Not Enough…

I think I’ve been trying to tell myself something…that being home with Elanor isn’t enough.

I went to go see Sex and the City 2 today.  There’s a scene between Charlotte and Miranda, the only two of the four who have kids.  Charlotte’s struggling with motherhood but has been insisting that everything’s fine and kids are so great and the two’s aren’t terrible AT ALL because her kid isn’t terrible!  Miranda pushes Charlotte to admit that sometimes this mom thing is hard…but Char can’t bring herself to say the words.

“Okay, I’ll go first.  I love Brady more than I imagined I ever could…but it’s not enough.  I need a job to be fulfilled” says Miranda, or something fairly close to that.

Charlotte’s dam breaks and the two commiserate that it’s so damn hard to be a mom.

Somehow, it’s always Charlotte that gets to me.  In the first movie it was how frightened of doing anything she was when she got pregnant after so many miscarriages.  In this movie it was how hard she tries to assure herself that it’s all fine.  Because it’s what she’s always wanted, right?

When Miranda said that she needed more, I burst into tears.

I cried through the whole conversation.

Because I’m there, too, right now.

I recently said to my friend S that I’ve always lived my life by the credo “Marriage, kids, career…at any given moment, pick two.”  That you can’t actually be superwoman and still have anything left for yourself.  If you’re invested in your career, don’t kid yourself that your spouse and your child(ren) will have to make some sacrifices–some missed events, less attention.  I know that when I was pregnant and I was most invested in that pregnancy and my marriage, my quality as a teacher dropped–things got checks instead of individual comments, some lesson plans were totally made on the fly or were no more defined than “add fractions” because the time I would have spent doing more for work was spent at doctor’s appointments.

I grew up in the era of “You can be ANYTHING.”  I am a feminist.  But I also think that feminism and our moms were false prophets on the having it all front.  No one has it all.  Ravi gives up so much time with Elanor to work.  He and I give up time with each other alone to spend time with E as a family.  We made the choice to move to Singapore because ensuring a full college fund is more important to us than staying close to home.  It’s all trades for what you value most…and because Ravi has sacrificed so much time with Elanor, it was only right that I step up and in as the primary caregiver.

It was so clear when she was little.  When she was five months old, still on blood pressure meds, having weekly early intervention and lots of appointments, it felt VITAL that I be the one who was home with her.  She needed a point person who knew the whole picture at any given second.  At 19 months, barring an ER visit, it’s just not as important that it be ME who is with her.

When I allow myself to admit the truth, I’m also not that enthused about spending all day every day with her.  I’m not mentally stimulated by hours upon hours of “what’s that” and watching her in her ball pit.  We read, we do flash cards, we draw, we swim…and my god, we’re not even at lunch time?  Her topics of discussion are limited.  I can only go to the goddamned zoo so many times.

I am not a homebody.  I have full time help-there are no household chores to occupy my time with (not that I like, enjoy, or have the slightest interest in doing them).

I often find myself wondering what the point of my Master’s Degree is.  I put myself $90,000 USD into debt for THIS?

I could get a job in a heartbeat here.  By virtue of my Americaness, I speak and write in clear and fluent English.  That is a highly marketable skill here; regardless that English is theoretically the primary language–many people just don’t speak/write in English at a professional level.  The fact that I’m a licensed teacher makes me highly employable as a teacher or a tutor.  While the idea of spending all day with children who can actually communicate in complete sentences is slightly appealing, the truth is that I want to be around other adults. But not as a cashier or a front desk agent or anything like that…I’m not so desperate for contact that I’d willingly go back into the service industry for that kind of pay again.

I just don’t know.

I believe what I told S, whole-heartedly.  And I’m not sure that I want to take any of the focus away from Elanor or Ravi.  But as my emotional outburst shows, I’m also not happy.

Which leaves me…lost.

I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, other than “Not a teacher.” So even if I did want to go back full time (which I don’t) I don’t have a career to further.

I know I want another child in the next two years.  And I know that I will want to be home with them for at least that first year.  So I’m not in a position to go to law school or pursue my PhD or whatever, even if I could pursue it from Singapore.

I’m considering reaching out and trying to find something super part time.  Maybe a volunteer position with the American Embassy (or whatever it’s technically called here).  Working with professionals to help improve their colloquial English?

I still plan to do some sort of online class, but the truth is that I need a world that’s bigger than the one that Elanor’s mom and Ravi’s wife inhabits.

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6 Responses to Not Enough…

  1. Saffy says:

    It is SUCH a damned if you do, damned if you don’t, isn’t it?

    I completely understand why we grew up in the ‘girls can do everything’ (sic) era. I think the objectives behind the message were well intended yaddah yaddah. But I do wonder, honestly, how much psychological damage they’ve done on a generation of women who have actually tried to do it all. Was it setting us up (maybe this is a little controversial) to fail? Because realistically you just can’t do it all. I’m going to be having chats with this with Minxy as she grows up, so that she understands the concept of having it all, but at different stages in through her life.

