A few nights ago I met with an old friend over coffee to catch up. She asked me if my life turned out the way I had expected when we worked together in high school. To be honest, I had never really thought about it. So much of my energy is focused on what's next that I often fail to be retrospective--which is probably not a great thing.
When I was a teenager I had the following plans: marry at 20 with first kid at 22 so that when said child was 18 and graduating high school I would only be 40 and hopefully a MILF. These goals were arguably better than those I made in elementary school to "marry a doctor, have twin babies--a boy and a girl, and to divorce the doctor and keep the kids and his money." (hashtag life goals*)
I also dreamed of having a career in science, while being a stay at home mom until my kids were in school, if my situation allowed it. I'm pretty sure when I took a women's studies class in undergrad I actually made my professor hate me by day 1 because as part of the standard first-day introductions she asked us what we wanted for ourselves... and I said to get married and be a stay at home mom. I digress.
So here we are: a decade, husband, two college degrees in biomedical engineering, a full-time job, and two kids later. I am not the stay at home parent. I was married at 21 and Elden was born when I was 23, so I wasn't too far off from my goals. Overall, I'm content with how my life turned out--this was everything I wanted, after all--but some days I don't feel so content. Those days are usually the ones where work was challenging, the scenery is white and barren and I walk in the door to screaming children who must be physically touching me at all times until they go to sleep.
Some days I want nothing more to stay home with my kids. Some days I am home alone with my kids for two hours and I want nothing more than for Jon to get home asfastaspossible so that he can help me because I am being smothered to death by little limbs and lots of screaming (theirs, not mine... usually). When I'm at work I want to be at home. When I'm at home I want to be at work. Sometimes when I'm at home I want to go on a date and reconnect with Jon, but three seconds after we walk out the door all I can think and talk about is the kids and how I miss them. I have so much guilt for being absent so much. I feel guilty that a lot of the time I do spend with them I am irritable, tired and short. I ask myself what they will think of me when they are older. Was I present enough? Was I invested? Did I show them how much I love them in a way they could understand?
And don't even get me started on my constant internal battle to just put down my freaking cell phone so I can be a better parent... except for those times when taking a break and mindlessly scrolling on my cell phone will make me a better parent. In a culture where we are constantly bombarded with the Mommy Wars (can we please just stop talking about this now?) and Pinterest-perfect mothers who have the perfect house, perfect wardrobe, and perfect children, it is nearly impossible not to measure your abilities with those around you. Half the time I worry I am raising a sociopath. The other half I think I am raising a future Nobel Laureate. Perhaps it's because my natural reaction to essentially every human emotion is to cry, but I find myself in tears more often than I care to admit. Just this morning I heard the song I walked down the aisle to on Pandora and lost it. Last night I cried because Elden deceived me into going against Jon to provide him with a 10 pm banana because "I'm huuuuungry" when three bites later he informed me that "I wasn't hungry, I just didn't want to sleep." I am an engineer. Part of the reason I chose engineering is because I do not like ambiguity. I like there to be correct answers, tolerances, and no grey areas. Parenthood doesn't offer that, and as a result I constantly feel like I'm doing it wrong. Thankfully, I am surrounded by other mothers--some who work outside of the home and some who's job is child rearing--who assure me that they feel the same way. As much as people have tried to rectify the situation, we do not receive an owner's manual when we are handed our child for the first time. So for now I guess I'm just going to have to learn to be okay with that.