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Both Sides, Now

Joined: 11/6/2008
Posts: 702
In Joni Mitchell’s 1969 song “Both Sides, Now,” she croons with her lilting voice:
“I've looked at life from both sides now,
From win and lose, and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall.
I really don't know life at all.”

Becoming a stay at home mommy has taught me two things that are mentioned in Joni Mitchell’s song: to look at life from both sides (the working mommy perspective and the stay at home mommy perspective) and it has taught me that I really don’t know life at all.

I’ve had an opportunity many women can’t choose or many women wouldn’t choose. For the past 10 months, I have been at home raising my baby girl (now 9 months old) and my 5 year old daughter. When I told people that I was taking 15 months off of work on maternity leave, the reactions were double sided as well. Some said, “You’ll hate being at home.” Others said, “How great for you. You are so lucky that you can stay home. Enjoy every moment.”

The reality has been a mix of both of those reactions. To be honest, some days I do hate it. I am bored by the long afternoons of solitude. I grow tired of my baby’s incessant crying and my 5 year old’s impatience when I’m not able to give her full attention as I try to care for my colic riddled infant. This winter also bullied the east coast with back to back blizzards and a snow-icane just for fun. The weather’s brutality made it hard to shake the loneliness or the day’s monotony.

Some weeks, my only break was a trip to the grocery store or Target or a heavenly outing to the gym for some “me time”. I found that this year, my patience was not as strong as it once was. Story’s 8 full months of crying jags that lasted all day until she went to bed at 7pm wore me down. And Raina’s consistent “mommy” whine drove me crazy some days. As I tried to change my baby for the 10th time or nurse her to quiet her rage, Raina would come into the nursery crying, “Mommy, why don’t you ever spend time with me? Don’t you love me?” My heart would break and I felt like a failure on all accounts. I couldn’t seem to calm Story’s hurting belly, and I couldn’t seem to stop hurting Raina’s feelings.

On other days, I literally feel like I won some sort of grand prize. How beautiful is it that I am able to be at home to watch my baby every day as she grows from a red faced crying newborn into a happy, clapping baby who says “ma ma,” “da da,” “bye-bye” and has started pulling up on furniture and belly laughing with every ounce of her tiny body? I get to watch my girls play dress up together when Raina wants to dress her baby sister up like a princess (using a dress off of one of her teddy bears), and I get to play Sorry with Raina in the middle of the afternoon without the stress of work hanging on me.

Raina and I have dance parties before we make dinner together with our matching aprons (a Christmas present from my mother in law) and I cook real meals at dinner time – made from recipes in my Food and Wine or Rachel Ray magazine that I have time to browse through and mark while I am nursing. I get to go to the gym more than twice a week without feeling guilty about leaving my family again after a full day of work. I get to take walks on nice days in the middle of the morning. And Sunday evenings which were once stressful, feel glorious without the pressure of everything I didn’t get accomplished over the weekend taunting me from my briefcase as the sun fades and Monday looms in the not so distant future.

I have seen life from both sides now – the working mommy side and the stay at home mommy side. Which side is better? Neither. I love my job and my professional side. I love my girls and my family mothering side. Is balancing it all possible? Maybe. I don’t think I have found that solution quite yet, but I’m working on it. I really do want to know the life that I create is more than just an automatic pilot routine. I want to know that I am present in the life of my children, that I take time for my husband, that I have time to fuel my own needs, that my house is really a home and not just a place where I collapse after working all day, and that I am not creating illusions, but real life – no matter which side I choose.
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