This week was the end, at least temporarily, of my stint as an educator. Fortunately, my penchant for planning jived with the universe because my second child is due in just a few short weeks.
Besides putting the finishing touches on report card edits, cleaning out my office, and preparing documents for my successor’s transition, I am ready to harness my due diligence into caring for my 2-year-old son and preparing for his little sister on a full-time basis (although moms, of course, are always full-time; they may just have other work added to their oversized plate).
Since announcing my pregnancy and postpartum work intentions, however, I have been surprised by the number of people who have asked me what I plan to do now that I won’t be working. Most ask the question innocently enough, but when I have responded, “Caring for two children,” I feel like I don’t always receive the knowing smiles I expected. Instead, I wonder if they’re judging my decision.
Now, I usually talk about how the “time not working” will give me the opportunity to complete my third child—my dissertation—but in truth, this response is a defense mechanism; it’s my justification for SAHM status that seems to satisfy some people, or at least my projection of their judgment.
Because in fact, these questions have elicited some already deep-rooted anxiety that jabs at me as readily and frequently as my little one’s kicks. Can we afford two children on a single salary? Between my son’s preschool, loan payments, a mortgage, and other significant expenses that come our way, I worry that the lack of second income will take its toll.
And what about my career? Is taking a backseat going to hurt my job prospects when I decide to return to the work force? How can I stay current and compete against others who will have more experience and detailed resumes?
Not to mention, my housewife skills are pretty sub-par. I find cleaning and organizing more painful that bloodwork or stepping on a Lego. I let laundry pile up until there are no more clean clothes. I can cook some staple dishes (including what I consider the proud distinction of six kugel recipes), but I’d much rather microwave something or order in takeout to feed the family. I would love to channel my inner Donna Reed, but I have a feeling she simply doesn’t exist or is busy watching an episode from “The Real Housewives” franchise.
Finally, what about my own identity? By nature, I am a person who needs to keep busy. Of course, two children will keep me plenty occupied, but I quickly learned with my first child that I like to “adult” sometimes and need an identity outside of “Mommy.”
It’s hard to feel like an adult when watching “Caillou” or “Maya the Bee,” singing “The Wheels on the Bus” for the millionth time with appropriate hand motions, or not leaving the house to run even the simplest of errands because your toddler will throw a tantrum like a boss. It was difficult to stay at home every day with my only adult contact coming from a husband who was as exhausted as I was, social media interactions, or reality television (although I use the term “adult” loosely for the latter).
As a result, I’m already considering if and how I might supplement our family income, while simultaneously remaining a whole person. But then these sentiments also bring on a barrage of Jewish guilt. Isn’t caring for my family fulfilling enough? I’m fortunate that we are in a position that I can play the role of stay-at-home mom for at least a short time, so shouldn’t I be more grateful for the opportunity?
The tug-of-war that comprises work-life balance is real, and clearly, I have many more questions than answers with number two set to make her arrival shortly. There are going to be some days where I feel like I can do it all, and others when I will feel ripped into tiny, competing pieces. All I can do is try to navigate through what works best for both me and my family, and, when all else fails, fly in Bubbe for reinforcements.