Last week was awesome. It really was. I could not be more convinced this was the absolute right change for our entire family. Everyone is happier now, for a great variety of reasons.

But I had this weird feeling on Friday that’s kind of hard to describe. I felt kind of . . . lost at sea, I guess. And part of that was expected, because everything is so new right now. Every single routine I had is gone, and I’m sort of blundering around trying to figure out when the best time to shower is and where the best places to take the kids are and how to write the kind of articles that will make my editor happy and so on and so on.

This is all good stuff. Great stuff.

It’s just that I don’t really recognize this new me, yet. In the blink of an eye I went from being someone who’s always worked outside the home to a stay at home mom who homeschools. And it’s not that I’m uncomfortable with those roles, exactly, it’s just—god, I don’t even know. I’m puttering around the kitchen when my husband gets home, putting dinner together and encouraging my kid to tell his dad about what we learned today, and I think, is this all I’ve got to talk about?

It doesn’t make sense, really. What did I have to talk about before? How shitty my commute was? Some stupid thing that happened at work that made me even more resentful and unhappy? Some video I saw on the internet from my hours of being glued to a fucking desk all day long? What kind of contribution is that?

Well. Still.

I decided to join a local Crossfit gym. I think it will help to have my own thing a few nights a week, being around people and reclaiming some of the fitness I’ve lost over the summer. I think it will help with this feeling that I’ve faded, somehow. Become harder to see. Even though I’m more present than I’ve ever been before. Even though I can already feel my relationship with the kids getting stronger and better. Even though I’m happier and more fulfilled.

After years of weathering—and actively seeking out—big changes, you’d think I’d know by now that nothing can really change who you are as a person. I don’t need to worry about disappearing, being replaced by someone else, someone I don’t know. But I think that’s it, that’s what’s creeping around the edges.

Ridiculous, I know.

(Still.)

Comments

49 Responses to “Unfamiliar”

  1. Eric's Mommy on September 12th, 2010 2:22 pm

    I know EXACTLY how you feel. I don’t homeschool but sometimes I have no idea what day of the week it is. I feel kind of lost without my routine. At least with Eric back in school now I have to get him up and ready and then get him later from the bus stop.

  2. katie on September 12th, 2010 2:37 pm

    it’s good you have the ability to join a gym and have your husband watch the kids. i think some sahms dont even have that break in routine. i know i dont.

  3. Victoria on September 12th, 2010 2:41 pm

    *hugs*

  4. shygirl on September 12th, 2010 2:46 pm

    I don’t even have kids, but I can still relate to this feeling. Things can get a little… weird, I guess, is the word for it, when you switch gears like this and go off to make your own way. If it makes you feel any better, you’re definitely not alone! I think joining the gym was an awesome idea and will help keep you grounded as you get used to your new life.

    It’s weird. Sitting in a cubicle or my office, you’re always sort of dreaming– or at least I always did– about what your life would look like if you didn’t have to make the sucky commute and sit in interminable useless meetings, if you were free to run it exactly the way you wanted. Then when you actually take the first major step in doing it, you’re like “wait, WTF? Joy I expected, but weird unsettling pangs I can’t quite identify? What the hell is this?”

    It IS scary. There’s no denying it. But you’ve already done the scariest part; you’ve already jumped into the deep end of the pool. Now comes a long, slow learning curve as you find your way, because make no mistake: this is hard work, building your dream life. Brick by brick, no map to follow, just feeling your way.

    But the delicious, giddy sense of “holy crap I’m really doing it!” which will arise each time you put a new brick in place is one you’re well familiar with by now, with your marathons and learning to swim and all the other amazing things you’ve done. Good news: it only gets better from here :)

  5. Jessamyn on September 12th, 2010 2:53 pm

    Oh, this is SO how I feel lately, too. I find myself suddenly in the position of stay at home mom, for real, except that I’m still collecting unemployment (but I don’t really expect or even intend to find a new full-time job that requires a commute, or a lawyer job at all) – and I just have not been able to figure out what my deal is and why I feel so weird. I’m happier. I have more time with the kids. I have more time for whatever I feel like doing. I have the utmost respect for people who are stay at home moms, and yet – I just have never identified myself that way. It’s very strange, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to best come to terms with it. Thanks for putting this into words.

