The Price Tag of Being Authentic

When I first sat down to write this blog I was more than a little bit down on being a stay-at-home mother. I was tired, and not in the sleep-deprived sense, although I’m sure the fact that I haven’t slept past 8:00 a.m. in three and a half years could possibly have something to do with my growing sense of discontent. This was a different kind of fatigue, the kind that makes you feel like you have no movement in your life, the kind that makes you feel stuck, the run-down feeling of running in place. I was getting up every morning and doing what I thought every good mother should do — revolving the entirety of my days around my children’s needs and desires. Our daily routine was monotonous, each hour unfolding rhythmically, the day punctuated by mealtimes and naps, an afternoon excursion to the grocery store or a play date or a trip to the park the high point of our day.

For a good long while, this life sustained me. I wanted so much to be a mother that when my dream finally came true not once but twice, I built a bubble of bliss around myself and my children. This is what you waited for your whole life I would tell myself. This is what you were put on this earth to do I would remind myself. And I convinced myself that I would enjoy it. Every single second of it. You see, what I erected around myself and my children was a snow globe life. Our house was a place where everything was perfect; only happiness and joy and kindness could exist there. Just like a bucolic snow globe scene has no place for dissatisfaction or loneliness or frustration, our life and my thoughts didn’t have room for them either. I had masterfully engineered a world where like the snowflakes in a snow globe, love would shower down on my children and settle comfortably at their feet. It was my mission to create a world where we would experience only health and happiness, never discomfort or pain.

It sounds silly in retrospect, but I really felt this way, and it was only when I acknowledged a growing restlessness with my life that I began to understand the truth: snow globe living is not real. The irritation, loneliness and discontentment that I wasn’t allowing myself to feel are real human emotions that we all have, that we must have if we are to live authentic lives. What I had not allowed myself before in my snow globe existence was to admit that yes, I find aspects of motherhood tedious and mind numbing. I miss working outside the home, earning money for my hard work and having some part of my life be independent of my family. I miss thinking and reading and writing, and simply interacting with adults. That’s the truth, and it is liberating to proclaim it. In allowing myself to feel the underside of being a mother, I am allowing myself to exist in the real world, one in which anger, sadness and frustration are necessary price tags for being authentic.

And so here I am devoid of my former snow globe thinking and wondering where my fresh new outlook on motherhood will take me. Now that my feet are planted firmly in reality (which ironically is snow-covered here in northeastern PA), I am hoping to use this blog to explore the ecstasy and the anguish of being a mommy. It is my ardent belief that by acknowledging and even embracing the struggles, I can revel in the joys that much more, which is why as I write this I can’t help but think back to how delicious my son’s cheek felt next to mine when I danced with him today in the living room or how I just about melted when at dinner tonight my daughter whispered into my ear, “Psst…I love you.” Wouldn’t it be something if all it took to soak up and appreciate every last morsel of our children’s wonderfulness was to come to terms with the fact that they also drive us crazy? A collection of contradictions. Looks like there’s a post for next time.

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7 thoughts on “The Price Tag of Being Authentic

  1. Love this Jenny–both your hard-earned perspective and the daring to share it with those of us who look forward to reading it. I’ve only been a mommy for almost 7 months plus the 9 in which I carried my baby before that, but I definitely relate, if not to your exact circumstances, definitely to the human need and desire to be someone in addition to your babies’ mama, and I’m finding in doing so we are much better mamas to our babies due to the enrichment a life with varied roles brings–another contradiction like the one you ended with here. Definitely looking forward to reading more. 🙂 –Donna

  2. Hi Jenny. Loved reading about your perspectives on being a stay at home mom…the joys and the challenges. I can’t wait to her more posts.

  3. Hi Jenny, I am a Christian and I have been a stay-at-home mom now for 12 years. It is very rewarding! I have always been there for my children for whatever their needs are. I am also a homeschool teacher and have been teaching now for about 6 years. I teach the curriculum and my husband teaches music and Theology. My husband and I would not have it any other way. We have 14 children which includes one on the way. Since you are a teacher as well, have you considered homeschooling your own children? Instead of sending your children off to school. I’d be interested to know. God Bless you and your family.

