I seem to be incapable of eloquently expressing the ideas that have been clanging around my brain for the last several months as I've experienced a growing sense of unrest. However, I'd like to finally post about these ideas, so here's the ineloquent version. I've been wrestling with the unrest for many months by clarifying my values. I've posted about other times that I've gone through this process, directly and more indirectly and more rambly. I find that taking this time to reflect eventually produces a clear and peaceful perspective from which I can best make wise decisions about my future. But I'm still waiting for that clarity to take shape this time. As I read those three posts that I wrote several years ago, I envy the insight that I eventually had into what God was teaching me in those particular seasons. I am anxious to be able to write a similar post about what realizations I will arrive at this time around.
Part of my unrest is found in the "duality of identity" that I wrote about when I was a working mom. I felt entirely energized, grateful, and fulfilled when I was at work, and felt sadness tug at me when I thought of leaving my career. Yet I then felt entirely energized, grateful, and fulfilled when I returned home to my son, and I felt sadness tug at me when I thought of leaving him to return to work again the next day. This cycle repeated each day. I've been a stay-at-home mom for eight months now, and I will admit that I miss my career. I miss being in the working world, being employed to help people, and using the skills that are a product of years of experience, effort, and training. I did not have a job simply to earn a paycheck. My career and the specific jobs I worked were a large part of the expression of my values. I believe that, like everyone else, God gave me talents and interests which fit best with a particular role or path through which I could contribute to the world. In my case, that role has always been in psychology and social services: the facing, understanding, and easing of suffering. I find meaning in that work; it resonates with me.
Another related part of the unrest, is, surprisingly, how much I missed my co-workers. Not even anyone specific- just having coworkers. I have been shocked to realize something recently that seems so obvious now: that a career brings like-minded people together. When I worked, I was surrounded by people who also highly valued helping others, and invested years of time, money and effort just for the opportunity to jump in the trenches with the unpleasant realities of life in order to help others. I also never realized that sharing these values often led to other shared interests; often my co-workers and I would find that we shared an affinity for certain types of movies, music, or even political beliefs that are the minority in our local population. Possibly because I've never "not worked," I took this phenomenon for granted. I assumed that it would be just as easy while staying at home to find people with whom I shared some interests (or "clicked" with, or "members of my tribe," or any other fashionable way to say it) as it had been while I was working. But after 8 months of trying, and getting all the more frustrated, I'm realizing that the career was a biasing factor bringing together people who already had similar values and interests. And it's been maddening to find that my values are so incredibly different than the predominant values in the stay-at-home mom world. The most notable difference being that instead of jumping into the unpleasant realities of life, stay at home culture seems to prize successfully insulating one's family from these distasteful circumstances and suffering, or even knowledge of them. I could write a whole post about the stay at home culture and the "feminine mystique," and my varying degrees of annoyance with this lifestyle, as well as what I enjoy about it, and the fact that I know I can live as I want regardless of the stay at home culture. But the relevant point is that I feel so completely out of place, and out of step, in my social environment now, and it contrasts so sharply with the tailored fit of the environment that pursuing a career created.
Staying at home with my son aligns with some of my highest values, too, like those of family, faith, and health. But it doesn't give expression to a lot of the values that working did. And unfortunately, it's difficult to talk and write about, because there seems to be pressure- maybe partly imagined- not to talk about dissatisfaction with staying at home; as though if I really valued my son enough, I would feel perfectly contented. And also as though "a career" having deep value for a woman, who is also a mother, is a completely foreign idea. Surely, this longing for a career is actually boredom, insecurity in one's value, or vanity in disguise. Other moms, especially, throw little nuggets of Dr. Phil-isms at me when I bring up the idea of this unrest with being at home. "Think of how much good your are doing for your son! Just think of it like a job." As though I have never once thought of this, and this platitude will solve my year long struggle. The truth is, I can truly and wholly value my son and also feel discontented at home. I can also endure this unrest or discontentment for his sake, or more generally for the sake of my values. The feeling does not necessarily mean I need to change something. And it doesn't necessarily mean I should go back to work right now. There may be other ways to assuage this unease, if I could pinpoint the problem more specifically. For instance, I am trying to keep a spiritual perspective on this, above all; to balance my desire to be "content in all circumstances," but also to heed discontentment that may have legitimate foundations. I'm trying to find ways to incorporate more of my values into this lifestyle, and to eliminate activities or pursuits that are simply not in line with what I believe is important.