I woke up this morning already pissed off. For no particular reason, either. Except, of course, that it's only Tuesday, and I have to spend all day with a tantrum-happy toddler, and Rob gets to leave and go to work, and what the hell am I doing as a stay-at-home mother anyway!?
After a walk with Westley in the stroller and a zucchini muffin and some serious introspection, I was able to remind myself that everything is temporary, including my feelings of piss-offed-ness and frustration. And then I made an odd discovery: There is a distinct similarity between the five stages of grief and my weekly relationship to stay-at-home motherhood. It stacks up remarkably well:
- Monday: Denial — "I'm totally fine staying home."; "This can't be happening — not to me." (True denial doesn't actually last very long. These thoughts are often lead to an acute sense of the ways in which life would be different if I were working.)
- Tuesday: Anger — "Why me? Rob gets to go to work! It's not fair!" (Once denial is firmly out of the picture, anyone who represents freedom or financial independence, or anyone whose feelings about stay-at-home parenting are less ambivalent than mine is the enemy! If I'm going to get into a fight with my mom where I say something hurtful like, "Well, I'm sorry I don't love being a mom like you do," it's probably going to be on a Tuesday.)
- Wednesday: Bargaining — "Just let me make it through the afternoon without losing it."; "I'll do anything for a few more minutes to myself."
- Thursday: Depression — "Leaving the house is too much effort. I just want to go back to bed."; "I'm not advancing my career or contributing to the finances, so what's the point in doing anything?"; "I hate this 'job'."
- Friday: Acceptance — "It's going to be OK."; "I can't fight being a stay-at-home parent right now, so I might as well buckle down and kick ass at it." (This is when the DIY-er inside me comes out. I start making lists, plans, schedules. Suddenly, I have goals for the weekend beyond "try to get some rest." Next week is going to be different!)
I'm kind of surprised I didn't uncover this earlier.
Obviously, this convenient "stages" approach way over-simplifies my mental process, if you can call it that. Most of the time, it's less of a step-by-step plan and more like a tame, kiddy roller-coaster that makes me feel sick to my stomach anyway. Maybe the reality of my life-situation is just sinking in a little deeper as Westley gets closer to two and I continue to feel distant from the girl I was before becoming a mother. Or maybe I'm focusing more on my mental state now that I'm closer to being physically healthy again. But the bottom line is: I don't know anyone who feels this ambivalent about staying home.
I know that this life is — more or less — my choice. I just wish I liked my choice a little better.