I'm trying to get a handle on what it is that I think is so stressful about "the working world" that is mostly absent for people who stay home with their kids. I don't quite have it yet, so bear with me as I try to shed my legal and editorial training and attempt some free-associative writing (hilariously, the last 16 words were a mid-post edit). It feels like a sort of wilderness survival thing, like the lion pride I wrote about earlier, but I don't actually think I'm likely to lose my job anytime soon. I do think I will lose my job eventually if I don't continue to succeed--which entails not just treading water, but continually speeding up. And I worry that I can't do that. Or that I won't. Or, sometimes, that I will, but I'll be unhappy, but the further I go the harder it will be to stop. All that is part of it I think. And--sort of separately--there's ambition and pride and ... competitiveness maybe: whatever I do, I have to do it well. Which is not just ambition/pride/competitiveness, but also existential anxiety: if I'm not doing something Important and Meaningful with my life, what am I doing? What am I here for? Ack. Shiver. So what I am getting around to is ... a lot of that wouldn't go away if I were a stay-at-home mom. In fact, some of it would get a lot worse because I'd spend my days looking after the kid(s) and the house and the husband and not having time to Do Something and feeling desperate and guilty because if I can't find the time to Do Something when I don't even have to go to work then there must be something wrong with me, never mind that looking after the kid(s) and the house and the husband is a 24-hour job, especially when one is compelled to try to do it superhumanly well (e.g., reading the book about how babies' brains develop that has been collecting dust on my beside table for 9 months (I know it's ridiculous, but I sometimes feel like a bad mom because I'm not reading books about childhood development (yes, I am using not just parenthetical asides, but parentheticals within parentheticals, the horror! (suck it, my sweet grammatolatrist spouse (this is cool: http://www.visualthesaurus.com)))). Anyway. At least one more thing in the mix, and I think this is closer to what I have in mind: the responsibility. I know, stay-at-home moms are responsible for their children and what could be more weighty, but so am I. And on top of that I have to worry that I'm going to misread a statute or forget about a rule or miss a deadline or do any one of the million other things that could seriously damage my client's case. Enough with the whining, and I really probably shouldn't be wading into the minefield of working mom versus stay-at-home mom debates, but it's fascinatingly complex and shaded everywhere with gray and, well, quite germane.
The few readers I had probably abandoned me after more than a month without a post, but I decided to keep plugging away at this anyway. It's an easy way to have a space for reflection in my life, and to create a record of my thoughts that I can look back at later. And if a blogwriter I liked posted this seldom, I guess I'd still prefer to read them every five weeks than not at all. I feel a particular responsibility because we have this non-traditional lifestyle right now--breadwinner mom and stay-at-home dad. I want to share my thoughts about it for any others in our position looking for information from their perspective, or for anyone with an interest in this as a sort of social experiment. That seems kind of ridiculous, that even now in 21st century America this could be viewed as unusual, but my experience it's still worthy of comment. When people ask me what my husband does, I feel the need to explain that the kind of work that he does is not really available in Chicago, but that he does still do some work for people in Seattle, and he was recently nominated to a prestigious part-time position, etc. I suppose it could just be me, but I suspect that impulse I have, to be defensive about my husband's choice to stay home, is not completely unwarranted. And frankly, I think I would be defensive if I were the one staying home as well. I'm not even sure it's unjustified. I know being a stay-at-home parent is not a walk in the park, but it does shelter you from the stresses of the working world. That's part of the attraction of it to me. But it's also what makes me glad I'm not doing it. When the scope of your responsibility is limited to your home, it's got to be easier. But it seems to me that you'd be almost childlike--you worry about keeping order in your little patch, and let your spouse worry about ensuring the very existence of that patch. That would be nice. But I rebel against the idea of being a child in my spouse's keeping. If I had readers, I'd ask stay-at-home parents to weigh in on this. I suspect they wouldn't agree with that characterization. But that's how I feel right now--like I'm the roof of our house, buffeted by the outside forces. And my husband is the foundation--vitally important and working hard to hold everything together, but still sheltered from the outside world.