Sunday, May 3, 2009

Surviving Inadequacies

She threw her hair over her shoulder, gave me a shrug and mouthed "It is so hot," while dramatically fanning herself and rushing back into the kitchen to fetch more pancakes. She never came to say hello. She didn't bother. Why should she with so many more important things to do?

There I sat, in a tiny booth meant for two. Me, my growing belly, my husband and JR. Well, in truth JR was off running up and down the aisle ways with the love of his life. My eyes narrowed as she returned from the kitchen, balancing plates and engaging in an easy banter with patrons. "You're growing a life," I repeated to myself. "You're raising your son," echoed in my head.

She's a teacher. The head of the English department of which I was once an integral member. She has given up her Saturday to volunteer her rather limited time to run tables for a pancake breakfast fundraiser. The restaurant was filled with teachers I once joked and laughed with while mingling in the mail room. There were students I once sat with, hovering over essays and open literature books discussing themes, plots and characterization.

But now, there I was, eating one pancake after another while my eyes darted from table to table, reliving the time when I was someone everyone knew. When I had my own voice mail box. When I had a creamy colored notepad with a name, mine, and title embossed on the bottom. When I had a room to call my own (granted there were no windows and it had a serious pest problem--it was still mine).

I have been a stay-at-home-mom (I don't even like the way it sounds. The tiny needling meanings that slink around the letters do nothing but make my lip curl) for well over a year . . . going on two.

Is my story done? I am often wondering if this is my final chapter.

I have no regrets . . . do I? Never, ever do I regret that tiny voice that calls for me late in the night, only to soften to a moan the moment my hand begins to rub the gentle curve of his back. Never do I regret the slow swell and swoop of my belly as I contemplate fabric choices for a room yet unfinished. No. No regrets there . . . none, whatsoever.

Yet, there is a part of me--she sits, small and wishing, hoping for more. Scrape-kneed, fingering the fraying hem on her shorts and smoothing the stained fabric on her daisy-embellished shirt.

She always wanted more, but never thought she should. So she hoped instead.

Maybe some days I have regrets for her. For all she wanted to do, for all she never did. For stories left unwritten. She was not the smartest. She was not . . . no, there is no SHE.

We're talking about me.

I do sometimes wonder about what I haven't done. What I didn't finish. Where I didn't go. I wear my inadequacies like a wool coat, weighed down with the heavy snow of winter. I shrug it off from time to time, especially when the sound of JRs giggles fill a room or when I fold the knitted purple sweater for a baby girl yet-to-be.

I am reminded of what I have done. Where I have gone. What will never be finished . . . but in a good way. In a you will always matter and what you do will always make a difference way.

This is not as easy as the words beg it to be. I wish it were . . . I wish these feelings of inadequacy could easily be washed away with giggles, knitted sweaters, photos drenched in sepia, artwork hanging on doors, tiny booties tossing in a dryer, the scatter of letters on the front of the fridge.

But it isn't.

I am left to think about all those filled notebooks of "Where will I be in 5, 10, 20 years." I think about the poetry filled with schoolgirl dreams . . . rock star? Artist? Writer? Doctor? The faded To Do lists I recovered from a journal I don't even remember keeping--yet, there was a day when the entries, the poetry, the lists just stopped. Did the story end? My story . . . our stories?

These stories of mothers, of women, there they are. Like hallowed bones they lay, splayed open like empty pages, waiting for the guts to fill them up, the skin to pull them together. Those inadequacies, those fears that gray the white, they can be more. I tell myself that they can, that they will. I don't have a choice but to believe it. To hope for it.

While part of me will always be surviving these inadequacies--the other part of me, lets it all go, knowing that my story is not yet finished. And that his tiny voice, her tiny wiggles are mere reminders of the pages I have yet to fill.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

We just finished talking about this at my book group-after reading Revolutionary Road.

It seems like the downside of growing up to think you can achieve anything is guilt when you don't.

The choice you've made is obviously right for you--and there will still be time later for other things when your kids don't need you the way they do now.

ConverseMomma said...

I think this is just the begining. But,I'm biased. L, you are wicked smart. And, I don't say that lightly. What is even better about you is that aside from your talent and your ability, you might just be the kindest, and most hilarious women I know. I have a hard time with people, don't have to tell you that ;) the reason I do is because I have these outrageously high expectations for them as writers, women, friends. You have never once dissapointed me. You support me, love me, stick by me even when I try my hardest to push you away. Frankly, you are the most amazing women. Sweetheart, I know I have written a novel(sorry)But, I want you to see what I see and know what I know. You are a gift as mother, sister, daughter, writer, and very dear friend.

Pam said...

Your story is just starting. And the story of your precious son and daughter is just beginning too. I can wait to hear more of the story!

painted maypole said...

your story is so much BIGGER than you imagined. truly. different, perhaps, but fantastic all the same.

Lori said...

Oh, I think your story is just starting on the best chapters yet! These are the chapters of your life that you will forever cherish. These are the times you can never get back...but the rest, the rest can be picked up later on.
So sit back, enjoy the giggles and know you made the right choices...the important ones!

MommyTime said...

