Sometimes, parenting makes you do crazy things.
It robs you of sleep, sanity, and silence.
It brings you joy, agony, and pride.
But often we don't have the time - or the energy - to really evaluate the toll that parenting takes on our personhood.
Or perhaps, we choose to be less than honest with ourselves about the effects parenting has on us.
I'm not sure if this is more of an issue for primary caregivers, or if partners also feel this way. I don't know because I haven't had time in the past seven years to ask my husband if he's feeling this way, too.
Lately, I have been taking time to reevaluate my life: my career choice (high school English teacher), my procreation choices (late in life), even my spousal choice (more on that in another blog).
I have to say that if I'm being honest with myself, I really don't like any of my choices.
Now, before you dismiss me as ungrateful, or gasp in horror at my audacity, or shake your head at my candour, hear me out:
I love my students. Most of the time, I even love what I do every day in my classroom.
I love my daughters. They are funny and creative and inspiring.
I love my husband. He is and always has been the perfect fit for me. After our first date, I called my mom and told her I was going to marry him.
But I really hate being a teacher.
I hate parenting.
I hate being tied to one partner for life.
* * *
This dichotomy has slowly eroded the fabric of my psyche. At first, I thought my feelings were silly, selfish, or just plain psychotic. I dismissed them rather than confront them and sort them out and make peace with them.
As a woman, I feel this is my mid-life crisis.
Here I am, forty-one years old. I have a home that is nearly mortgage-free. I'm halfway to retirement in a secure, government job that pays me nearly enough to be on the bottom of the Sunshine List. I get twelve weeks of holidays. I have an amazing pension plan and my benefits are unparalleled. I have a loving husband who doesn't beat or berate me, who helps with raising our smart and beautiful daughters, and whom I still, for the most part, enjoy spending time with every day. My kids are well-behaved and above average intellectually. My extended family all live within an hour's drive (give or take), and I have excellent relationships with both my mother and my mother-in-law.
It's the perfect life - on paper.
So why am I restless, unhappy, overweight, somnambulant?
I think I've come to a place where I can look back on my life and there's something of significance upon which to reflect. No longer am I a student or a new teacher or a newlywed or a new mother. I am in the trenches. I have history. I have experience. The number of new or exciting experiences or "firsts" in my life are becoming fewer - I have crested the wave, so to speak.
But does this mean I've jumped the shark?
I hope the answer is "no."
Do I dream of exciting new adventures? Travelling without children? Meeting a handsome, intriguing new love interest who notices me? Having time to work out, eat right, look my best?
I know this is just a time in my life. I have hope that I will soon once again have a life - mothers with children older than mine assure me of this religiously. "Enjoy them now, this time goes so quickly," they chastise me.
Do they remember?
Do they recall the sheer exhaustion of a two-year-old who wakes EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT...? Who screams and strips down and pees the bed twice a week just because?
Do they forget about feeling so disconnected from their partners that the somewhat balding nerdy guy at the photocopier who notices my new hairdo suddenly seems Herculean?
Did they delete all the photos of themselves with baggy eyes, dishevelled hair, and lumpy thighs?
Or do mothers somehow find a "reset" button that eliminates all memory of the daily grind, replacing it with a rose-coloured lens through which they filter their retrospection?
I don't know the answer. I'm still in this trench. I still long for days of sleeping in, having coffee dates, seeing every new film in theatres, and maintaining an impeccably clean house.
I love teaching.
I love my kids.
I love my husband.
I just don't always love my life.