I wish I could say I'm one of those parents who loved every minute of at-home motherhood, but I'm not. Every night, I'd count the hours until bedtime. After each kid was born and the new baby glow wore off, I'd wonder how long it would be until I could do what I wanted.
Sure, I'd try to convince myself that I was living a dream, that I had chosen to be at home, that this was what I'd been waiting for. And in a way it was. But there was something about screaming children and my personality that was incompatible, and though I didn't want to wish my life away, some days it felt like that.
As we were first adjusting to parenthood, my husband and I were stricter about gendered ways of doing things, and in hindsight, it would have made more sense to consider our unique gifts and how they would apply best to raising a family than to say, "I'm the man so I'll take out the garbage". In those early days of parenthood, things were harder. Some of this was due to circumstances, but some of it was due to not thinking through many of our choices.
It didn't take me long to realize that I didn't like to feel helpless if we were struggling financially. That the children liked to play with my husband more than me. That I was stricter about discipline and rules. That I preferred to take out the garbage and shovel the snow myself, while my husband would rather pay the bills and do the dishes.
And so we changed some things--some were deliberate choices, while we drifted into others. While I had done most of the house- and child-related stuff while the kids were breastfeeding and because I was home anyway, when they got older, it wasn't as physically necessary for me to do as much of the work. They could survive while Dad took care of them and I went somewhere. Not only that, but they loved to hang out with him.
My youngest is about to start kindergarten. For so long, I thought I was trapped, but it's funny how you can see your way out so much clearer from the other side. It wasn't that I hated being at home, but thinking I didn't have a choice made it that much harder.
I can see now that I could have started the path I'm on much sooner, that staying home has been beneficial for my kids, that it was never going to last forever. I can see that it's possible for me to earn an income to support our family, and it could have been possible sooner, if I'd been more decisive and smart. I can see that guilt and self-doubt and less than stellar decision-making skills held me back, and that taking a step back from my hovering hasn't hurt anyone--if anything, it's helped my family to grow.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but I think in order to see it, I had to jump off the train.