Monday, April 28, 2008

Enter the drudgery

Do people still have midlife crises? They were very popular back in the eighties, if I remember correctly. I'm in a troublesome, transitional phase of my life. Here's a rundown: I'm just shy of 35 and quite well educated, but woefully lacking in the career department. I am a married mother of four, ages 8, 4, 2, and 8 months. I am an expatriate (more on why that bears mentioning later). 

One day, several months ago, I emerged out of a post-partum fog, peered through a haze of sleeplessness and realised that I was finished having babies. For almost ten years I had been trying to get pregnant, wondering if I was pregnant, trying to stay pregnant, trying to recover from being pregnant, trying to recover from not being pregnant, celebrating babies, and mourning babies. It was all-consuming. It was my career.  And now we are done. We have four quite (even if I do say so myself) amazing kids and my job title has the words "stay at home" in it. 

I don't know why it makes a difference, but the drudgery of it all never really hit me until we decided not to have any more babies. There's something special and magical about being pregnant. It's not hard to figure out the psychology of it. First of all, you have a tiny human being growing inside you. You get a lot of extra attention, people are always asking how you feel and making sure you have a cool drink and somewhere comfortable to sit. You have a long-term excuse to get out of stuff, to eat and and nap at will, and there are gifts involved. What's not to love????

Now I have one kid in elementary school, one in preschool, and two littlies at home. I have a husband in a fairly high-profile job. And I have housework to do. Enter the drudgery.


Stickthulhu said...

chmuYay, yay, yay, yay YAY!!!

Not about the drudgery...that sucks.

YAY for coming aboard! Now we can read over each other's shoulders as we're posting ;-)

I shall blogroll you today...

briwei said...

Time to update my blogroll as well. Welcome to the 'sphere.

Sorry about all the drudgery, but you are a skosh early for a midlife crisis. Call this one 'extended post partum depression' ;)

sjb said...

Thanks Brian. I was thinking identity crisis is probably a more appropriate description of my current angst. ;)

Dr. Momentum said...


Sitting by the pool with a daiquiri might help. Dr. Tiki can hook you up.

Welcome back to the blogosphere. I don't know about midlife crises, but identity crises are sometimes an opportunity.

Maggie said...

Okay, well, now that the men have spoken from their vast experience as baby factories... ;-)

I understand what you're going through to an extent. I know that you went through a lot to get pregnant each time, and you've had more than twice as many babies as I have. So I won't say "I know how you feel." I imagine that what you feel is more intense.

But there is a lot of drudgery ahead, it's true. And I don't know if you're having the feeling that I have had, and still have -- that you should be doing *more*. I feel like anything I do with my brain that isn't 100% in some way productive is a waste of my time, but everything you do when you have children is in slow motion and you can't have a job outside of the home right now. You know it's important but somehow it doesn't feel important because it's so boring sometimes.

All I can say is to be thankful you can do it. That's how I get through. I don't want to make anyone feel bad, so people with an office job may not wish to read on. But every day that it's a gorgeous day outside and I can work in the garden (and I realize you're probably not in the serious get some work done in the garden stage, but you can take the children outside), I am grateful I'm not in an office. I'm lucky. I try not to feel guilty, LOL. It's either unproductive or guilty, or a combination. I try to feel grateful that I have this opportunity to spend so much time with my children and enjoy my home, my town, the people I see, and the things around me.

It's definitely an identity crisis time. Especially in this country, we identify ourselves with our careers. And I've felt better since I could work. It's important to find a way to connect with other adults. I think if you could find that, you would feel better.

So here's my advice, such as it is:
1. Don't feel guilty, and try not to mind the drudgery. Embrace the motherhood. Think about how perfect your family is now, (y'know, or flawed, but they're YOURS), and be grateful you can stay home with them and enjoy them.
2. Try to find some way to get out and do something productive with other human beings who have more than a 200-word vocabulary and/or who are grateful when you do something for them. I was able to teach one course a semester when my children were little, and then I switched to teaching online, which was also satisfying. Maybe you could take an online course. I know it's incredibly hard to find the time and the brain cells, but even if you're not operating at 100%, I'm sure it's more than 100% for most people -- you'll be fine. It's wonderful to think about somebody other than your family sometimes.

Whatever you do, I know you'll get through it. You'll find the right balance and as they get older, it'll get so much easier.

sjb said...

Ah, Maggie, thank you!!! You are absolutely right about feeling like I should be doing "more". Unproductive or guilty, or a really nasty combination of the two, is how I feel most of the time if I let myself. I do need to remind myself to enjoy the experience of motherhood. I believe wholeheartedly that I am doing something important and am lucky to be able do it. So, I am making some plans, taking the all important first mental steps, to tackle this identity crisis. This is a new phase of my life and I need a new plan of attack!

Oh, and Dr Tiki, as soon as it's warm enough for daiquiris by the pool, I am IN!