    And like you, education is paramount. She can go be the checkout girl or surfer chick if she wants, but she’ll be given the opportunity to study what interests her along the way.

    I get the debt incurred for the great education aspect. And like you, when I was preggers, work did slip. It was still ‘good’ but not at my usual standard. My boss noticed. He hated me being pregnant. Which is why I don’t think I could hold down a full time job and do another complicated pregnancy again.

    The fact that you KNOW that you want another child and you know the time frame sets the scene, doesn’t it? That child, I presume, will be born in Singapore? So essentially you may have one more year of ‘just’ E?

    Your super part time idea sounds good. And I too would stay away from teaching, just because we both know how much work that actually can be – I think you’d want something more walk in-walk out.

    Your honest thoughts on being a “housewife” (hehe had to say it) and not being fulfilled? My fear too.

    Is part of ‘our problem’ the fact that we do indeed have so many more choices now that our mothers and grandmothers had? As in their lives may not have been happier, but they were simpler?

    Thanks for your honesty and BTW I do think your ‘pick 2 of 3’ is bang on. It just sucks that it can’t be all 3.

    Hugs.

  2. Lisa says:

    I don’t know you, but I just wanted to say that you are not alone. I have both an MFA and a Ph.D., and I struggle daily with balancing how to be a Mom, dothings that I am passionate about, feel like an adult, and be myself. I totally agree that it is nearly impossible to have it all, although I wish we could. When I feel like I am succeeding professionally, I feel like I fail as a Mom or as partner in my relationship. I know this doesn’t make what you are going through any easier, but I wanted to thank you for writing about it. It helps me to know that I’m not crazy and that other intelligent women struggle with this too. So thank you, and good luck.

  3. Rachel M says:

    is it harder being in Asia vs Boston where you had friends and family to socialize with while parenting?

    • Crystal says:

      @Rachel–It’s so much harder here.

      Back home, we had a schedule

      Mondays–Isis Parenting Developmental Group Class, Every other Monday night Physical Therapy
      Wednesdays–Gymnastics
      Thursdays–Early Internvention

      Most Fridays I’d give E to her grandparents and do some stuff on my own.

      I also did not have help or a cleaning service so I had to stay (sort of) on top of the house, too.

      Tuesdays we sometimes did playdates with friends.

      I also lived in the same timezone as many dear friends and two of them are also stay at home moms, so in the middle of the day if I was bored or stressed or whatever I could pick up the phone and call them. And sure, they’ve both said “call whenver,” but I’m not going to call them at 2am their time or 4am their time just because I’m bored and lonely.

      We also lived near my old alma mater and I always had the option of auditing a class there for $20.

      Boston has a lot of things for kids, as do the surrounding towns…and I had a car. Failing that, Target was always good for killing time.

      Here there isn’t much that’s good for the toddler set. The zoo, sure. And there are a few indoor playgrounds. But there’s no children’s museum, the science museum is a FAIL for kids as well, and she’s a bit small for Universal (even though I’ve taken her once). I know a few American moms, but none of them are friends yet. Our illnesses haven’t made socializing easy, either. There are lots of classes for kids 3 and up but not much for the under 3 set other than the gymnastics she’s already enrolled in. We’ll start Mandarin in August once she’s old enough, and there’s the possibility for a play type group nearby which we’ll check out.

      I guess in the end, here I feel more trapped. By lack of a car, by lack of friends, by lack of commitments. Lack of educational opportunities. And the fact that I don’t fit in with the parenting culture here…which relies heavily on the help. There have been multiple places we’ve taken Elanor and I’m the ONLY mom in sight. It’s awkward, and odd.

      I know it’s about adjusting and finding one’s place, but it’s hard when you question if you have one in the world you find yourself in.

  4. Rachel M says:

    I understand, if you were single and professional you could use weekends to travel throughout Asia b/c flights are cheap but having a toddler, especially with the illnesses you’ve had, makes it extremely limiting. Did I read correctly that you are only staying until November of this year?

    • Crystal says:

      We’re staying in Singapore for the foreseeable future. But I’m going back to the US for a month in November…E has some doctor’s appointments that we can’t do here (specifically her annual check in with the Pediatric Stroke Team…there are no pediatric stroke specialists in Singapore…and while we’re there I’ll feel better checking in with her American Pediatrician and her American Gastro) and I want an extended trip home. Ravi will come for Thanksgiving and then he’ll haul me kicking and screaming back to Singapore. Expect lots of whiny posts when I first get back…with the possible exception that after living here for 7 months, I’ll be a total wuss about New England weather and will probably be happy to get back here for the warm winter. After that, I’ll go home for June of 2011 for my 10 year college reunion. Not sure after that…I may be a wuss and if we get pregnant come back for the end of my pregnancy and to deliver in the US (which will be early to mid 2012).

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