I have been home for eight months now without any part-time job or any graduate school requirements. While I’ve had similar windows here and there since the boy’s birth, this is the longest and most free stretch in three years. I still fight the labels of stay-at-home mom and, especially, housewife. I don’t really think of myself as either, though I know much of the world around me needs those labels so as to quickly identify what I’m doing (those same old, unfortunate tendencies to identify one another by vocation or action rather than presence and character).
There are many joys in this at-home life: baking with my son, walking through the botanical gardens on a pretty day, picnic lunches on our porch, catching almost every new smile and laugh that our daughter shares, enjoying this old four-square Virginia home, listening to the quiet of the afternoon when both children are sleeping. But there are times when I just can’t let it be enough. I’m sure I’ve written about this before, and it’s not unique to mothers, but there are times when I struggle so with being content in this place.
My latest disquiet sends me looking toward home, Alabama. I miss home so much right now as a second grandchild will be reintroduced to her grandparents for months and months before remembering who they are. I miss home as I do things alone that my mother and grandmother would so enjoy doing with me–walking with the kids, gardening, baking, making home. My days at home still feel alone at times, even though they are centered around these beautiful children. I find myself thinking, “I could do this anywhere. Why am I here?”
I am present enough to myself and the moment, I hope, to realize that a couple of things might be at play here. First, it is so easy to romanticize a place far away from this one (this one being wherever we find ourselves right now). Second, packing up and running for the quiet of the Gulf Coast does not guarantee that I would be content in that place, either.
I am also quite comfortable with the language of calling. When my husband and I began to consider a move to Virginia, there were quiet, steady signs of calling. I remember feeling sad as we said goodbye, but I do not remember feeling afraid to go. Even in moments of great homesickness after arriving, I still did not doubt the rightness of the move. Are my persistent feelings of disquiet signs that a new calling is on the horizon? Or are these feelings signs that I need to learn to better be in this place?
Motherhood can be very isolating, and I have felt that from the beginning. Whether at parties (left, once-again, to chase the children while the other grown-ups get to play), in old social circles (when childless friends no longer know how to relate to me and are aghast at my stay-at-home-ness), or even in the battle inside me as I feel the pull and push of desires and identity. I want to feel at home, content, quieted whether here in this place or there in another. In many ways, isn’t this life’s work?