  6. honeybecke on September 12th, 2010 2:58 pm

    It took you one week to figure this out about yourself. I am impressed. It took me 3.5 years of being a SAHM to figure this out about myself and it’s been a struggle ever since to keep a lid on it, find something to feed my soul, to keep myself present.
    You’re way ahead of the game Linda. Keep on it.

  7. Bethany on September 12th, 2010 3:04 pm

    You will figure it out, as you have figured out every other step getting to this place. Any transition, even such a positive one as this, takes time to adjust to, and you’re doing great.

  8. Cara on September 12th, 2010 3:06 pm

    You have described exactly how I feel most days being at home on maternity leave with my ten week old. Except – there’s not even really anything to say about what we did today. And yet I don’t have the energy to do much about dinner, and he’s probably picked up chicken and salad as a result. Its weird and so unlike my life before. And yet, its better and I feel knots in my stomach at the thought of going back.

  9. Christen on September 12th, 2010 3:06 pm

    It makes sense to me that even though you are already happier and more fulfilled (to use your words) that you would continue to seek out things that fulfill you and bring more happiness. You know what it’s like to be in a soul-sucking job with little control over your time thanks to a crap commute. If you can strengthen your family relationships while meeting financial obligations AND maintain a level of physical health that keeps you sustained… well, then, I think you’re in an amazing place headed for more than you ever dreamed of.

  10. Jennifer on September 12th, 2010 3:07 pm

    Agree with Honeybecke – it took me a couple years working from home to realize that I need some form of “interaction with those things outside.” So if you’re aware after a week, you gotsya some good intuition.

    Joining your XF gym is cool. I joined an orchestra, became active in a bike club, and started taking classes where I’d have to interact with other students. You experiment with the recipe until you find the ingredients that are right for you. And the discovery is part of the adventure.

  11. Lena on September 12th, 2010 3:32 pm

    It’s simple. You’re human and humans don’t like change. And we crave that similar (even if unfulfilling) routine. It’s like when you’re on vacation for more than a week, and you start to feel weird, like you’re supposed to be somewhere else.

  12. AndreAnna on September 12th, 2010 3:46 pm

    When we moved from NJ to IA and I became a full-time WAHM, it took me two months to find something that gave me the same satisfaction of getting up every day as going in to the office.

    And it was an XF box.

    The sense of community is immense and it filled the void from what I missing leaving the cubicle environment (I hated the grind but loved my friends and colleagues).

    Once you’re feel part of the community (a lot of people putter out in the first few weeks so it takes a while for people to warm up to you), I think you’ll find the camaraderie you’re missing from the office or find it a sufficient substitute.

    At least I did.

    I love XF more than I ever thought I could – because it makes me value my time at home with my kids more, because it makes me feel part of something, because it makes me push my physical self to the limits every day – which helps my mental health in more ways than I ever thought possible.

    You’re so gonna kick this new life’s ass.

    And I’m proud of you, for whatever that’s worth.

  13. lindsay on September 12th, 2010 4:04 pm

    I know my days of the week but not what month it is, ever since I graduated college. And every fall I feel like I should be going back to school and starting hockey….but actually I haven’t done that in six years. It’s weird. Looking forward to hearing about crossfit.

  14. Kate on September 12th, 2010 4:10 pm

    Your ability to capture this feeling speaks to your power as a writer. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile but haven’t yet commented, but feel compelled to today. I felt this way while on maternity leave from my fancy lawyer job with baby #2. I couldn’t wait for my leave to start — I desperately needed a change from the grind, but several weeks in I found myself floundering and kind of depressed. I didn’t miss the stress and pressure of my job, but the sense if satisfaction of blow drying my hair and putting on make up and talking with colleagues and running down to the lobby of my building to get a Starbucks whenever I wanted. Shallow things, but they gave me some independence. Not that I don’t love spending time with my children but, you know … You DO know… That’s what your post is about. Thanks for letting me know that I’m not alone in my conflicted feelings. Thanks, also, for your continued prose, honesty, and wit. I often find myself laughing aloud at your posts. I don’t know you, but am karmically pulling for you!

