I have been a stay at home mom (SAHM) for 4 years, dabbling in writing for fun. I have set my own deadlines, and worked only as much as I felt like, whenever I felt like. But I noticed that I felt like it more and more often.
So, off late, I have been taking on some commissions with deadlines. I have enjoyed it a lot. It adds an extra dimension of challenge to what I do. Now, sometimes I have to do considerable research before writing an article on an unfamiliar subject. It forces me to edge out of my comfort zone, which I appreciate. I love learning new things and being exposed to novel ideas and perspectives.
But I was reluctant too. Everything was going so well. Should I really rock the boat? I wondered.
Taking all things in to consideration, I decided to start small and adapt slowly. Everything has gone fairly well, except I experience certain insecurities ...
When working moms and WAHMs talk about guilt, I assumed they meant, they feel they don't do enough for their kids. I was under the impression, they worry about how the child will be affected by their physical or emotional absence. I thought they feel guilty about the effect, the diminished time, love and attention they can spare, will have on their kids.
This is not my primary concern. I know lots of kids are raised without a mother's continuous time and attention. They turn out fine. I did, as did billions of others. Besides, I am home and available whenever my attention is really needed.
My concern is, will I regret not having spent more of this time with my kids? My 18 month old always wants to be with me. The other day, when I went to pick her up from her grandma's place, after an evening spent there, she greeted me with so much enthusiasm. My 4 year old was happy to see me too, but she did not express it as enthusiastically.
It made me realise. She is growing up so fast. It was not so long ago that I was the centre of her universe too. But school started and she began enjoying weekly visits to her grandparents house and my part in her life began to diminish. Don't get me wrong, she still needs me a lot, but definitely less than her sister. Of course, no surprise there.
There is something so wonderful and yet annoying about being your baby's whole world. Being needed so much is immensely frustrating and incredibly rewarding. But my point is, never again will anyone look up to me, and think the world of me, in the same way.
If the older one interrupts me with trivial banalities when I am working, simply because she is bored, I tell her, she needs to learn to entertain herself. And I do believe this is very important. But at the same time I feel sad thinking about, how many times my daughters are going to push me away, when they are teenagers, and how, at that time, I will long for them to come to me for anything, even trivial banalities. I can't help but think, this time will soon be gone and I can never get it back. There is always time to work later, when both kids are in school, right? Right?
Yes that is true. But until then what? Should I just spend every moment with them? I have tried doing that. But it becomes frustrating. Because although raising the kids can engage my heart fully, it can't engage my brain to full capacity. Even when I am hanging out with them, I yearn to read or get distracted thinking about an idea, some issue or puzzle or problem that has nothing to do with them, that I want to explore or pursue.
I realised my dilemma is lot like that of a person who worries about the fact that death can come at any moment and thinks he should lead his life in such a way that he has wont have any regrets, if that should happen tomorrow. But one can't really live like that, everyday, in the long term. A life plan like that will only make one miserable with no long term goals and nothing to look forward to.
Similarly I can't live every moment of my children's babyhood desperately trying to drink it in, because it is going to disappear soon. Life needs to balance long term and short term plans. In the short term I need to do things other than hang out with my babies. Weather that is read a book, or watch a movie, write, or work. In the long term too, it is not too healthy to focus on spending all my time with them. First because they need to learn to spend time on their own. Second because change is best if it is gradually introduced.
As they grow up, I slowly, but surely, need to do more things that do not involve them, because they are doing the same. Otherwise when they do start school I will be left with a sudden vacuum in my life.
In life, change is the only constant. And embracing it is the only way to live. Fearing it will get me nowhere. Surely there is beauty and magic in the bond with an older child, even a teenager or adult, and hopefully I will find it when the time comes.