  4. Hi there, I just read your CNN essay on Lean In. While applaud your choice and congratulate you on your luxury of having choice to stay home you may have missed the point. Women face way more complex choices OR circumstances that may or may not lead them to pursue a career outside the home. Like you, I have not read the book, but have been following the frenzy as well. I fear that your essay came across as somewhat judgmental of those who work outside the home whether we choose to or not. You essay begs the question: if I work full time outside of my home is my family not my favorite? What if my family depends on me to eat and have life’s basic necessities? I think that would definitely make them my “favorite” since they would would not have those things if I did not do what do and I do this for them. The byproduct has been personal satisfaction as both a parent and an individual. And since I realized early on that the choices I and others made in my life contributed to a variety of circumstances in which I found myself, it was not choice but a response to circumstances. So I leaned in. I figured that if this is how it is then I am going to do this the best way possible. My family could have what they need plus a few things they want. You just need to be creative. Like you, I am highly educated and work very hard. I know the challenges and rewards of raising children too. I don’t think you intended to come across as smug as you did. You admitted you may have lost have lost yourself. That may explain it. Though I am at an office during the day (I do pick my children up from school and attend their activities just like other non-career mothers and just like a lot of working Dads), I still respect my stay at home mom friends and their choices and some cases circumstances that drive their decision to be home (special needs child, for example). You see there is so much to conisder here! It is not so simple for everyone. What we as women need to remember is that we are generally purposeful, complicated, determined survivors. And we will do ANYTHING for our families, thereby making the families we love and provide for (and that mean time, money, or anything else we may value) our “favorite.” We cannot help each other if we smugly judge other moms because we have a really terrific set of circumstances that send us a big pile of choices. Sometimes there is only one answer to survive. Or our circumstances may lead to a different set of choices other than determining whether to earn a full size paycheck. Jenny, I am pretty sure if your spouse lost his job or you were in the middle of a divorce you would find yourself pretty fast. Also, do your blog and published essays earn you money? Does it take time that you used to devote to your family? Is it creeping in to quiet time with your husband? Hmmm this might be a conundrum for your published point of view. It is clear you are accomplished and appear to be making a name for yourself writing. I say go for it, lean in and maybe it will relieve the agonizing and you will not feel that you have to justify what you do or don’t do from a family or career standpoint and it could turn out to be a little insurance policy if your circumstances head south. Basically, you should respect others choices and their responses to circumstances. And everyone should LEAN IN no matter what they are doing and that should be celebrated. Be secure in your choice or your Hi there, I just read your CNN essay on Lean In. While applaud your choice and congratulate you on your luxury of having choice to stay home you may have missed the point. Women face way more complex choices OR circumstances that may or may not lead them to pursue a career outside the home. Like you, I have not read the book, but have been following the frenzy as well. I fear that your essay came across as somewhat judgmental of those who work outside the home whether we choose to or not. You essay begs the question: if I work full time outside of my home is my family not my favorite? What if my family depends on me to eat and have life’s basic necessities? I think that would definitely make them my “favorite” since they would would not have those things if I did not do what do and I do this for them. The byproduct has been personal satisfaction as both a parent and an individual. And since I realized early on that the choices I and others made in my life contributed to a variety of circumstances in which I found myself, it was not choice but a response to circumstances. So I leaned in. I figured that if this is how it is then I am going to do this the best way possible. My family could have what they need plus a few things they want. You just need to be creative. Like you, I am highly educated and work very hard. I know the challenges and rewards of raising children too. I don’t think you intended to come across as smug as you did. You admitted you may have lost have lost yourself. That may explain it. Though I am at an office during the day (I do pick my children up from school and attend their activities just like other non-career mothers and just like a lot of working Dads), I still respect my stay at home mom friends and their choices and some cases circumstances that drive their decision to be home (special needs child, for example). You see there is so much to conisder here! It is not so simple for everyone. What we as women need to remember is that we are generally purposeful, complicated, determined survivors. And we will do ANYTHING for our families, thereby making the families we love and provide for (and that mean time, money, or anything else we may value) our “favorite.” We cannot help each other if we smugly judge other moms because we have a really terrific set of circumstances that send us a big pile of choices. Sometimes there is only one answer to survive. Or our circumstances may lead to a different set of choices other than determining whether to earn a full size paycheck. Jenny, I am pretty sure if your spouse lost his job or you were in the middle of a divorce you would find yourself and make a plan pretty fast. Also, do your blog and published essays earn you money? Does it take time that you used to devote to your family? Is it creeping in to quiet time with your husband? It is clear you are accomplished and appear to be making a name for yourself writing. I say go for it, lean in and maybe it will relieve the agonizing and you will not feel that you have to justify what you do or don’t do from a family or career standpoint and it could turn out to be a little insurance policy if your circumstances head south. Basically, you should respect others choices and their responses to circumstances. And everyone should LEAN IN no matter what they are doing and that should be celebrated. Be secure in your choice or response.

  5. I commend your honesty and your bravery to put such intimate thoughts out there for the world to see. I quit my job 11 years ago to have my two children and stayed home for several years then was in and out of part time, flexible and contract work since then. I too was a professional, very ambitious and highly driven career woman before the high stress gig of motherhood began.
    Just last week I was offered a directors position of a graduate program at a university..a dream job that I doubted I would ever get again during those sleepless nights nursing my babies.
    I want you to know that things shift as time goes by and you will come back (If that’s what you choose and desire) to that woman you left behind..but this time you’ll be wiser, more compassionate and deeper than your former self..and you will thank your children for that!
    Enjoy your time with your gorgeous kiddos..you a doing life’s most important work.

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