I've come to the conclusion I might be a bit of an odd bird.
Those who know me well would more than agree. I came into the world with the chance to do anything. Dad, a family doctor, and Mom, a stay-at-home nurse, encouraged all four of their kids to go as far as we could academically and in our careers. They had no preconceived notions of gender and made university mandatory. At no time was it suggested that I be a stay-at-home mom. It was presented as an out dated option.
And so I went forth to university, followed by law school. But I had a secret. What I really wanted was to stay home and raise four kids. I realize that it is easy to want four kids when you have never actually carried, birthed, or cared for your own child. I wasn’t sure about much during those years but my internal compass was strong. Although excelling at school was important to me, I delighted in preparing tea and scones for my study group with a fresh load of sheets tumbling in the dryer. I prepared hard for a career in the hopes that I would change my mind and wake up to the 21st century.
Choosing to stay at home with your kids is a privilege but often viewed as dropping out. While sitting next to a senior surgeon, who I adored, at a holiday party, I felt the sting of his words: “So you are just going to throw it all away?” Little did he know that I was pregnant with my second baby, too sober to absorb the hurt and ready to throw up onto my plate. But it didn’t change anything. Not for a day. Wanting to stay home wasn’t really something that anyone could talk me out of which is weird because I usually need affirmation for most of my choices. I did once ask a close friend whether I should leave my stay-at-home position and she replied: “You are the only one of us who likes their job. Why would you quit?” I had placed this call after a visitor had inquired whether I used my home office for scrapbooking.
I love it when people ask me what I do and respond to my reply with, “That’s it?” But funny enough, it really doesn’t bother me. When my friends are creating companies, making partner, running methadone clinics, heading off to meet with Google, or accepting awards I feel a mother’s sense of pride. I don’t feel envious or that I have made the wrong choice. I do offer to pick up their groceries…
The funny thing is, I am not really the woman you are picturing. I hated playgroup, picture the girl smoking in the back of gym class, and recoiled in horror during most music classes. I still shudder passing the park years after enduring umpteen afternoons of mindless damage control. Our third child nearly killed us and was nicknamed Bad Baby from birth. She also was called, Where Is the Baby and Oh God, We Have Lost the Baby. My mother, Coco, once asked me if we should still be sterilizing Bad Baby’s bottle and I replied, “Mom, she is chewing on the leg of your chair!” Coco also assured me that if anyone were to kidnap Bad Baby, they would return her in fifteen minutes.
There are many days where I feel as though I might lose my mind or have already lost it. I have sat on the lid of the toilet with a locked bathroom door eating my cereal after insisting on my right to eat with dignity. On past dark winter days I have held out Eminem’s estranged mother, Debbie Mathers, as the standard I needed to stay just slightly above. I often stand in my basement with no idea why I came down in the first place. However, since it's quiet, I usually stay there until I remember.
My children are noisy, irreverent, and know way too many inappropriate song lyrics. Their hair is messy and I can’t keep on top of their nails. We have had stitches, broken bones, and multiple fevers. I need mandatory coffee in the morning and wine in the evening. My husband has found me crying on the floor in front of the dryer throwing in socks like baseballs. I am no saint but have never been one.
In the early days, I did a lot of solo road trips from Ottawa to Guelph with the kids. These memorable times were filled with lengthy brilliant conversations like: “Girls can do anything boys can do!” “No they can’t!” “Yes they can!” “They can’t be urinal testers!”
Despite the chaos, I am ambitious and pour everything into what I do. I will never be sorry that I went to school for so long and know that I will always be able to take care of my family. I feel so privileged to have been given knowledge, opportunity, and the most incredible bunch of friends along the way. Plus, legal skills come in extremely handy when negotiating with teensy criminals and their victims.
I am now stretching my legs after eleven years at my job and feel like I have a few stories to tell. I wish I could drive to random playgroups and loudly correct all of the bad information and shaming we go through when our kids are young. I want to go with young moms to their doctor appointments so that they don’t cry all the way home because their picky eater won’t eat the eggs needed for brain development. I want to go back to the park and tell the moms being showered with organic wisdom that a root beer or two doesn’t cause permanent damage.
My career choice may not be rewarded with a large salary, promotion options, or public accolades but what I do matters in the world. I don’t feel like I have lost or quit something because each day I learn, evolve, teach and try to do better. Lord knows I feel challenged. It takes all kinds, and thank goodness for that.