A thousand years ago when I was in my early 20s, I was in an exclusive relationship, as serious as two kids-pretending-to-be-adults could be. One day my then-boyfriend and I had THE TALK about THE FUTURE. We were way too young to be thinking about getting married and having kids, but I guess we were trying to figure out if we had what it took to make it or were wasting each other's time.
The usual questions came up: Where we'd live, how many kids we wanted to have, etc. Things were going great until we got to, "Would I stay home to raise the kids or would we get a nanny?"
I grew up in a traditional family where my dad worked full-time and my mom stayed home. And while I mostly appreciated my mother's home-cooked dinners and her quiet, supportive presence (except during my teen years when I would've preferred fewer calories and more freedom), Mrs. Happy Homemaker was NOT what I aspired to be. I wanted to be a Modern Woman! To rise to the top of my field! I was sure I could--and would--bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, ever let him forget he's a man.
My boyfriend, however, wanted a wife who would stay home to raise the kids. We stayed together for a while after that, but knowing how he felt certainly created a rift. I felt myself slowly drifting away, my attention drawn elsewhere. Ten years later, I married a wonderful guy who didn't care if I went back to work or stayed home with the kids.
Fast-forward another five years, and here I am, a stay-at-home mom by choice. After my son was born, I tried to go back to work but only could stomach it for three weeks. I was shocked by how painful it was to leave him. I cried every day and couldn't focus at work. I began to hate and resent the job I had adored for five years. So I quit and have never (okay, hardly ever) regretted my decision.
I realize how lucky I am to have had the choice. However, now that my kids are no longer babies, I find myself thinking more and more about going back to work, getting an actual job in an actual office. Because as much as I enjoy the work itself, it's the office camaraderie and being an important part of a well-oiled machine that I miss the most. The grim reality is that after four+ years out of the game, it's going to be extremely difficult to get back in. And to be honest, I don't know if I can hack being away from my kids that much.
It makes me wonder: What would the idealistic (and naive) girl I was in my 20s think about the woman and mother I've become? On the one hand, I'm sure she'd be pleased about having two happy, healthy, smart, beautiful children...but on the other, I can't help but think she'd also be a bit disappointed to look in the mirror and see Mrs. Happy Homemaker reflected back. Where did the career girl go? (And who is this laundering, cooking, diapering, cleaning woman who has taken her place?) Have I let my former self down? And if so, is that a bad thing? Or is it just life?