This is a powerful post for so many reasons. I think as mothers we always feel a combination of guilt, euphoria, and "what if?" all the time, no matter what choices we make. If we are working outside of home, we wonder whether it would be better for our children if we were at home; when we are at home every day, we wonder if we are being unfair to them to wish for "more" for ourselves, or unfair to our own potential... Finding the answer is always a short-term process: there are right answers for now that might not be the same as the right answers for two or three years from now. You have lots of stories yet in your life, and I'm sure those stories will vary as your children grow. The power you have, though, as a story teller, is something that will not disappear.

just jamie said...

I LOVE this post. Love it for so many reasons. As a teacher on the other side, back to teaching after being home home for a few years with my little ones, I long to be the mama with the stroller, or swollen belly, dropping her kiddos off in the carpool lane.

Such an example of "grass is greener," ya' think? When I was at home, I thought I required more of that (perceived) gratification of working outside of the home. Now that I'm home, I wonder how I can do the mama AND teaching thing simultaneously...

And so, what I really think... YOU have a beautiful story ahead, as a WOMAN. Not as a mother, or a teacher necessarily, but as a WOMAN, as YOU. Let the journey unfold. Look at where you are right. now. It's a pretty cool place to be.

I feel like I so get it, this dissonance between mother/teacher... and really I don't know. From here, I like the way YOUR view looks, if that helps at all.


Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

This makes me think about my life. I'm still working full time, but I'm working a job that I didn't go to college for. It is still in my field, but I no longer write full time and writing is what I always wanted to do. Still, if I could, I think I would really like to be home full time with my son. For me, the guilt is the other way around.

Woman in a Window said...

Her~ You are having a her~

And there is an amazing transformation that takes place when they are around seven and nine...time freed...and the future open. Best to get out a notebook and start dreaming.

Kamis Khlopchyk said...

The thing is that your Mommy gig is firstly, the most important gig of your life and secondly, the at home part, the part where you can focus on nothing else, is temporary.

I am at the end of this and finding that now that I have the ability to spread my wings, it's scary. I am not ready for it to be over....

The grass, it's always greener. But the point is, your story, it's no where near finished.

Go get 'em!

tommie said...

sent you an email....

flutter said...

You know how much I love you?

because I do.

You are a brilliant, bold, kind, beautiful woman and I will watch you sparkle. You already do.

Karen said...

I prefer to live one day at a time because if I think of the "what ifs" and "maybes" then surely I'll be disappointed. Live in the here and now is my motto.

I obviously have no goals for life.

Laski said...

FIRST off . . . you are all too much. I'm flattered with all your support. And you know, I truly do believe what I write, that WE are all in a place where the story will no doubt continue . . . and what a story it will be.

And to KAREN . . . you have no idea how amazing you are, do you? We could discuss your ridiculously huge heart, your admirable tenacity, your perfect sense of humor or even your IMMENSE talent ( Instead, I just encourage everyone to go check her out. You'll see exactly what I see . . .

Kori said...

And each one of us who are mothers has the same feelings, I would dare to say. Days when the feeling is, "Oh, all this? I am so blessed!" to days where it is,"Is this ALL?" There is time for it all, I believe.....

Wait. What? said...

The beauty of our lives as Mom's is that - once the kids are older, you get to continue your own story, its not over yet, only being enhanced by this period of motherhood - that I would not have traded for anything else in the world.

Over? Not hardly!

Tara R. said...

I felt that way too when I was home full time. Once my kids were both well into school I went back to work and have a second life doing something I really enjoy. Your story is never finished. You'll be pleasantly surprised what is waiting for you down the road.

GypsiAdventure said...

Wow...I just found you from Tiaras&Tantrums and what a moving post. I'm not a SAHM, but there've been brief moments where the thought makes me afraid of losing me, falling short in my own story. I definitely give credit to those who do and part of me, feels so guilty I am not a SAHM but... I don't think your story is done, just taking a different path - perhaps the road less traveled?

Love your blog - will be back!

Kim said...

Goodness how much I love love love your place..your words are always perfection.. I hate sounding like a broken record...but another wonderful post..

Mozi Esme said...

I kinda wish I was one of those girls who always wanted to be a mom when I grew up! It was never in my list of preferred occupations, though. I find myself woefully unprepared and out of my element. Whenever I think about what "I" want to do, being a mom is never the first thing that comes to mind. Yet it is so rewarding in a strange way. I know all about those mixed feelings. I'm filing away all those other dreams as they come up for future reference - and trying to enjoy each moment of mommyhood as it happens.

Flea said...

As tired and cliched as it might sound, this applies to your life, I think:


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

Unknown said...

First off, you are such a good writer. This post should be entered in some sort of writing contest and WIN!

Secondly, I think most of us "sahm"s have the same feelings from time to time. I just always try to remember that at this time, right now, for me and my kids, this is how and where God has placed me. And honestly, for ME, it's the best "place" I've been in a while. ; )

I love that our stories continue to unravel and that they are constantly evolving, for all of us...

Karen MEG said...

I sit here reading this, having been at home with my kids for over 4 years now, every word resonating in every fibre of my being.

This is far from it for you, my lovely friend. Like the other mothers who have said this earlier, you are making the right choice for you and your family right now. Far from inadequate, you are taking the time for the most important role of your life, that of being a mother.

You are a different "you" now; that is the one thing I have realized since experiencing the SAHM gig. The kids will have changed you. And will help you carve out more wonderful stories and chapters ahead of you.

So, can I tell you how grateful I am that you blog? This was beyond wonderful.

Magpie said...

You will be.

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