An exercise in “Grey Thinking”

So I’m in the process of considering whether to finish my masters in social work in the coming school year (the 2012-2013 year). Its the last possible year I can finish, according to the Head Hoo-Hahs of the MSW world. Being that it is the last possible year I could finish my degree (well, aside from going back and doing the whole program all over again in 15 or 20 years–after the whole raising our kids is said and done…wow…will it really be that long until I don’t have a little person under my roof?! What did I get myself into with this whole parenthood thing?!), the decision feels big. And it kind of is a big deal– whether I go or not decides whether I can add an MSW to my name, if I so choose– it determines whether or not I have “easy” (as in clear-cut) options for a career, if I needed to go back to work in the next however many years.

So, as background, I never really imagined myself as a working mom. Granted, I didn’t imagine myself working and raising a family– but I didn’t actually think out what that would mean, financially. “What?” you say, “How could you not take that into consideration?” Well, that’s how my brain works…I often come to a conclusion that I think is right (really trying not to use right/wrong language these days because of how black and white my thinking can get) good– and then think through what it actually means. I don’t do this all the time– that would just be silly!- but I do think this way sometimes– it feels right- shoot! there I go again– so I go with it and think through all that is behind it later…So, back to the stay-at-home mom thing. I’m not exactly sure how or why when I imagined myself with kids, I also imagined myself at home with them. Probably mainly because my own mom was home with me– but, nonetheless, its the image of motherhood (for me) that I’ve had. And, I’ve been unbelievably blessed because its actually been a financially viable option for us. I recognize- as best I can–that this is a HUGE luxury/blessing/gift…and I can’t tell you how grateful I am to The Man of the House that I can even consider staying at home. Its a mix of his God-given talent, dedication to his development of those talents, dedication to us and the Lord’s leading that we are in a position where, albeit on a budget, I can stay home with LO since she was born.

All that’s to say, as much or as little as I really considered or knew what being a stay-at-home mom meant, I always knew I wanted to be one. And yet, although I certainly made particular choices and had a good 9-10 months to consider that reality prior to LO’s birth, all of a sudden, I feel like I’m being forced to decide– how committed to staying at home with LO am I? Am I so committed that I’m going to give up a master’s degree? Is that commitment or is it just a lack of desire to go back to the grind of school and clinical work? (For those of you that don’t know, MSW programs require you to do 15-20 hours/week of an internship– i.e. I worked at a psychiatric hospital my first year of grad school, running therapy groups, doing counseling and casework.)

The whole question of going back to school/work forces me to consider what and why I want to be at home with my child…and honestly, its an emotionally-draining exercise…and exercise that I’m (shirkingly) aware may not result in a *right answer* (horror of horrors for a left-brained individual like myself!)

Even more than trying to decide whether I choose to identify myself as a stay-at-home mom…this is an exercise in “Grey Thinking”. What is “Gray Thinking” you ask? Well, I think I may have just made the term up (actually, I’m pretty sure I didn’t – I’m not that inventive!), but in general, its thinking and living in the both/and world- not the either/or world. In whatever way I’ve been thinking of staying at home, it somehow (and this is by no means an indictment to moms that work– this is just where my brain is about ME- somehow that doesn’t translate to judging others about this— I tend to be much more judgmental about myself) mixed up with the idea that if I’m at home with LO then I’m a better mom to LO. And the reality is its not an either or. It is not I’m either a good mom or a bad mom and that’s simply based on a formula of being at home. I could be a damn good mother at home– I could also be a damn good mother working outside the house. I could-and this is really going to shock you (well, it does me at least!) be a good and a bad mom all in the same 5 minutes! Or even more shocking, I could be neither a good nor a bad mom but just a mom who is both gifted in some areas and weak in others. WHOA! Have I blown your mind yet?!

Most things in life, I’ve discovered I’m discovering are not black and white. Many things are both/ands not either/or– meaning choosing to go back to school for a year does not mean that I will never go back to being at home with my kids…nor does it mean that I’m not a dedicated mother. I can be in school and working AND be a good mom. Its a both/and. Yes, its different than what my current roles are today, but that doesn’t mean its better or worse or right or wrong. To go back to grad school or not does not make or break me as a mother or LO’s sense of being.

To be honest, its the fact that there isn’t this clear cut answer that makes this decision so hard. It would be great if there were a right and a wrong answer…then I wouldn’t have to wade into the unknown…make intentional choices…have things I miss out on…

So this decision is pushing me…its forcing me to grow. Forcing me to realize that a drop of ink on a white canvas doesn’t necessarily taint the canvas but rather enhance it. Add life to it. Add some color. Even if the color’s grey.

 

 

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