Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Lost

The last few days I've felt a little bit lost here in Lyon. Not physically lost, of course: I dare say that I know the public transportation system better than most locals. Not even linguistically lost--while my French is still very imperfect, I generally have a good idea of what's going on and can communicate what's necessary. Nevertheless, I still feel lost, in the sense of being without purpose.

Nearly a month ago I finished teaching my classes at ENS-LSH. Nevertheless, I remained plenty busy for a time, especially with all of the grading and some extra tutoring. Now that things have quieted down, it seems like I am just waiting...

Waiting for Jason to come home...
Waiting to pick up Brooklyn from school...
Waiting for my work responsibilities to be officially complete (I have to administer some exams at the end of June)...
Waiting to pack...
Waiting to move...
Waiting to get settled in Illinois...
Waiting for the baby to come...

Even though I know that we have very little time left here, I'm having a hard time living in the moment. There's this underlying sense of futility: an unconscious reluctance to enjoy things too much because it will might hurt that much more to say goodbye.

On an even deeper level, I worry about how I am drifting without work or school to hang onto. It's been hard to let go of my official role as teacher, and even harder to realize that I'm no longer technically a student. I think that part of the reason that my pregnancies with Brooklyn and Talia were so easy is because I was so busy and engaged up until the very end. With Brooklyn, I took my last final the day before she was born and started a new semester a month later. With Talia, I taught until she was born, took a day off, enjoyed Thanksgiving break, and came back less than two weeks later. While my combined life as mommy/teacher/student has been admittedly chaotic and hectic at times, I've also felt liberated by filling multiple roles instead of being confined to just one.

While my choice to give up teaching and stay home next year was relatively easy to make, this decision also terrifies me. My family is my top priority and I really want to be there for my kids, especially since they grow up so fast. Yet just like I worry that Brooklyn will be bored to tears without school next year (her class here is much more akin to kindergarten than preschool), I fear that I will miss the intellectual engagement of being a student as well.

While I know that I will never suffer from a lack of things to do as the Mom of three youngsters, I worry about being emotionally filled by all of the tasks that parenting requires. Sometimes it seems like home life never progresses beyond the relentless cycle of dishes, laundry, sweeping, and mopping. While I believe that this collectivity of tasks is valuable and important for creating a home, it's easy to forget when scrubbing a toilet that's just going to get dirty again in five minutes anyway. As exhausting and challenging it is to keep things up right now, I almost start to panic when I consider adding a newborn to the mix. I'm excited for our little boy's arrival, but I sometimes worry about whether or not I will be able to keep a handle on my sanity, especially without an outlet like school or teaching where I am something besides Mommy.

I know that a great number of you who peruse this blog either have been or currently are in a similar situation. What do you do to "find yourself" as a stay-at-home Mom? How do you care for your precious little ones while simultaneously growing and developing as bright, intelligent, talented, and creative women? How do you attribute meaning to the never-ending menial tasks required by parenting? In other words, how can you be both "Mom" and "you?" I'd love to hear your advice.

12 comments:

tweedlediva said...

I have often struggled with these very questions- I was single for a long time and had a successful performing career... and now often am referred to as Matt's wife or Taylor's mommy. I think the most important thing to do to keep sane is to continue with the things that make you happy- for me it is singing and reading and writing and being creative- I try to integrate those things into my everyday life, even if it is just singing primary songs and reading Dr. Seuss. You won't ever loose who you are- especially since those traits are now going to be carried on by your children. Kara the mommy is just an extension of Kara the woman- not a replacement. And, before you know it, the kids will all be in school every day and you will be able to do whatever you want again.

Mrs. M said...

An essential survival tip for me is to have other mom friends: women you can meet at the park, invite over for lunch (with the kids), call in your desperate moments when you are afraid something will snap...

Find a book series you like, if you're a reader. Spend a little time every week doing something that is very you. And let the girls scrub the toilet - if you present it as a privilege or a game, they will love it!

Susie said...