  15. Laura on September 12th, 2010 4:22 pm

    Makes sense, really. Even good things take adjustment! Just curious – are you still trying to sell your house?

  16. Deb on September 12th, 2010 4:27 pm

    Yes, I know this feeling.

    I pour myself into my children and my family, into their head, hearts and even into what they eat… And sometimes wonder if I am giving away too much, that there will be nothing left and I will be one of those people (like my mother), who wander around, vague and ghost-like, with no real substance or thoughts or sense of themselves.

    But I know strongly that I am doing what I am meant to do. When I became a mom I felt like I finally found myself. So even though all I do all day is give everything away, and even though some days end with me in bed looking at the ceiling counting all the ways I am fucking this whole thing up….I have a tiny corner of certaintly that can’t be shaken.

    You have that too. Water it and it will grow.

  17. Sara on September 12th, 2010 4:50 pm

    I get the feeling. I stay home with my 2 year old and the thing that has kept me sane is leaving a few nights a week to go play roller derby. Seriously, hitting girls makes me a better mom. But now I’m pregnant again (yay!) and on maternity leave (boo!). I can’t wait until I can play again. Looking forward to hearing about crossfit.

  18. Trina on September 12th, 2010 5:05 pm

    I don’t know a single one of my SAHM friends who don’t feel this way (including myself). It’s totally normal and you will figure it out. The gym and Bikrham yoga do it for me. But my oldest started Kindergarten this year so I have a whole new routine to get used to after 5 1/2 years of the same thing. Are you going to home school always, or is Riley going to traditional school next year?

  19. jonniker on September 12th, 2010 5:07 pm

    When I stopped working full-time, I was so panicked that I would be lost. That I would no longer be able to define who I was. I’d spent my entire adult life defining myself by my career, who would I be?

    It took me a little while, but recently I realized that *I* get to define who I am now — every last part of it. I was hiding behind my career, and I didn’t even know it. Now I am a little defined by it, but it’s a career I chose myself, executed on my terms. I get to be defined my what I choose to do with my time, how I parent, how I do things, on my terms.

    I think I am, for the first time, defined by who I really am in a way I never was when I had a full-time job.

  20. Beth on September 12th, 2010 5:22 pm

    I’m not a mom, but I’ve been unemployed for 3 years, first finishing my last semester of college, then going straight into grad school–which was a writing program. So I’ve basically been a stay at home person for 3 years.

    Make sure your weekend is separate from your week. It’s hard, cause the days start to blend together. But I find my life far more satisfying. I don’t let myself sleep past 9:30 during the week, but I sleep in on the weekend as long as I want. I try not to do too many chores on Saturday, etc etc. You can establish your own thing. But make sure you get some distinction. It helps!

  21. Annie on September 12th, 2010 5:36 pm

    My best advice, as a sahm who knows the feeling, is to get out of the house with some other sahm friends. You’ll get those “stories” and feel like an individual again, instead of just MOM.

  22. shriek house on September 12th, 2010 5:40 pm

    Your unfamiliar sounds SO familiar to me. It is jarring, how something so fulfilling *personally* is not really perceived as fulfilling/worthy/interesting *culturally*.

    You’ll find your way, but just be ready for these little moments of… I don’t know, it almost feels like weightlessness, right, like taking the crest of a hill too fast and getting a little freefall as you head back down? I still struggle with identity, after almost 8 years of being a SAHM/WAHM.

    Also: blogs/twitter = LIFESAVER. But you knew that.

  23. jen on September 12th, 2010 6:13 pm

    I just started staying at home at the end of April and for a while, I just felt like I was on maternity leave. But now I’ve started thinking, whoa, what am I doing here? It doesn’t bother me but at the same time I feel like I should be productive a bit more. Or something.

