I often think of things I should have done before I had a baby. I keep a running list in my head: Vacationed in Thailand. Earned a masters degree. Learned to knit. Wrote my first novel. Not because I might never do these things, but because they all sound infinitely easier to achieve if one is baby-less.
My neighborhood is full of Young Professional Types. One of my neighbors has three (or four? or five?) graduate degrees in something difficult-sounding, like computer science. Another one of my neighbors is the architect managing a giant building complex going up in a popular shopping area. And another one of my neighbors is finishing up her OB-GYN residency. She happens to be exactly one year older than I am, leading me to believe that I've done some serious time-wasting in my twenties.
I wasn't terribly career-oriented before I had Jack. Once that [highly! lucrative!] English degree was under my belt, I saw work as the thing that paid my rent and funded my trips to Europe. Even if I'd wanted to go to grad school I hadn't a clue what I would study. Then I got married. And THEN I had a baby.
I have never cared more about paid work and my "position" among the Young Professional Types as I do now, now that I'm a stay at home mom. It's not that I want to be doing anything else -- I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up -- but I've become sort of self-conscious of my yoga-pantsed, diaper-changing, daily-Target-shopping line of work. I don't see too many babies in my neighborhood, which makes me think the Young Professional Types have put that off until they've made partner or put away the college education. I'm a little insecure when I meet them.
"What do you do?"
"Oh, I manage gazillion dollar accounts for Very Important Bank. What do you do?"
One of the stickier things I've had to reconcile as a stay at home mom is the disappearance of a paycheck. This is sort of funny, because the paychecks I was earning before? NOT THAT BIG. But they were hefty enough to buy me a latte once a week and I never felt guilty about that latte. I was buying that latte with my own money. But when I became a stay-at-home mom, I was painfully aware that I had not earned the cash in my wallet. It was difficult to wrap my brain around the fact that I was paying for my Target purchases (what DO people buy at Target? I have no idea, but I can't walk out of that store without forking over a giant chunk of cash) with someone else's money. I've worked hard on this. It's not my husband's money, it's our money. This is the way our family works. My job is as important as his, even if I don't get paid. Right?
We're working on our second baby now (I have an ultrasound today! Yay!) and anyone will tell you that babies are what I've wanted. I dragged myself to work every day, just waiting for the next phase of life where we'd start having kids and I'd get to work part-time or, if I was especially lucky, stay home with them. I love how things have worked out for us, and I don't put that in here just to put a positive spin on things or to give this a happy ending. This is exactly what I want to be doing with my life right now. I am really good at those dramatic readings, people. But I do wonder: how am I EVER going to write a novel NOW? Let alone get myself to a beach in Thailand. Don't even talk to me about that one.