It's interesting to read your comments and to reflect back on that time of motherhood and then to jump forward to when all the children left home and again find myself experiencing that feeling of being "lost" after having reached a point of giving of myself so totally to being a mom and then to not quite know what to do with myself now that they were out of the home. I, also, would find something at times to fill that personal need such as taking a community class, getting together with friends, taking music lessons, developing a talent further, exercising, etc. "Quiet time" was essential for me as that would be a time I could regroup, read, or take a quick nap. You can continue to learn new things through various books you can study either early morning or during the kids "quiet time." You are so good at finding things to do with your children that are educational and stimulating. I'm sure that adds to your "well" also.

Megan Ficek said...

Kara, I don't have any advice, but I just want to lend my moral support and say that I would feel the same way if I were in your shoes. And although you might have a few fleeting moments of regret about your choice while you are elbow deep into cleaning a toilet, I think you'll adapt happily into the role. Just as you have adapted to every other role that life has handed you!

ben said...

The Teaching Company. Seriously.

The Favorite said...

Make a schedule for each day. If you don't have anything to do each day, you probably won't do anything. I have a "set" routine of getting kids up, scriptures, breakfast, kids to school, clean, errands, lunch, naptime (this is when I read & whatever) kids home, play, husband home, dinner, play, brush teeth, bed, hang with my man.
I LOVE being a mom!!

Jessica Bybee said...

I have found for me that I still need "me time". I love being a mom, but I have found I am a better mom if I at least once a week I leave the kids to go shopping by myself, go out to dinner with a friend, stamp cards, or read a book. I have started new hobbies. Good luck! Your kids are lucky!!!

Sarah said...

It's ok if you decide that you want to work outside of the home too. It sounds like you have the opportunity now to find out how you like being home full-time. It doesn't have to be permanent unless you want it to be. It takes all types in this world. I think that staying home full-time would be quite difficult too.

Jeannine said...

Staying at home with my kids is no doubt the hardest thing I have ever done. There are plenty of days I would love to "run away" to work. But I have to remember that I CHOSE to be here. It is a HUGE personal sacrifice. Even though I have been doing this for ??? years now, I still struggle with my personal identity. You have a great husband and family to help support you. You may want to consider teaching a night class at a community college. You have so very many talents that you should find a way to share them. Unfortunately for me, I don't find fulfillment in play/park days with friends. I crave something more stimulating than chatting. If you do figure it out, please let me know. :) Good luck!

Our Family said...

I struggle every summer with this exact same feeling. However, as the years have gone on I have cherished every moment I have with my children. I find things that make me happy every day and try to count my blessings. Staying home is hard however, it is one of the most choice times you will ever have and all to soon they grow up and will have plenty of time for you. I learned that the hard way with my two older children and my two little ones have them to thank for me spending more time at home with them. Kappy Andrus Williams

candice said...

I really enjoy reading and feel extremely accomplished after finishing a good novel while also fulfilling all of my mommy duties. I also really enjoy community service and planning events. I try to make sure to have "me" time with girlfriends doing things i enjoy that also contribute to the person i want to be.

I feel the loneliest when i am focused solely on the menial tasks of everyday life. Being engaged in other things helps me to see outside of my house (and myself), and gives me something to look forward to. One of the hardest things i've dealt with is balancing it all --- my family, my wants, my needs, housecleaning, church etc etc. But we seem to be doing okay, and i feel like i'm finally kind of getting the hang of it all. I'm sure it will all change once our new little person comes along and i'll feel just as lost as ever, but hey that's life :)

Being a stay at home mom does not have to be limiting, it will be exactly what you make of it.

Summer said...

When I was pregnant with Russell we moved to a small town and I didn't have a job. I went from career woman to wife. It was really hard. I learned to develop myself. I read a lot more now. I have taught my children to read. I plan fun activities to do with my kids. I do things I enjoy (run, dance, crafts). I serve in my callings. I try being a better visiting teacher. Don't think about your limitations, think about the possibilities.