  24. jen on September 12th, 2010 6:15 pm

    Oh and also, do keep sharing what you are doing for homeschooling like you did. I really liked hearing about it.

  25. Lisa May on September 12th, 2010 6:17 pm

    I left an incredibly frustrating and rapidly-nearing-soul-sucking job at the end of June and started working for myself; I totally recognize the feeling you’re describing. I’ve been explaining it to people as that sensation you get when you stand in a doorway pressing your arms as hard as you can against the frame and then step away. Your arms float – like they don’t know how to just rest after all that effort. That’s how I’ve felt lately. Eventually they start to settle down and you can fully enjoy the new range of motion. That’s what I keep telling myself. :)

  26. muddy on September 12th, 2010 6:44 pm

    SO after my layoff I had this for a couple weeks. At first, I kinda mourned the…equality of the double income household, kinda. I was bogged down by the drifting of the stay-at-home mom role and its kid-centric (and therefore, not mama-centric) quality.

    It totally passed and, now that I’ve gone back to work, I know I’m going to treasure those months we had forever. I really got into the freedom, the loose hang-out time I had with my kid. We were so comfortable with each other and it was fantastic.

    I like working, don’t get me wrong, and I do need to work. But you know – I’ll bet you’ll be fine. Have fun.

  27. .303 Bookworm on September 12th, 2010 7:04 pm

    In the last year and a half my life has changed hugely. My work is the same but in my life I’m no longer the single girl living in the middle of the city who is always out eating, drinking, socialising, attending night classes, enjoying the freedom of doing what ‘I’ want, when ‘I’ want it. Now, I’m in a relationship, living in the suburbs and chasing around after a partner and stepchild. I AM happier, mostly, but I still miss that sense of me – somewhere amongst becoming US I left ME behind and I find myself resenting that. (I’m working on getting some ‘me’ space back in the balance.)

    The gym is a great idea and maybe you need to find a new ‘big’ goal just for you – I suspect you’re the kind of person who needs one! Hold onto your sense of who you are – it makes the rest so much more rewarding!

    Anyway, that’s my assvice – take it or leave it, either way here’s a hug.

    Chin up – all change involves leaving something behind.

  28. Amy on September 12th, 2010 7:05 pm

    As Americans, we seem to be so defined by “what we do” that when we opt out of the traditional workforce, the feeling of not “doing” anything can be daunting. I feel totally at ease with my life, but I do notice the glances from some people after I tell them I quit my job to stay home with my kids. Sometimes it seems like others don’t think I have anything to add to the conversation because I don’t work outside of the home. Their loss. I’m doing the right thing for my family right now. You’ll figure it all out. Transitions are tough, but make life way more interesting.

  29. Leslie on September 12th, 2010 7:08 pm

    When I first became a work-from-home freelancer, I got *mad*. Like, mad at traffic while I was running errands. Mad at junk mail. Mad at bad commercials.

    I finally figured out that I no longer had that Coworker Vent — someone with whom to blow off steam about the latest news story or political scandal or tv plot twist. Once I figured that out, it luckily diffused the situation.

    I stopped wearing a wristwatch, too, since it didn’t matter how long anything took unless I had a pending interview.

    But I never know what day of the week it is, and, as you say, the weekend is not greeted with the same TGIF!!1!! enthusiasm.

  30. nancy on September 12th, 2010 8:02 pm

    Wow. If you feel this way after one week, imagine what six years feels like. Yeah.

  31. 6512 and growing on September 12th, 2010 8:15 pm

    You’re in transition; makes perfect sense that it’s disorienting.

    How wonderful to know, after one week, that you’re happier and more fulfilled.

  32. agirlandaboy on September 12th, 2010 9:24 pm

    I can imagine being in that position and having those feelings, and I can tell you exactly where the feelings would be coming from (for me). I’d be afraid that my decisions would have to be defended to any person who had made a different decision, lest they look at my stay-at-home, homeschooling life and think “There’s no way she’s fulfilled and happy doing THAT.” I would worry so much that other people wouldn’t KNOW how happy and fulfilled I was, so I’d be looking for ways to make it obvious, even though, you know, no one ever bothers to judge us more than we judge ourselves, right?

