When I had my son, I was home with him for six months. During those six months, I was still employed as a high school English teacher, so I was connected to my students, my career, and my degree while I got the benefit of being home with my baby.
When he was six months old, I returned to work for the school year. It was devastatingly hard.
My heart ached for my baby each hour, home life was difficult because my husband and I were both working full time and taking care of an infant and who can keep up with laundry when the baby pukes every two hours and you’ve worked all day? Not us. So I took a hiatus from my dream job. I quit to stay home full time with our son.
I’ve been home a year now. Now that baby is two and a half.
On a “good day” (good nights sleep, enough interaction with adults for me, the house is fairly clean, no temper tantrums… you get the idea) , I feel fulfilled and satisfied. I feel like I am in the place I need to be: raising our son, managing our home.
On a “rough day” ( poor nights sleep, temper tantrums, messy house, poor adult interaction, lack of energy or ideas), I feel trapped and hemmed in.
On a “good day”, I feel validated in quitting my job to attempt the altogether harder job of being the only adult in the house for eight hours at a time.
On a “rough day”, I feel panicked. I question whether I’ll ever find another teaching job. I miss my previous students and the educated discussions we had. I miss interacting with various adults.
On a “good day”, I feel incredibly grateful that my husband supports our financial needs by working everyday.
On a “rough day”, I feel incredibly jealous that he gets to leave and feel important for eight hours a day.
On a “good day”, I feel whole and confident. No one could raise our son like we can; it is a privilege to help him grow. He makes me laugh and I delight in his company. I see the sweet way his hair curls under his ear lobe. I love the way my husband makes him laugh.
On a “rough day”, I question just about everything: Is he eating enough? Why isn’t he a good sleeper? Could I even contemplate doing this again with another baby? Should we discipline differently? Why is he throwing EVERYTHING!? I see the dirt under his finger nails. I nag my husband to fix things.
On a “good day”, even a tantrum can’t throw me because I am grateful I can help him through the big, scary, overwhelming experience of toddler-hood. I am happy to be here.
Today is a “rough day”. I don’t know why. It just is.
I don’t have answers for this binary. It exists. I believe that right now, staying home with our son is the best,right thing for our family. I believe that God has a classroom and students waiting for me for the mysterious day when I go back to work. I also believe that having a “good day”, and all the bliss that goes with it, no more determines the big picture than having a “rough day”, and all the questions that accompany it.
I don’t have to do anything with these feelings. I don’t have to fix a rough day any more than I fix a good day.
God has given me both, and I need to learn from each. Despite the guilt I feel at not ” cherishing every moment ” (as every parenting site and book demands I do) , my brain recognizes that parenting is a lot like a marriage: some days are easier, more fluid than others. When my marriage has a bad day, or even a series of them, I don’t start looking for a parachute. If I’m lucky, I shut my mouth until I can reflect and pray over my heart and I move to do the “next right thing” . Parenting is the same; it is just a more intense lesson and choice because it is a 24 hour job. I’ve never had a 24 hour job before, so I need to give myself grace to stumble, grumble, fall, and get up again.
A “rough day” doesn’t have to signify anything other than exactly what it is: a reminder that I am human. I don’t have to fix it. I just need to show up and live it.