My first painting in about four years.
 I should be going back to work this week but I took an additional 12 months maternity leave.
During my struggle with post natal depression I felt unable to make the right decision about going back to work.  So I did what any responsible adult would do… delay the inevitable.
My gratitude for this option abounds.  I’m grateful laws in Australia allow me to request a second year off and even more grateful that because I work at a not-for-profit, they granted it.
This additional time is, and has already been, a fresh start.  I am doing fulfilling things; writing, painting, cooking, exercising, visiting.  The more I do, the better I feel.
One of my weaknesses is that I have too many interests- both in hobbies and careers.  Because I wanted to live abroad, I never focused on one particular path.  I don’t know what it feels like to be obsessed with one particular thing and doing it every day to earn a living.  I leave that to people I admire.
As a result I have quite the’ well-rounded’ resume however I can’t shake the suspicion that I got off-track somewhere.  Specifically, because I would like to be doing something more creative.
Once again, with my daughter as inspiration, I see life is too important to waste on ‘working to live’.  I would like to know what it feels like to ‘live to work’- even if said work does not allow me to earn an income.  I recently read somewhere that the work you do in your spare time is the work you should be doing for a living.  It’s a nice idea.  Even better if I had more of that coveted spare time….
Then there’s the guilt.  I’m taking these two years off when I know plenty of mothers who would love to do the same but cannot.  On the flipside I worry that I’ll lose my identity.  Suddenly I’m this child-centric husk who drives a soccer-mom van….only to be shocked back to life with a mid-life crisis once the kids move out.
Working mothers feel guilty about leaving their children, and stay-at-home mothers feel guilty about leaving their career.  Just because we CAN have both- does that mean we HAVE to? Does anyone really have it all anyway?
As an educated, feminist, woman, I’m grateful to have the choice at all.  I’m sure if someone told me I HAD to stay home, I would be clawing at the ceiling.   Alternatively if finances dictated that I MUST return to work immediately, I would be longing for the days at home with my daughter.
It’s seems as though when the choice is taken away completely, it’s much easier to justify.
Perhaps the real issue is that we feel judged for whichever we chose.  When someone innocently asks, “So when do you return to work?”…It becomes my responsibility to be comfortable and confident in my answer.  Rather than respond ‘I’m just a stay-at-home-mom,” maybe I should say, ‘I raise humans and try to stay sane in the process.
In the end, what we do does not necessarily define us.  It’s who we are, and what we value that matters. Right now I’m okay with being the artsy stay-at-home-mom.
And in this moment while I’m learning to pass values on to a new generation I would like to improve mine along the way.

Author: dawnrieniets

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