  33. tara on September 12th, 2010 10:11 pm

    When I was headed off to graduate school, one of my undergrad professors told me to “make sure to do something outside of school” which seemed like funny advice at the time. Still, I took him at his word, and wound up taking pottery and swing dance and yoga classes and volunteering at the local rape crisis center.

    Those are the things that kept me sane and centered when I was otherwise in the crazy-making trenches of graduate school writing.

    Funny that I didn’t remember this advice until right now, after reading your post, and hearing you talk about joining a Crossfit gym, and realizing that I need a something outside of *this* so very much right now, too.

  34. AnnaA on September 13th, 2010 12:03 am

    Agreed. And I hope things settle down and feel more ‘normal’ for you soon. For me, it’s sort of a creeping uneasiness as I try to sort out what work I want to do, and where to even begin applying. And it feels all the more questionable when I don’t even have kids to feed/school/entertain.

    But, best of luck to you as you sort out your routine. Like 6512 said, you’re transitioning, and that always feels weird…

  35. warcrygirl on September 13th, 2010 4:11 am

    Linda, after a while this new routine will be so routine that you’ll wonder why you dind’t think of doing it from the day Riley was born. I’ve been home with my two for the past 10 years and have never regretted my decision. Now that they are older I am looking to get back into the workforce; in the meantime I volunteer every chance I get. I’m hoping to teach my kids that sometimes the job needs to get done even without a paycheck. Kudos to you!

  36. Deanna on September 13th, 2010 4:15 am

    You are changing, morphing, whatever word you wanna use. It is interesting you have the sense of presence to notice the change. What what that phrase you used awhile back? Be present? You are!

    When I made the shift to SAHM, I realized the clothes were going, then it was a struggle to put on make up once a week. But I told myself not to think about it until later. And then, when I looked back, months, years later, I can see that I am a different me.

    You rock! You totally can do this new chapter and you will meet other interesting new people -even with your painful shyness.
    ((big hug))

  37. wm on September 13th, 2010 6:13 am

    Though there are lots of benefits of working from home, for me, the main challenge was not having the regular stimulation of other people – with all the ideas, inspiration, motivation, knowledge and things to talk about that they bring. If you can find a group of writers or other means to have regular, professional contact with people, I think it would be a big help. I know it’s not always easy to find though.

  38. MichelleH on September 13th, 2010 9:05 am

    I know exactly how you feel and I think you are going about this in just the right way. You know yourself well and you know what you need to be happy and you’re taking care of that. I think it’s going to be fantastic! So excited for you.

  39. Candy on September 13th, 2010 10:27 am

    I don’t usually leave comments, but today was yet another one of your posts that left me thinking to myself, “Oh my god, that’s totally it!” You have an amazing way of writing so beautifully things I feel but can’t quite actualize. I am a stay at home mom of two boys too, and trust me, I get it. I have felt like I “faded” for a long time now, and have just recently figured out some sort of balance that makes me more “me”. It only took you a week, so nice job on that! (It took me almost 7 years!) Thank you for another great post. You are inspiring.

  40. Mommy on the Spot on September 13th, 2010 11:40 am

    I feel the same way, too. I have been a SAHM for 4 years now. I think when you invest the majority of your time and energy into raising kids, you get kinda lost. My youngest now is almost 18 months, and I am finally feeling like I see bits of myself re-emerging.

    I’ve learned to fight hard to take care of myself. Sometimes it’s the last thing I want to do because I’m tired, but in the end, it’s worth it.

    Blogging and writing have really helped me with all of that.

    This was a great post, and I enjoyed reading all the responses. Thank you.

