“You are so lucky to be able to stay home with your kids,” is something I have heard over and over again since my daughter arrived five years ago. Most people I have met after starting our family, have no idea about the career I left behind and even those that have known me beforehand, forget about my accident and assume I have chosen to stay home with my kids.
I AM lucky to be home with my kids. I drag myself out of bed daily, ready to take on the task of preparing three meals and 1,000 snacks because they are constantly STARVING. I sing nursery rhymes over and over again because one time is never enough and I read 50 books a day, sometimes the same one 50 times, because the kids ask, “one more time?” I spend hours commuting my children to school and activities and even more hours at the park and at play dates. I clean up crumbs and spilled milk after every meal or snack and wipe tears, clean scrapes and use magic cream on wounds. The repetitiveness of my days would have driven the pre-injury me absolutely insane, but the post-injury me lives in the moment, grateful for the opportunity to have children to raise and the days we spend together.
Some days, I can barely handle preparing snacks and meals and reading books gives me such a migraine that I have to stop. Explaining my shortcomings to my children used to humiliate me and make me feel like a failure, but I remind myself that I am so much more beyond my head injury. I can still love my children fiercely and be the best Mom I can be to my kids. Heck, maybe I can be even a better Mom because of my accident, I have an understanding and sense of compassion now that was missing in my pre-accident self. I am forced to live in the moment and celebrate the little things. I appreciate being alive, breathing, walking and talking, something I used to take for granted.
I envy the working parents. Because to me, they have it all. They have beautiful families and demanding careers and are showing their children how to be successful both professionally and at home. They are using their college degrees and solving problems at work while I help decide what toy to play with next. I’m building with blocks and they are building professional networks, This isn’t to say it isn’t easy, I know it isn’t, I see that. I struggle juggling caring for my kids day in and day out and working parents juggle caring for their kids and a career. I am in awe of those capabilities and wish I could do it. I don’t have it because I can’t have it. If I was to work, I would become so exhausted and exacerbate my cognitive deficits to such a level that I would be unable to care for my children. I wouldn’t be able to balance my family and career because I would be spending every minute recovering from cognitive exhaustion and the impairments I have suffered as a result of my head injury. My daily capabilities require a lot of effort and planning and when those boundaries are outside of my control, I suffer. Now that I am a Mom, I can’t suffer, I need to be able to care for me so I can care for my kids.
I know others envy me because I hear it. I’ve lost count as to the number of times I have heard, “you’re so lucky to be home with them.” I didn’t choose to stay home with my kids, but it’s the life I have been given, and I do chose to embrace it. But every time someone comments about the “luck” I have with being home with my kids, it stabs at my heart, because my “luck” is a direct result of a car accident and a mild traumatic brain injury. I miss my career, daily, and spent years in therapy trying to understand and cope with losing a sense of self, and overcoming depression for not be able to go back to work as a CPA.
I know the void I have in my life for missing my demanding career has never gone away, and no matter how many years pass, I continue to wonder what I would be doing professionally at this point in time. I also know that if I was working full-time, as a CPA at PricewaterhouseCoopers, that I’d be struggling with constantly running late to pick up my kids, missing milestones, trying to figure out how to juggle it ALL, and not getting a chance to read that story for the 50th time.
The grass is always greener on the other side. This is the life I have been given and I will embrace it.