Tuesday, October 6, 2009

so what do I really want?

The other night I had one of my recurring dreams about being friends with Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston. God, that's painfully embarrassing to admit, but I'm going somewhere with this, I promise. At least I think I am...

So, I love being a stay at home mama, but I have some serious mental demons about what others think about my choice to be a wife and mom instead of pursuing any type of career. My generation of women is supposed to be "doing it all" because our moms (and in some cases, our grandmothers) forged the path for us to have all the opportunities that we have today. I have a handful of friends who are working mothers and I both readily and humbly admit that I seriously don't know how they do it. Their schedules truly boggle my mind. I know that if I were juggling a career and my family, I'd manage. I do know that. But let me tell you - my days are full. And that's without clients or meetings or conference calls or research or classes to teach.
I cringe when someone asks me "so what have you been up to lately?" because I don't have a snappy, cogent response laden with exciting tidbits from the workplace. I'd love to be able to say, "oh, I just got back from a conference in Paris" or "I just wrapped production on a national commercial" or "I'm working with a new client on their marketing strategy" or "I am about to submit my dissertation" or "I'm writing a grant proposal" or...(you get the idea.)
More often than not, I'm with Sadie when this query arises and I find myself self consciously gesturing towards her and mumbling something like, "well, you're looking at it..." and then promptly changing the subject. I hate that I carry some weird sort of guilt or shame about "just" being a stay-at-home mom.

I follow a few blogs by women I do not know and will likely never meet. They are either total strangers or 2 or 3 times removed (friend of friend of friend). With noteworthy consistency, their posts about motherhood/womanhood totally bowl me over and this one is the most recent example of what I'm talking about.
I copied that link and sent an email to a few close mom friends of mine, asking them to read it when they got a chance. Part of what I wrote was this:
It honestly makes me want to move to Montana (or somewhere far, far away from Silicon Valley), grow a garden, learn to sew, somehow have a cool/funky part time job that I love, and...be a better mom and wife in that natural, earthy, simple back-to-basics way.
I sit in our cluttered little apartment and feel sometimes like I'm doing it all wrong.
Let me be clear - I KNOW I'M NOT. I know I'm doing great and that Sadie is loved and cherished and fed healthy food and gets out to play plenty, etc. but something about this kind of life makes me a little bit crazy with a strange type of envy that I can't quite explain.
It's not a negative envy like I used to have of the pretty/popular girls in junior high... it's an inspirational envy. A motivational envy.
But it's also an envy that leaves me feeling a little paralyzed.
It makes me ask The Big Questions like "What am I doing with my life? Really?" "How can I improve it so that I feel more successful as a mom, wife and woman?" and the big one: "What Do I Want?"

So there it is:
What. Do. I. Want?
Why is that the hardest flipping question to answer? It seriously sends me spinning. I get completely tangled in what-if land when I even casually start to ponder things like going back to school or trying to break into a field in which I have sincere interest. Hell, I can't even narrow down what I'd go back to school for, let alone whether I could hack it while trying to be a good wife and mom at the same time.
Most people who know me well just assume I'll do something with my Theater training. I tried teaching and it wasn't a good fit. I don't know if I have the drive and initiative to attempt running theater camps or workshops (wonderful and logical suggestions I've received more than once from trustworthy, thoughtful sources).
I suppose for now I need to just try harder to feel comfortable in the wife/mother skin that I'm in and make sure to nourish myself as well. Having gotten back onstage twice this calendar year was really good for me and I should not forget that. If I'm forced to admit what my dream job would be, I have to say that it remains the same: Actress. I used to say "famous actress" but for several years now it's been "really talented actress". (Oh, and "who is well paid and gets lots of work" would be nice, too). For better or worse, though, I have absolutely zero interest in moving to L.A. to "make a go of it." At least not in the foreseeable future.
I suppose for now I'll just have to keep dreaming that Jen, Courtney and I get together for girls' lunches to talk about what our next project will be...


YF said...

That is how I feel too - I bet many SAHM can agree. I feel ya girl. The other blog was awesome too - let's get together soon. xo C

Gillian said...

it's funny for me to read that knowing that i do, indeed, live in montana and am good friends with the badass blogger. but i still have all those same moments of am i doing the right thing-ness that you do. it's such a huge time in our lives and i think there's this feeling of wanting to be sure we're doing everything right, all the time. i certainly read that post and got all misty eyed, because that is so not my life. and i never bake with eliana or finger paint or do anything project-y cuz i'm too tired.

too long for a comment, but worthy of further conversation most certainly.

thanks, always, for your honesty.

Melissa said...

janine, i felt that way, too, after reading that post. and i think it's right to ask ourselves what is it we want? because it's different for each of us. lately i question my work/mom life but also feel deep down in my bones that i would get a little lost if i stayed at home. i think it's a huge honor to be a stay at home mom and plus, you were in two shows this year! that's huge! and believe me, work is not exciting to me. mostly it's something i do all day (in a hurry so i can get home to avi) with occasional moments of satisfaction (mostly from lunch with the girls when it happens. where we all talk about our kids). the best part of my day is walking in the door and hearing avi yell, 'mommy!'.

thanks for all your sweet comments lately. xoxo

Mother Superior said...

i heard this somewhere: "you can have it all... just not at the same time." there is enough time in your life to have the great career... make that careers... for i truly believe we are dynamic and can continue to reinvent ourselves with each decade. we are not stuck like our mothers & grandmothers to be just one thing. so now is the time to be a mom. i've climbed the corporate ladder and was paid the big bucks and i have to admit... i've never worked harder in my life than i am working now... as a mom. i wouldn't be able to focus on my job if i were to pay someone else to raise my kids. your children are important. wiping noses and butts may not be glamorous, but in the end, what matters more? admittedly, i've had those "wtf am i doing" as well as those "i hate my life" moments... but i think it just goes with the territory. children are joyously stressful beings that suck the life and love from their mother's womb & heart.... and amazingly enough, i wake up each morning (even after only 3hrs of sleep) with more love to give them.