By Guest Blogger Melanie Kramer
I must admit, writing this Blog post was cathartic, liberating and at the same time overcast with a shadow of somberness. The last six years have been a struggle coming to terms with my decision to give up a painting career that I loved dearly, to stay home and raise my children. And as I reflect back today, I can’t help but think, “Was this the best decision for me? For my kids? Why do I feel like I am on the road to nowhere?”
Growing up, I watched my mother obsessively clean the house and do the laundry. I watched her go to the dry cleaners and the grocery store. Her life seemed so consumed with daily housework that even though she was a stay-at-home mom, I felt forgotten. I also felt her sadness and saw her frustration. Did she really choose this life for herself willingly? Ever since I can remember, I promised myself that I would never let myself turn into my mother.
Let me also give you some work history… ever since I was small, I was taught that you go to school, get your degree and get a job. I never knew you could turn the things you love into your life’s work. I took dance lessons and many art classes. I loved being creative, but those were the things I thought were just hobbies. So after going the traditional route, I received my degrees in both Psychology and Social Work and worked with children in schools and hospitals. While I did enjoy it, I knew that this was not my destiny.
While exploring my options along the way, I worked many different jobs in many different fields, still searching for my aha moment where it was going to hit me in the face, “Finally, this is your calling!” But it never quite came. While working, I still kept up with my creative/artistic hobbies in my spare time. It was my passion. I took painting classes, learned calligraphy and taught myself to mosaic. It finally took the support of my husband and my friends to convince me that I didn’t need to keep working unfulfilling jobs, and that I just may be able to turn this passion into a career. Who would have thought?
So, after much pondering, I left my job and turned my creativity into my own home business, painting children’s room accessories. My pieces were carried in children’s boutiques in and around the city as well as online. I loved both the flexibility and cost efficiency of working out of my house, and in a short time I became a designer, as well as a painter. By now, I was off to a great start in my new business, but I was 30 years old and my husband and I decided it was time to start our family.
I became pregnant almost immediately and worked until I couldn’t see past my stomach, nor could make my own deliveries as I had always done. With the impending birth of my first child, my studio had to be quickly transformed into a nursery, and in just a few months, everything I had worked so hard to build was simply packed up into boxes and stored in my parents’ garage. All of my paints, all of my inventory, all of it… everything.
As I did this with both excitement (as it meant the birth was near), and resentment (for having to give up my studio for a nursery), I told myself that I would be back for my stuff soon. Yet somehow, six years and two children later, I still have, as my father reminds me regularly, a garage full of my work “stuff”.
But, I guess if something is a part of you, it will be expressed in one way or another. So, over the years, I focused my energies on decorating my kids’ rooms and thinking of different art projects for us to complete together. As my husband can attest, I have enough art supplies to teach a full classroom of children. Let’s just say we do A LOT of art in our house.
Over the past six years my days have been filled with cleaning bathrooms, making beds and doing laundry. Hmmm, sounds familiar… And let’s not forget, going to programs, driving the kids back and forth to school and activities, and planning playdates.
The truth is, I chose to stay home because I wanted to be the kind of mother that my mother WAS NOT to me. I wanted to be present in my children’s lives, but in a way I never felt my mother was in mine. I felt like leaving them to pursue my career was like abandoning them, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
But, unlike my mother, this is not all I do. Yes of course, the chores have to be done, and if I don’t do ‘em, we’ll live in a house full of dog hair and chaos, but they have not become my identity. Spending good quality time with my kids is my focus. My mother may not have known better, but I do.
So now, I reflect and think about all of the times I’ve gotten upset at my kids either because they were fighting or they didn’t clean up their toys. And I can’t help but think, “Is that why I was really upset, or was I feeling frustrated with myself?”
What frightens me is knowing that the biggest influence on a child’s life is their same-sex parent. Having a daughter has been a blessing to me and yet, I see how she watches me and how she mimics me from pretending to put on make-up to helping with the laundry and unloading the dishwasher. My question is, what else does she see? Can she see my sadness or frustration the way I saw it in my mother?
Now at the age of 37, my children are both in school and I feel like there is sometimes no purpose to my days. I feel caught between the excitement of “anything is possible” and “life has already happened to me”. I don’t regret spending those years with my kids at home, however, my husband and kids deserve a wife and mother who is happy and fulfilled. I know this now.
So, while sitting on the fence with what direction my life should be headed in, I try to keep in mind that this has just been a “life interrupted.” Maybe I have missed my chance at becoming the next baby furniture tycoon, but it is not too late to re-explore my creative passion. Hey, maybe I just might empty out that garage of stuff after all.
Ladies, let’s give our Guest Blogger some encouragement. Do you think she made the right decision? Do you sense her frustration?