Slightly Insane Mom

"All mothers are slightly insane." –J.D. Salinger
October 12th, 2014

Droppin’ It Like It’s Hot

At the start of fall, I decided to go back to school. Not because I fancied a change of career. Not because our finances dictated that I find employment urgently. And not because I missed my former life as an editor and educator. Mostly, I went back to school out of guilt.

I stepped away from the cubicle when I was 5 months pregnant with Little Miss Sunshine. At the time, I was thrilled with my decision, and looking forward to spending day in and day out with my baby girl. But now, eight years later, the shine has worn off. Don’t get me wrong—I’m intensely grateful and gratified to stay at home with my kids. But I do miss the daily adult interaction, as well as the ability to make it through a day without getting snot on my shoulder and pre-chewed graham cracker slime on my pants.

Ultimately, though, the decision to go back to school was made out of guilt: the giant, heavy, soul-sucking burden that all moms carry with them to some extent or another.

Are you a working mom? Look at all those milestones you’ve missed! Did you stop pumping breastmilk—every 2 hours in the supply closet next to the post-its, or on 5-minute breaks between classes, or in the airport lounge praying it would stay cold enough on the flight to that important meeting—because it was just a little too hard? You should have kept that up longer. Hey, why aren’t you at the oh-so-inconvenient 10 AM meeting of the PTA at your kid’s school? And how come you didn’t have time to hand-make the peanut-gluten-dairy-egg-HFCS-rBGH-BPA-free treats for your preschooler’s Earth Day party? Only losers send in pre-packaged snacks, you know.

But hey, stay-at-home moms! You should feel bad, too. Look at that degree you worked so hard for, collecting dust there. You’re not contributing any income to the family! If your kids don’t get to go to Disney World this year, you have no one but yourself to blame. Look at this house! This is supposed to be YOUR DOMAIN, and it’s a wreck! And what are you going to do about that resume? The last employment year on there started with a 2 and had two zeroes in the middle! The working world is passing you by, sister, and there you are like a booger-shouldered schmuck, watching it sail right past. What a shame.

And that’s why I went back to school. Because my resume was dusty and my brain was filled with cobwebs and my heart was filled with the crushing burden of wondering if my family was floundering because of me.

So I paid lots of money and I did lots of work, and two months later… I am still filled with soul-sucking, heart-crushing guilt, but now it’s because I realized that I’ve spent every weekend of the past two months studying, and naptimes studying, and my kids didn’t get to pick apples or go on hayrides or run through corn mazes or other sources of Fall Mirth and Merriment.

The struggle. It is so real.

John Belushi in Animal House

“Fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.”

I dropped one class, hoping that would make things more manageable. It helped a little. But not enough. Because what I realized was that I wasn’t working my ass off out of any burning desire to go back into that particular career field. I was doing it because I didn’t know what else to do. I started thinking about the hours I was spending each week on studying to go back to a career that I wasn’t all that passionate about, and realizing that if I devoted those hours toward stuff I actually CARED about, maybe my life would feel a little less overwhelming.

Before I made my final decision, I decided to talk to my stepmom, whose advice I value highly. “The thing is,” I explained, “I’m just not that passionate about it.”

“Say no more!” she exclaimed. “I would drop that like a hot potato!”

And that confirmed it. Tomorrow I will call the registrar’s office and add “college dropout” to my list of accomplishments or foibles, however you want to look at it. And maybe this week I’ll take my kids to the park to enjoy the weather. It is, after all, fall.