After being a social person and a scatterbrain for the majority of my life, imagine my surprise at the discovery that I work much better in solitude. While solo, I focus like a laser, accomplishing one task after another, leaving nothing behind but a list of crossed off items. Sadly, this awareness dawned right before I became a mom.
The challenge of bearing the mantle of “stay at home” while parenting is singular. It creates a strange juxtaposition of loneliness and never being alone that I didn’t anticipate. Getting anything done is a serious challenge while raising an infant into the toddler years. Whether it’s running the vacuum, bringing creative endeavors to life, or simply trying to sleep for more than 20 consecutive minutes, you are constantly accompanied yet have no one to really talk to. When you have a parenting partner who
escapes works outside the home daily, that same juxtaposition rears its ugly head the moment they set foot in the door. You want to simultaneously pour out the entire day in a verbal barrage from the cute through the frustrating to the mundane. At the same time burns the pressing desire to dump your darling child into the arms of the person who was lucky enough to spend their day among adults doing clear, uninterrupted tasks; so that you can either hide in a closet for blessed solitude, or scrub a toilet without a small person standing on your calves. In my experience of parenthood, I went from the infant stage to barely toddler before hitting reset by having a second baby. My time was consumed with caring for two babies and haphazard house maintenance. I craved company, yet ran from it with shallow excuses when an opportunity arose. My life held no clear picture. I couldn’t grasp how to function when I was never alone and had limited contact with adult society.
As my children ﬁnally approached school age and I could see some shape to my days, life fast-forwarded that vision into opportunity. I was suddenly able to work full time without relying heavily on childcare. I grasped it with both hands. Working at something I loved and could pour my passion into without having a small human wrapped around both ankles was a revelation. I had deﬁnition to my days. I had a pattern and goals and drive. At the end of each day, I was pleasantly exhausted; yet still had plenty of time to spend with my kids. My soul was fed. I had focused and solo work time, as well as adult society and plentiful family time. Unfortunately, many things that seem too good to be true often are. My golden opportunity played itself out, leaving in its wake ﬁnancial chaos and an unfair weight on the family members who took over care of my kids. The immediate solution to everything falling apart was to ﬁnd a job during school hours. Since those don’t really exist, I took a position that would allow me to send the kids on their way in the morning and arranged after school care. My system was stunned by the loss of meaningful forward purpose. I had no drive and attempted to pour my creative well into every non-workday moment. I spent the evenings after work cooking, cleaning and putting kids to bed. My one weekend day off, I chased every thread of creativity I could grasp. When my work life shifted me into a role I wasn’t ﬁt for, I agreed to do it in an attempt at further growth.
In trying to force each aspect of my life into deﬁned molds and a replication of my brief glimpse at balanced perfection, I left behind the one piece of my life that had truly needed my focus – my kids. I started noticing my oldest withdrawing from us socially, his anxiety rising to new highs. My youngest was returning from pre-K daily, his binder telling the tale of a child acting out and attention seeking. I had become so obsessed with chasing some perfect formula of life and work, solitude and society, structure and freedom that I let the most important piece of my life go by the wayside. I was so busy trying to be busy that I forgot to just enjoy and embrace the life I had.
Perspective almost always becomes clearest after all the cards have been played. It’s how I’ve been able to relay these truths in peace. My husband recently secured a new position in another part of the country. After a brief separation (that certainly didn’t feel brief) we have relocated and our lives have been reset once more. We are fortunate enough that his job provides enough for us that I’m once more home with my kids, placing me squarely where I was at the beginning of my parenthood journey. This time, however, my boys are more self-sufﬁcient and I have two hard earned years of learning what’s important in my life under my belt. I’ve discovered what I really want isn’t the perfect balance or large chunks of solitude to concentrate. I want and need to take the time to enjoy my people instead of wishing them away to get “things” done. To allow myself the chance to express my passion, carve out time for myself and follow the wiggly path of real life. I thought I had the perfect thing for however brief the time was, but perfection is the life I’m in. It’s undeﬁned, because that’s how I roll.
Amy Marcoux is an artist, writer and mom. She recently relocated to New England with her family and is finding new inspiration every day in the beauty of the mountains and lakes. You can follow her journey in pictures on Instagram: QuietSkyDesign.