Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Work Clothes

One day last week, we had to meet my husband at his new office to pick up some papers. This was our first visit to the new company. There were a few people there that came out to meet us. They were all dressed so professionally. One woman stood out to me. She was warm and friendly. Her clothes could have been straight out of a Nordstrom catalog. Her hair and makeup were polished. She looked so put together. 

The kids and I on the other hand were all dressed for a day at the park, in shorts and t-shirts. I had on a hoodie because it was a little chilly and foggy that morning. I was dressed for my job... as a mom... going to the park. And I suddenly felt less than. I felt frumpy and unimportant. I just wanted to get out of the office before one of my kids screeched at his brothers. I wanted to get away from those feelings of inadequacy that were overwhelming me in that moment. I wanted to get away from the what ifs and maybe I should haves that were jumping around in my head. 

Maybe I should have kept working instead of staying home with the kids. 

Maybe I should have studied something more important in college and gotten a real job, an important job after graduation. 

What if I had gone into business or law or technology? What if I had done something important with my life?

One of the things I really loved about my suburban life in Oregon was that I was surrounded by other women like me who were choosing to stay home with our kids. Many of my friends were former teachers like myself. I felt like I was among my peers. 

Last time I lived in the Bay Area, I often found myself chasing my identity. Trying to give value to who I was and what I did. I often felt like I should be doing more. Contributing more. It started with small comments when I was a teacher almost a decade ago here in the Bay Area. Comments like, "you could make so much more money if you went into technology" or "you could make more money as a nanny" because obviously money is the measure of my worth. 

Then last time we lived here, my life, my passions, my dreams took a back seat to my husband's career and his long, long, long hours. My life became only about taking care of our kids and our house and our lives. I was the sole person responsible for the kids at all times unless I checked with my husband and he could find one night maybe next week or month to come home a little early so I could get out for a bit or see the dentist. 

Over the last few years, I think I have found out more about myself, more about the work that God has for me, more about how I do contribute to this world through my relationships, my teaching, my writing, my life. And my husband agrees. He really supports the work that I do, even though it does not look like work, is mostly really fun stuff and definitely does not come with the perks of work, like a paycheck. And we made an agreement that this time would be different. This time my dreams and work do matter. This time we will share the responsibility for the kids and the home life. Obviously I still have the 8 - 6 time shift Monday to Friday but I like that. I like being home with my kids. I just don't think it is good or healthy for any of us for me to be the sole parent. 

And then I shook that woman's hand. That lovely lady that was just being kind and welcoming. And I felt a host of insecurities rise up in my throat. 

Sensory memory is like that. A quick glimpse of something painfully familiar can bring things rushing back into your mind. A business office like the one that took my husband away from us for so many hours and days and months. A professional woman, the antithesis of what I am and yet in my mind, far superior. Smarter, more charming, harder working, more independent, better. 

But this time I know better. I don't necessarily feel better in the moment. Insecurity might rise up but I am able this time to hold onto the truth. I am able this time to remember who I am and who God made me to be. I am able to look back at what I know to be true and hold onto that. 

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