I am not going to start this paragraph with “I believe every woman should have a job outside the home” because I don’t know every person’s circumstances. I’m not in her shoes. I will say what I can about my own situation, and I find the idea of doing nothing but taking care of my children (and it’s hardly nothing), very indulgent and delicious. I love the idea of being a “housewife.” I hate that word, so I’m putting it in quotes to distance myself from it. I imagine that life, full-time caregiver, as not only rewarding but lived in. It would feel extraordinary, the way I always imagined living should be. It’s the life my mother had. Though my mother had a housekeeper clean and do laundry three times a week. Mom played tennis during the week, ran errands, went to sample sales. Was always home when we got home from school. Drove us to our lessons: piano, skating, drama, swimming, soccer, painting/drawing. She was a soccer mom before soccer moms ever were. And it’s what’s familiar to me.
I didn’t respect her choice. As a child, I remember thinking, “how pathetic.” I thought it was lazy to JUST take care of your kids. To not have your own ambitions, independent of your children. And when I look inward, I suppose I still do. I no longer think “pathetic,” and I believe all mothers are working mothers, but I do think it’s important to show my children that I have interests outside the home, apart from them. I’m not saying one must leave home to earn money. Show my children charity. How what we do can affect the lives of others. How we can make a change in this world. Sole caregivers, I imagine, have a hard time fitting it all in. I certainly do, now. As much as I’d love to live that life of housewife, to never miss a thing in the lives of my children, I fear that would be doing both them and myself a disservice.
The message I want to send to my children is, “you matter, and so do I.” I do not live for my children. I want to show them the world, to teach them, encourage them, to enable them to live their best lives and be proud of who they are. I hope to teach them to live out loud, to be their most authentic selves. I want them to know how important it is to love themselves, and to respect themselves. And the only way to really respect yourself is to honor your commitments to yourself. If, for example, I tell myself, “I’m going to eat healthfully all week and do something active each day,” and then I eat crap and don’t move, I’m not respecting myself. It doesn’t feel good. We all feel good when we honor our own commitments to ourselves; it’s what self-respect is about. And to teach them this, I have to do it myself. I need to value myself, my gifts, my reason for being here. Which means, I need to make myself a priority too. My career, my health, my passions. They need to see that the world does not revolve around them, that we’re all responsible, in the end, for taking care of ourselves.
So while I have a hard time finding that balance between my personal work and health priorities (both mental and physical), and with my desire to be there every step along the way for them, I know all I can do is my best. I cannot put any of it aside for too long, but doing it every now and then is crucial to all of us. So sometimes, it does come down to relying on a nanny, or my husband, to enable me to write, or decorate, or yeah, get a fucking a manicure, so I don’t feel I’m neglecting myself. If there’s one thing I hope to teach those tots, it’s to respect themselves, to know their own worth, and I never want them to feel guilty for finding time to put themselves first.