I have been a stay-at-home-mom since mid-way through my second pregnancy. My youngest is 16 months old now, which means I haven't worked (outside my home, that is) in almost two years.
When I made the decision to stay home this time around, there were several things I expected. I expected that some days I might feel intellectually unfulfilled. I expected that some days I might feel guilty for not contributing financially to my family. I expected that some days I might resent my husband for getting to spend 40+ hours a week not worrying about what the children are doing or eating. I expected that money would be tighter.
What I didn't expect was that sometimes I would feel lonely. I'm talking heart-wrenching, deep-in-my-bones loneliness.
There is rarely a moment when I am completely alone. My toddler is in my presence nearly every hour of my life. She sits in the cart about 6 inches from my face at the grocery store. She plays in the cupboards at my feet while I'm making dinner. She paws at my computer when I try to check my email. And when my kindergartener isn't at school, we fill the days playing board games and dressing Barbies and reading books together. Oh, and did I mention that my husband works from home? Which means, when he is not traveling, we are home together most of the time. Granted he is usually in his basement office, and I try my best to pretend like he is not around so that we don't bother him, but I know he's there if I need him. So how is it possible for me to feel so lonely?
Maybe it's because my world has gotten so much smaller since I stopped working (and I don't just mean the size of my companions).
I used to have co-workers and clients and bosses.
Now I don't have any co-workers (unless you count my husband). I don't have any clients (unless, again, you count my husband, which makes me sound like a prostitute . . . so, let's not count him). And as far as bosses, I have two - one is in kindergarten and the other is in diapers.
I used to put on makeup and a suit and drive 30 miles away from home every morning.
Now, I consider it a win if I have brushed my teeth and put on a pair of pants by the time I have to walk my daughter three blocks to her bus stop.
I used to try to solve problems that affected people outside my household on a daily basis.
Now, my typical day involves solving problems such as how to cook dinner while both children are having late-afternoon meltdowns and trying to remember the last place I saw Elsa's crown.
Or, maybe it's because my friends and I are in different places in our lives.
We used to all be childless.
Now, I'm not, but my friends (for the most part) are. Which means they have social lives that I am just too tired and responsibility-riddled to be a part of. Very rarely am I both available and willing to meet for a couple drinks at 11:00 Friday night or to drive to Chicago for a girls weekend (though, that sounds wonderful - someone plan that with a good deal of advanced warning!).
We used to all be in school or working full time.
Now, I'm home full-time, and they are working full-time. Which means they aren't available to meet for lunch when the kids and I just need to get out of the house, or to accompany my toddler and me to the mall on a Wednesday afternoon when I haven't talked to anyone over three-feet tall in too many hours (I guess the sales associate at Gap will just have to do).
Or maybe it's because being the mother of my children is literally a job with no peers.
I carried them inside my body for 9 months.
No one else did.
I felt the contractions rip through my body when they were ready to meet me.
No one else did.
I spent months waking up every two to three hours to nurse them.
No one else did.
I answer when they call, "Mommy!"
No one else does. (Unless we are at the mall play place - then all the other lonely mommies answer, too just in case the little voice came from one of theirs).
There are a lot of moms out there with similar experiences, but only one mom is lucky enough to be the mother of my children. That makes it a scary, and sometimes lonely, job, but someone has to do it. And I'm glad it's me.