Startled by the sound of the screen door and its unmistakable closing number, "buddumb, bump", I zig-zagged from one room to the other, looking for evidence of an intruder or an escapee. Armed with words of admonition for my three year old NOT to let the dog out without asking, I stepped into the mudroom and saw....
I peered outside. It was not my three year old boy, nor my six year old dog.
It was my daughter, a few months past one year, barefoot in her polka dotted pajamas, standing seven wobbling steps into the front yard. She teetered in the same spot, as if engaging in a solitary game of freeze tag, grinning ear to ear.
The day was as much an infant as she was. The sun spilled highlights onto her wispy strands as she glanced at me, squinted down the driveway toward the splintered mail post, and looked back at me once more. Then, knowing not her next move, she plopped down, smushing the clover poking through the pavers.
She had fussed for that very freedom nearly every day, clambered incessantly for a chance at independent outdoor exploration. Now she finally had it, and she didn't know what to do with herself.
It can be paralyzing when the possibilities are endless.
Up until now, the choosing was easy. The path was narrow, and the forks in the road few. I stumbled into wet career cement in my early 20s and wasted no time becoming a corporate fixture.
The ladder I climbed too quickly for comfort was the bunk bed variety. With each leadership rung, I came closer to the claustrophobic top bunk and further from the carefree, arm-spreading space on the carpet. And there was nary a night when I didn't toss and turn in that teeny space between the ceiling and the sheet, feeling terribly afraid about where I was ending up. This isn't me, I would insist, equally fearful of falling to the floor as I was of staying at the top.
Then came motherhood. This was my chance to shimmy down the rungs without looking like the girl who had climbed her way to the high dive and then chickened out. I took it. I slowed down so fast I felt sick from the motionlessness. I was barely past the shock, still chipping away the cement from my shoes, when a part time consulting opportunity knocked. It was the best of both worlds, and I wouldn't say no. That was nearly three years ago.
Today I scheduled my last billable hour. In two weeks time, I will no longer toggle between career and family. I will officially be a full-time, stay-at-home Mom.
Suddenly I'm standing in the middle of the yard, sharing streaks of sunrise with the daffodils. I cried and clambered for this scene for years; but now that I am here, I am strangely desperate for someone to whisk me back inside to what I know, not because it is better, but because it is familiar.
I have been securely trapped in time constraints for as long as I remember. It seems I always had towering tall, career-oriented excuses to hide behind when the meal was barely edible, or the garden wasn't producing, when I didn't read much more than email or feel curiosity beyond my field.
As that veil of excuses is removed, I see my fears for what they are. I don't know where to start. I don't know how to choose. I'm afraid I'll settle for survival instead of improvement. I'm afraid I'll waste time in little starts and stops instead of finishing one thing strong. I'm afraid I'll get the same mediocre results on the domestic front, even after I step up my effort.
But most of all, I'm paralyzed by the endless possibilities. I've often wished for the privilege to be a stay-at-home mom. So why is it, now that I'm finally standing here in a wide open yard with the morning dew on my cement-free toes, I somehow don't feel ready for it?
Originally published February 18, 2009
April will mark one year of being home full-time with my children. Sometimes I feel as though I've never done anything else. Like these babies, who have moved me to places I never thought I'd go, have always been here with me. And even though it's only a chapter, it seems like my entire story. Even more surprising, all of this is a good feeling.
I was worried I wasn't cut out to be a stay-at-home mom. I was afraid I wouldn't enjoy it, and even more afraid of having to admit that to myself. But with almost a year under my apron, those worries have been put to bed. And now, when I lie awake at night, it is not fear, but thankful wonder that keeps me company.