Archive for Staying At Home

Validation For A Stay-At-Home Mom

     I had a big fight with my husband last night because he improperly punctuated a sentence.  Seriously, hand-to-God, I got completely irate because he chose to leave out a grammatically-required period and comma in a work email even after I informed him of his mistake.  This turned into a rant about how he never listens to me or values my input. 

     Obviously I wasn’t really (just) mad about his assault on the English language.  The thing is, I used to be the director of communication and training at a large company.  As part of my job I reviewed and edited people’s emails, so I have some street cred in this area.  After quitting my job a year ago, however, I’m now the director of raising three children under the age of four.  I still work part-time, but my main accomplishments over the past year have been at home. 

     Don’t get me wrong – I love my kids and I’m thrilled that I get to spend this time with them.  My kids are a lot of work but they’re also funny and smart and sweet.  I know that my time out of the work force is a privilege that not everyone gets to enjoy.  What I’ve tripped over for the past few weeks is where to find validation.   

     I’m not getting quarterly reviews anymore.  I’m not hearing “atta-girls” from my boss or being congratulated for my high quality deliverables.  No one nods approvingly at me across a conference room table.  To the naked eye, the feedback I do receive isn’t very positive.  I spend most of my time and energy on my kids and my house, yet the house is still somehow always a mess and the kids think that Mommy is a workhorse while Daddy is a rock star. In addition I’m off my game physically since I’m carrying around twenty pounds of extra baby weight. 

     In the absence of the old formal feedback mechanisms, somewhere along the way I started to look to my husband as my main source of validation.  I want him to remember – and to remind me – that I’ve still got my professional skills and that I’m a great mom, but that’s neither fair nor feasible.  He’s not going to single-handedly fill up my need for recognition by praising my current accomplishments (“WOW, Honey, that’s an AMAZINGLY clean counter!” or “You only used one wipe to change that diaper? You’re UNBELIEVABLE!”), and he shouldn’t have to try. 

     I miss flexing my old professional muscles.  I spent over a decade learning a profession that I became good at and that gave me a lot of satisfaction. I liked managing people who didn’t pee pee on the floor and having the authority to make things happen without threatening a time out.  I miss the adult conversation and camaraderie of the workplace. 

     Digging deeper I realize that part of what I’m struggling with is not a petty need to have my ego stroked, but rather to have my choices validated and to know that what I’m doing is worthwhile.  If I am truly not feeling fulfilled, I need to make some new choices.  Once I find myself on the right track – and I may be there now – it’s ok for some of my skills lie fallow for a few years in order to meet my larger goals.  My validation will then come from the short- and long-term accomplishments of my chosen path.  I’ll find satisfaction in meeting my goals, rather than in someone else’s opinion. 

     Odds are good that my current existential crisis is at least partially due to my impending birthday, which ends in “five” and means I’m halfway through what is supposed to be a very productive decade.  As by birthday nears and I take stock of my accomplishments over the past year and my life so far, I’m proud and happy, but a little gut checking and course correction never hurt anyone. 

     For now, I’m going to work on cutting my husband some slack.  He’ll still need to appreciate what I do and who I am, but I’ll stop putting all my validation eggs in his basket.  At minimum he’ll be free to spell and punctuate as he pleases. 

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