I go through these phases in my life I lovingly call The Cycle of Knowledge. In a nutshell, I go from believing I know everything to realizing that I know nothing. At thirteen, I knew everything. At fourteen, I knew nothing. At twenty-two, I was back to knowing everything. Twenty-six? Zip. Nada. Twenty-eight? Partially figured out The Meaning of Life. Thirty? Barely able to tie my shoes.
I don’t know what’s brought on my recent funk. If I had to take a guess, I’d say it has to do with the overwhelming amount of work I’ve been doing in addition to the overwhelming responsibility of being a mother. As I was packing for the trip we’re on right now, I was watching Her Majesty, The Oprah, doing a show on working mothers. She and her panel, including the lovely Elizabeth Vargas, were trying to answer the question, “Can you really have it all?” The funny thing is, I couldn’t watch the entire program because I was busy packing suitcases for me and the boys (Ryan took care of himself), loading the washer and dryer, checking e-mail, finishing some of my editing jobs, and heating a plate of leftover lasagna for Max.
Since Oprah forgot to call and ask my opinion, I guess I’ll use my little soapbox and occasionally captive audience to weigh in. The answer is—I don’t know. I have no idea. Some days everything comes together. The kids are well-fed and attended to, my work is done, the house is picked up, the fridge is stocked, my clothes coordinate, and I have a pleasant chat with cartoon forest creatures right before my gorgeous husband walks in the door with fresh flowers. And then there are the other days. Those are the days when I’m still in pajamas at 2:00 p.m., re-writing the same three lines, snapping at my kids who’ve eaten nothing but Cheetos and GoGurts, counting down the minutes until my equally stressed-out spouse walks in the door late in the evening and trips over the gallon of milk sitting on the kitchen floor. Usually, life for me falls in a comfortable space between the two extremes, with the scales only tipping out of balance occasionally. That’s life. Mine at least.
I love my life. I really do, and I chose it the way it is. I chose to be a working mom. For me, for my family, for our circumstances, it was a no-brainer. I have never agonized over this decision. I worked. I work. Has there been a price to pay? I’m sure. Have my children suffered? Most likely, in some way. (Although, they were blessed to spend amazing time with their grandmothers.) Are there children who suffer with their stay-at-home moms? You betcha. Just ask Emily Dickinson. (Actually, I have no idea what I’m talking about here. Mrs. Dickinson may have been an amazing mother.)
I feel fiercely loyal to and protective of working moms. I feel an instant connection with them. Perhaps it is because I live in The Land of Stay at Home Moms, and I have had to sit through WAY too many church meetings in which we are subjected to people taking an absolute stand on the subject of 101 Ways Working Mothers Are Ruining Society. I am usually sitting in the back, staring at the floor, doing my best to remember that we all have different circumstances that give us different perspectives. We’re all victim to our own experience.
I know what you’re thinking—why don’t I ever speak up and share my point of view? Well, because. Partly, I’m a wimp who avoids confrontation, but mostly it’s because moms who talk about staying home seem to be so sure. And me, well, I’m not totally sure. I’m cautiously optimistic. I’m so busy trying to manage my own life, I don’t have time to worry about whether or not I’m right and they’re wrong. Or vice versa. And even more so, I don’t think life has ever worked that way, that what’s right for me will be right for you and Suzy and Jane. My gosh, there aren’t enough GoGurts in the world for another household like mine. What I know is that each night when I tuck my kids in bed, no matter what kind of day it’s been, I am hopelessly devoted to them. I know that. They know that. That’s what I’m sure about.
So, that’s it. I don’t know anything. I make choices in my own life and I live with them. I used to think there was always a right and wrong to every question. (You know, back when I knew everything.) Now I know that those are the few and far between questions. Like, “Should I stab a fork through the eye of that twenty-something young man standing in the chapel telling me and a congregation of women how to be good mothers?” See? That’s easy—the answer is no. I should wait until he’s done, then sneak up from behind, club him over the head, and dump his limp body into the river.
But all the other questions—the ones that aren’t so simple—those are the ones you and I will have to figure out for ourselves.