Before an orchestra can inaugurate the sublime beauty of a symphony, one that swells and ebbs through our souls, dances upon our hearts, and fills us with a grand prodigious emotion, it must prepare: tune, warm-up, and practice. The sound that is emanated from the ensemble before the conductor taps his baton on the podium can be rather, um, unharmonious. And, with one dog scrambling in a frenzy over a squirrel outside, the other yapping ceaselessly at a neighbor who (gasp!) dared to walk past the house, the dryer's emphatic banging, and a toddler's joyful squeals, I am reminded of this cacophonous moment. In truth, I never thought I'd be a stay-at-home mom. Although I've been known to don an apron to avoid the inevitable flour spill in the kitchen, I do not vacuum the carpet daily, nor do I iron the bedsheets, and if my husband has been waiting for me to lay out his work suits each day, he's going to be showing up to the office in the nude.
I have always had an image of the stay-at-home mom as a woman who anticipated and tended to every need of her family with a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye. She wore sensible shoes, oven mitts, and a perfectly coifed bob, and she listened to Tony Bennett while frosting a chocolate cake. This could NEVER be me: uncomfortably high heels, chipped purple fingernail polish, and long hair piled in a wet knot at the back of my head. Led Zeppelin (and, at times, Tony Bennett) roars out of the ipod speakers, and there are no sweet confections displayed lovingly on the countertop. Not exactly the image of June Cleaver, yet here I am. Mom. Everyday. Every minute.
That's not to say that being a stay-at-home mother is not rewarding- it is actually the most gratifying, worthwhile adventure on which I have ever embarked- it's just a situation that I never thought I would experience. Having had jobs from the time I was able, going to college and graduate school, working as a teacher for several years, nothing could prepare me for this anomalous, yet magnificent, journey.
As plans often do, ours had changed at the last possible instant. The map of our lives was to take my requisite maternity leave, and then return to the classroom that I so loved- filled with literature, grammar manuals, posters, and punctuation texts. This plan was thwarted, however, the moment I gazed upon my baby's tiny, purple feet. Skinny and delicate, her diminutive toes were perfectly formed, and her little toenails flawless. These were the feet on which she would stand for the very first time, jump up-and-down in excitement when she got her driver's license, and the feet that would eventually carry her down the aisle. Perhaps I was weak, maybe a trifle selfish, but I could not bear to miss out on some of these extraordinary milestones.
So each day my objective is to absorb as much about my little girl as I can, such as the fact that she discovers countless information about an object by tasting, explores each meal by touching and mashing it with her hands, and listens intently to the wind when she plays outside. She relies so often on senses that we, as adults, have determined are useless in many scenarios. Therefore, short of squishing the spaghetti between my fingers in a restaurant, I have begun to slow down in my daily activities, to immerse myself in the world by truly recognizing it through taste, touch, smell, sight, and listening. Who knew that a one-year old could be such an outstanding teacher? I always suspected she was a genius.
Now, there are definitely times that I long to go off to my own workplace, to wear some of the suit pants that hang, dejected, in my closet, to come home to my family, who beam because they haven't seen me all day. Unmistakeably, there are several monetary benefits to working outside the home, as well, and communicating with more adults prevents one from replying in goo-goos to the grocery store clerk. Nevertheless, I enjoy where I am right now: jeans-clad, broke, speaking in gibberish to members of the community, happy.
So here I sit, amid the loud, raucous chaos. Barking dogs, buzzing appliances, screeching child- all of these sounds are a precursor to the beautiful symphony that comes with the knowledge that this is the life that I have created and am privileged to be a part of every day.