This morning I'm sitting in my kids' playroom, sipping coffee and tapping away at the keyboard while I watch them stack blocks and zoom cars about and put animals in their Little People barn and even occasionally come to my lap for a hug or a cuddle. We're listening to a lullaby CD but otherwise enjoying the quiet of the morning and the lazy pace of an average Wednesday at home.
At home. Something I almost gave up -- a fact that makes me shake my head in disbelief during this moment of sunshine and toddler-speak and soft music.
I don't like where I live. I miss my hometown. I miss my family, my friends, my familiar haunts. And in a bid of desperation to get back there, a couple weeks ago I sent out resumes to a few job listings for editors in Indy. For whatever reason, Marty's search for jobs in Indy has been unbelievably frustrating and ultimately fruitless. So, we thought, perhaps we have to get creative. Maybe I need to get a job, get us there, and by doing so, give Marty a better chance with opportunities by being local. Of course, that meant me giving up my SAHM status for a few months or even longer -- it all depended on when this job for Marty would come through.
I wasn't in love with the prospect. In fact, when I got a second interview, a feeling of dread began to grow in the pit of my stomach. I roundly ignored it, telling myself that sacrifices must be made in order to make things happen sometimes. I could do this. I coached myself on all the positives -- I could get a new wardrobe. I could get Starbucks in the mornings and manicures on the weekends. If I were going to be a working girl again, I'd have to look the part, and that's always fun, right? And most of all, we'd be in Indiana. I'd be home again. And surely that would make everything okay!
So I pulled my Calvin Klein black dress from the back of my closet and went out and bought a smart little green shrug to wear over it. I practiced walking in my Franco Sarto black heels that pinch terribly because my feet changed during pregnancy. I also bought new earrings and I even bought pantyhose (which I hate with a passion). We packed up the car and the kids and traveled to Indiana to enjoy the Easter holiday with family and then have the interview on Monday afternoon. I was all set.
Except for one problem. I could get no peace about it. None. As I drove through the night, past the rolling fields of Kentucky, I considered the children sleeping in the backseat. I thought of all the moments I share with them during the day. Yes, it is an endless cycle of cleaning up messes and changing dirty diapers and refereeing fights over toys, but it is also lining up choo-choos with Will and brushing Lucy's curly hair and clapping along to "Wheels on the Bus" and giving and receiving of countless hugs and kisses. Then I counted. Will is almost 3 years old and he'll go to kindergarten at 5, so that means I have 24 months left, and if it takes a year for Marty to find a job, then I'll have given up literally half of my remaining time with him at home. When I realized this, I could hardly swallow past the lump in my throat. But I pressed on, toward a job and toward Indiana and toward a future there.
We arrived in the wee hours of Friday morning and after a few hours of sleep, we went about enjoying the long weekend. I watched as my parents and children played together, and I thought, See? This is why I should do this. Marty and I took the kids to the mall and soaked in "civilization" and I thought, See? This is why I should do this. Then my parents watched the kids so Marty and I could have some time alone, having a coffee and perusing a bookstore and I thought, See? This is why I should do this. Yet all the while, there was that dread in my stomach and that lump in my throat. I could clearly see what I'd gain, yet I couldn't stop thinking about what I'd lose.
Finally I couldn't take it anymore. Sitting in the driveway at my parents' house, I exploded in a shower of tears, pouring out to Marty that I just couldn't do it. That as much as I want to be in Indiana and luxuriate in the closeness of family and friends, the niceities of a big city, and the bliss of having time alone with him, that I just couldn't give up time with my kids. Marty was perfect and perfectly supportive, telling me that we could do whatever made me happy. And I said, I need to be at home. As poorly as I think I do it sometimes, this job of staying at home with the kids is my calling, and I can no more ignore that than I can ignore the faces of my children.
Looking back, I will always think of this past weekend as my George Bailey moment. I saw -- and almost made happen -- a completely different life. The vision was clear -- putting on lipstick and heels, grabbing a coffee, and kissing my kids goodbye in the morning. Coming home at night, only to help with dinners and baths and then tucking them in bed. And me crying at all the missed moments. Mourning them, knowing I'd never get them back. Sure I'd be in Indiana, but I'd be in misery, too.
So I'm back home in Tennessee this morning. I have suitcases to unpack and piles of laundry to do. The kids need to be fed lunch and put down for naps, then I have a kitchen to clean and dinner to prepare and a million random toys to pick up. My nearest friend is several hundred miles away, my fingernails are short and unpainted and actually pretty raw, and I have no idea when I can steal away with my husband for a date again. But this is right. There is no dread in my stomach or lump in my throat -- there is peace in my heart.
It's a wonderful life.