  41. Brooke on September 13th, 2010 3:32 pm

    I think about this sort of thing all the time. I just finished my PhD last year and am expecting my first child in January. I have been saying for a while now that I don’t want to do the tenure track thing–I don’t want the hours, the stress, the angst of a scholar’s life in a publish or perish academic world. And I think that I have all sorts of options that will allow me to work part time, to spend time at home with the baby, which was the whole point of finishing the degree before getting pregnant. And now… I keep wondering what it will be like to have an entire semester off of teaching. How I identify myself if I’m not a student or a professor. What it means to have what I want and still feel like maybe I don’t have enough. And what that says about me and how much of my self-worth comes from outside sources. Mercy! This is getting much deeper than I intended. It’s just good to hear someone else put into words the same concerns I have.

  42. mixette on September 13th, 2010 5:19 pm

    Can’t wait to hear how Crossfit works out. There’s one right across the street from the middle school track where I run sometimes and I’ve been wondering what its like over there.

  43. mixette on September 13th, 2010 5:21 pm

    And…when I left my full-time tech job in July 2000 for freelance/contract work I went to the movies at noon (noon!) for about a week. Then I realized I needed some (not complete) structure and that wearing real clothes is important.

  44. babs on September 13th, 2010 9:31 pm

    OMG, just like so many others have said, this kinda post is exactly why I love reading your blog. I’m a new Mom to a 4-week-old baby and a new Wife to a husband who lives 3 hours away (but should be moving to my city soon, where we will finally live under one roof). And you really nailed it… these new roles feel so unfamiliar and I just don’t really know who this new “me” is yet. Even though I’m totally happy, despite being sleep deprived.

    Anyway, thanks again for putting into words the feelings I’ve been struggling to describe. Your writing rocks.

  45. Nicki on September 14th, 2010 8:24 am

    I get it. For too many years to count I worked from home, an actual scheduled full-time shift, so even though I was at home I was working. For the last year I have been doing the SAHM thing completely, and I still feel lost. It is a big change and some days will be better than others, but I think in the long-run you will come out ahead and will still have your sense of identity. I also second letting us know how the homeschooling is going. I, for one, am finding it motivational and my 4-year-old is benifiting from it.

  46. Farrell on September 14th, 2010 11:17 am

    Change – even good change – is hard, so your feelings are completely reasonable and understandable. Eventually, though, you will get into a routine/schedule and become more and more comfortable with it.

  47. Nicole on September 14th, 2010 1:30 pm

    Human beings are an adaptable lot. I have always been amazed by what I can get used to if given enough time… what previously considered horrible or totally insane routine can seem normal after a while. The problem with routines is that good or bad, they tend to seep into your sense of identity and general feelings of self worth. These changes you have made, though incredibly positive, are drastic. So you have to give yourself time to adapt. And you will – Because if you adapted to a miserable commute and unfulfilling job, you will surely adjust to this new better life you have had the courage to embrace. But yeah, it’s going to feel really weird at first. Like suddenly going all organic and heath-foody after living on a diet of only McDonalds hamburgers, Diet Coke and Twinkies for the last 10 years. Though the change is good for you, your are bound to shit your pants a few times in the beginning.

  48. Karen MEG on September 14th, 2010 4:11 pm

    I know this feeling well… and I’m on the other side of it now, I think. I was a work out of home Mom for 4 years… then a SAHM-WAHM for 4 years…and now I’ve been back at the WOHM gig for just coming up to a year next week. Did you follow that? Time rockets. (What I didn’t do was the homeschooling thing – wow, kudos to you!). And you know what I did at home? Blogged!!!! Well, at least initially – I was hooked majorly because it was my link to the outside world, in however an artificial manner that was. But seriously, going to the gym 3 times a week for me, in between the schlepping and the scheduling of the kids and all of that fun stuff, kept me pretty busy and happy for about 3 years…but I was looking for the “me” again. Because honestly, I sucked at housework and cooking isn’t my forte and my husband was over the moon when the headhunter came a calling, because apparently I was miserable…Your new life will take a bit of time to adjust, but it will work. It certainly looks like it’s off to an amazing start.

    I love the way you write. I just found your blog … and after reading your “about me”… well, you had me at profanities and yoga pants. :) (and apologies for the novel of a comment…)

  49. misszoot.com » Case Of The Mondays: SAHM Style. (Or Maybe Just Zoot Style?) on September 21st, 2010 2:22 am

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