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I do my best as the mother I am now, yet I also cling to an image of the person I could be. I remind myself that parenting is a long game. I care what people think of me, though I desperately try not to. The traditional Muslim Indian culture in which I was brought up smiles approvingly at my at-homeness, on the fact that I gave up a big career for a bigger life at home with the kids.
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I judge me, too, and I care that others judge. The younger uncles and professionals in the family seem to hesitate, for a moment at least, at the idea that I may have wasted my degree; I assume they suspect I went to university to find a husband. But then they too move on quickly. Have I wasted my degree? If I have, does it really matter? If I were a man, would my family members ask more questions about my retreat from the professional world?
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Family and community elders used to inquire with interest about my school reports, and to take real pride in my academic achievements. Among my professionally successful peers who are now stay-at-home moms, too, it seems that many are struggling as I am, to hold onto our former selves, fitting in intellectually stimulating activities during nap time, or whenever we can.
I had juggled my first baby and a New York City job; I could handle hard. But two was different from one.
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I would always be needed. There was no day care, no night nurse, no weekend. I could get them weeks, months, older. They still needed me.
Lying there, I would rub my fingers across the little pills that made up designs and look out the window. I could see the huge sky above the golf course next door and the colors that passed through it before sunset. Sometimes I came close to sleep, but better were the stretches of time that I was conscious but not needed, awake but not being woken, touching parts of the bedding but not being touched.
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I was a kid again, a person, a mind. My lying on the bedspread was a great disappointment to everyone. A year or two passed.
Why I Have Regrets About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom
My mother became the president of a volunteer organization. She competed at bridge, excelled in the Ladies Nine-Hole League, became a deacon at her church. I tried to be supportive when she called to update me, but I was usually holding one or two humans in distress and it was hard to keep up. I wanted her to be O. I was not depressed.
10 ways to thrive as a stay-at-home mom
But people were careful with me, stepping around me like a bomb that might go off. But it was worse when he said it gently, cautiously, in the middle of the afternoon, like a stranger asking another stranger to back away from a ledge. Swivel chairs and miniature bottled waters on a boardroom table were just relics of a play world that was so much smaller than my new, raw, unfiltered one.
Anyone in it was a cheater.