For well over two decades, my new year was the first Monday in September, not the first of January. New pencils and backpacks and visions of organization dancing in my head. My world revolved around the academic calendar. I was in school with no breaks other than summer vacation from preschool up through my master’s degree. And when I finished with that, I worked in schools: first a high school, then two different colleges. Even though it meant getting back to work, I always loved the beginning of the semester. I loved the predictable rhythm of the academic cycle. I knew that September would be crazy, March would be fairly quiet, July would be laid-back, and so on. I liked my job, liked my coworkers, liked some of my students.
And then, I had kids.
I always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom if I could manage it. I remember my mom being there when I got home from school, ready to give me and my friends a snack. I remember when my parents divorced and my mom started working and we had to go to the YMCA on a bus after school, and how much I hated it. I knew that, as much as I enjoyed my work, it was unlikely I’d chose doing it over staying with my kids, if indeed I had a choice.
Lucky for us, we did arguably have a choice. Lovely as higher ed was as a workplace, it didn’t exactly make me the primary breadwinner in our house. From the time we got married, M and I decided we would direct-deposit my paycheck into our savings account so that we could “practice” living on one salary, even though my income would be right there when we needed it. It worked well, and didn’t take too long to adjust. And when we found out we were having twins, I did the math and realized childcare for two infants would eclipse my take-home salary and then some.
My stock line whenever anyone asked me if I would return to work or stay at home was that I’d probably do it “for the first year and see how it goes.” This Labor Day, the great dorm and apartment moving day in Boston, with nary a UHaul to be found in the state, marks the beginning of my second year of life outside academia. It snuck up on me, in some ways. That one-year mark that I always had in my mind has come and gone, and I’ve barely given a moment’s consideration to returning to work.
Alright, sometimes I think about it. There are times when I really would like to have some kind of part-time job. But even then, unless something magical and perfect dropped into my lap, I suspect it’s still a faraway thing. “Maybe when they’re in school” is my new stock line. While there are things I miss about working (coworkers, income, the work itself), I never thought of it as my life’s passion. I enjoyed it. It was a good fit. I was, if I do say so, pretty darn good at it. But I’ve heard it said that there are jobs, there are careers, and there are callings. It was not a calling. A career, sure. More than just a “job.” But it wasn’t what defined me, or made me whole.
At the risk of sounding cheezy or overly dramatic, I really do think that this mom thing is what I was really meant to do. It’s me. It fits. I have embraced it as a defining thing. It’s not the only thing that makes me who I am. But it’s primary, front and center. No close seconds. I’m a Mom. A Twin Mom. It’s what I do. My bosses are small and generally completely irrational and demanding. The hours are rough, no weekends, no vacation, no sick days. The pay is for shit. And to be completely honest, there are days when I want to quit. But still, it’s a pretty sweet gig.
Happy New Year, indeed.