Thursday, January 13, 2011

"I always disdained those who made children.  It was the escape of the mediocre, to substitute their own botched lives with fresh ones."

So Lia is almost twelve weeks old now.  If I were going back to work, my maternity leave would be up this week and I'd be going back on Monday.  Of course, I've been thinking a lot about working, not working, staying home, and the value of my life.  It's critically important to me to contribute more to the world than I take - to be a net positive, to leave this earth just a little better off for having hosted me for awhile, to believe when I die that I did something with my life to make others' better.

I'm shifting my expectations down a little ("I need to do something like found the next Red Cross or go save all of Haiti or Africa or stop malaria or invent something to reverse climate change or... or.... or....."), but I'm still struggling with what I'm going to do with my life.  On some level, having a baby feels like a cop-out.  I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my career, so I hopped from lawyering to genetics research, not really excelling at either... so this stay-at-home-mom thing feels like I'm retreating from the career world with my tail between my legs.  I don't really want to do something just mediocre, I want to do something great, but that seems so daunting when it feels like I've already twice failed.

And of course it's more complex than just that, but the career implosions definitely played into my decision to stay at home with Lia.  But they're still haunting me.  Just perpetuating my genes and shifting my expectations onto a new life doesn't achieve my goals.  Of course I want her to be the best she can be, and I'll be proud of whatever she accomplishes, etc., but it's not fair to her for me to view her as my life's work: "I raised a daughter who founded the next Red Cross and saved all of Haiti and Africa and fixed global warming."  She is an incredible project with which I've been blessed, but I need to find my own personal fulfillment elsewhere.  And maybe I'm still too young and too new and my view too myopic, but that doesn't feel like what I'm doing right now.  I guess I'm really afraid that, once she's old enough that she doesn't need me home all the time anymore, I'll just end up watching Oprah on the couch for the rest of my life because I'm too afraid of failure to start up a career again.  That I'm just going to escape my goals and obligations as a human being by raising a child/children and calling it a day.  I am fortunate that we can afford for me to stay home, or take a low-paying but highly-fulfilling job in the future, but I'm worried I'm going to take advantage of it and just fail at life, not use that blessing for good like I should.

I'm not expressing myself perfectly here, but I'm still working it all out in my own head.  I know that on some level staying at home makes me uneasy, and I find myself overeager to justify that decision to people.  The fact of the matter is, it was the right decision for our family, period, and I know I don't need to apologize for it.  I can already tell that I know our daughter better than Robert does right now, obviously since I spend all day with her, and I know it's better for everyone in our family that she has at least one parent who knows her as well as I do.  So this is good for now, it's working.  But in a few years, she'll be in school and more independent, and I'll be less necessary here at home.  And what will I do then?  Everything?  Nothing?  That's what scares me.

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