individual too much was not that great a thing. Perhaps going back to work, getting a nanny or sitter, would be better: I'd be happier, knowing that I was doing a good job at a job with very defined objectives, I could come home and be totally energized because I had missed Finn all day, and be ready to play for a few hours before bed time. Quality may trump quantity, right? Still, this felt, to me, as the easier way out, and I plunged into self doubt and insecurities as an engaging, creative, energetic parent. If I'm honest, at its worst, I thought it might be better if Reid find someone else who could be a better mother for Finn.
As I hit this bottom, and spent more than a few days really questioning what the hell I had gotten myself into, and where I was to go from here, something just recently started evolving from it. I started finding those creative ways to engage and entertain both Finn and I, slowly, almost out of emotional necessity for survival...and I believe, it was only by sticking through this seemingly bottomless pit of self doubt, that I was able to come out of it. I started being able to notice subtle nuances of when he seemed able to entertain himself, how it sounded when he was starting to need a little extra stimulation, and almost intuitively, start to become that mother I wanted to be. I still have such a long way to go, but I feel this heavy cloud lifting. By sticking to this commitment I made to stay at home with him, and pushing through what has been the hardest part so far, because it was dealing with MY issues, not his behavior challenges, I am starting to see the light. And I would never had seen the glimmer if I wasn't in the darkness, so I have to be thankful for that. This has been my journey of staying at home; messy, glorious, dark, frustrating, and very beautiful. By engaging in it, and committing to it, I feel in my bones that it is the right choice for my family, and me.
In the end, being
a mother has been, without a doubt, the hardest thing, I have ever
done. It has made me question our existence, ponder the state of the
world and humanity, at times quite morosely, and question if I was
really ever meant to fill such a large role. In the same moment, it has
offered me glimpses of such profound hope and love that I could do
nothing but cry. It has filled me with gratitude for
the souls that we are lent for the short time we are here. I still am
not close to having some of the answers I seek, but I will not, can not,
stop seeking those answers. Being a mother has awakened that quest in
me, and I am thankful for that.