It never occurred to me that I would be a stay-at-home mom.

It never occurred to me that I would be a stay-at-home mom.  

My plan:  I would use my ample salary as a sound editor and the time between individual film projects to create my own films, which would fall somewhere on the scale between “artsy” and “avant-garde,” and establish me as a Woman in Film.  I’d enter these gems in festivals and bask in their successes.  I knew I wanted children, but when that happened, I’d play it by ear.

By my late twenties, I had a great career going as a sound editor.  I was in the union and I was in demand.  But the first glitch in my plan had emerged — in between films, when I was supposed to be creating Art, I needed to recover from the seven-day weeks.  Do some laundry.  Balance the checkbook.  I wasn’t even sure I wanted to spend my life cutting sound — I had happened into it and I was good at it, but it didn’t compel me the way my husband’s career in film production did him.

And then, the game-changer: pregnancy.  My husband and I agreed that we’d be flexible — we’d alternate working and childcare between us. I had no idea how I’d feel post-birth, and I knew no other (female) sound editors with young children.   My husband was experiencing success, so his salary had begun to surpass mine.  It gave us the financial wherewithal so if I wanted to be a “stay-at-home mom,” I could.  

The film industry is tough on any kind of personal life.  Our first child was anxious by nature.  And I had my own plentiful anxieties and a (possibly pathological) sense of responsibility to my children, which I could not have foreseen before motherhood.   Between my early attempts at continuing to work when my eldest was a toddler, and what I’d have to call my intuition about what was right for all of us, I simply stopped trying to “have it all.”  

My sons are 26, 23 and 20 now.  They are what I am most proud of in this world.   But the world isn’t necessarily proud of me back.  My decision was absolutely the right thing for them.  I have not one shred of doubt about that.  However, now that they’re off leading their own lives (a wonderful thing to celebrate) I have to admit that I’m way behind.  I stayed home — as it turned out — to the detriment of my marriage, my resume and my bank account.

At the heart of my discouraging conclusion I see society’s deep distrust and dislike of what has been called women’s work.  Time spent with children — people who are uncivilized, selfish, uneducated and often difficult — is not intellectually stimulating, even if you happen to love children’s books, board games and team sports.  The hours are terrible and the rewards are ephemeral.  Talk to a preschool teacher about it (and so on up the school ladder).  If I want praise for my decision to stay home, it’s up to me to provide it, because I’m not going to find it elsewhere.  If I had even a ounce of native Zen (or came from a less ambitious background and social group) I’d have no regrets.  In another place or time, I’d be resting on my laurels.  As it is, I remain fiercely proud of my decision, and yet (not so privately now) deeply ambivalent. 

Showing 2 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • posted about this on Facebook 2014-05-19 13:21:16 -0400
    It never occurred to me that I would be a stay-at-home mom.
  • Anna Boorstin
    published this page in Blog 2014-05-19 13:20:15 -0400