I think I’ve lost a little of who I am. Many of the choices we’ve made for great reasons have combined to make this bewildering set of circumstances for me. Somehow, I’ve turned into a stay-at-home mom homeschooler. This role is odd for me, like an ill-fitting suit with a scratchy collar and too tight pants.
Being a parent is inherently a matter of self-sacrifice. You give up things for your kids, be it sacrificing money to pay for diapers, or spending time on homework instead of that movie you wanted to see. For those of us with a lead parent role, we give up more: our sense of identity.
I am blessed to have my job. Not many parents have the luxury of staying at home with their kids. In our case, it’s more necessity than luxury because I can’t make enough money to cover child care for 3 kids. Someone had to stay home with them. We made a brutal career choice analysis and I lost the coin flip.
Our choices turned out to be the right ones when we realized our kids needed extra help. There is no way the Engineer could function in a child care environment and the Destroyer has severe separation anxiety that even affects his sleep. No one else can do my job, even my husband who should get a Daddy-of-the-year award.
Even though I love my kids, I have to admit there’s a little bit of resentment going on. I miss who I was. I want one day – just one, I’m not greedy! – to go do what I want to do without small hands clinging to me and small voices wailing about whatever kid drama is going on. I want one day to not worry about the Engineer’s safety and emotional state.
Being a parent of a special needs child is brutal. You never get a break. You’re always on, always alert, always cautious. There are plenty of days I spend worried that I can’t do this. That I can’t help him enough, do enough, be enough of what he needs.
I keep hoping that as the kids get a little older that I’ll be able to start a little work on my own projects. That I can get back to the creative process that was my touchstone, my identity. In reality I’m much too stressed out and exhausted to be creative. Being an artist is demanding creatively, and I’m not sure I have that kind of stamina right now.
Before kids, I was a photographer that worked in cyanotype: a very old photographic process that some people call sun prints because you expose the print to sunlight. I am a conceptual artist, meaning my work has a deeper meaning than just the surface image. Not sure if I was a good one, but that doesn’t really matter.
I miss the clear, singing joy of seeing a finished print start to emerge in the developer. I miss the technical challenges of printing and the sense of accomplishment from a final piece. I’m rarely so centered and at peace than when I’m working on my art.
On my positive days I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to start working again soon. The rest of the time I mourn what I lost. I love my kids. Don’t ever doubt that. But I’m not blind to the cost of raising them.