Let me introduce you to my Tough Italian Broad. She and I are not supposed to love one another. That’s what the women on a local mom’s forum group said, anyways. We were pitted against one another on issues and even, I believe, accepted the roles assigned to us such that we pitted ourselves against one another.

And now I love her. And her husband and her boys. And even her freakishly solitary lion cat.

My Tough Italian Broad has lived a life I cannot fathom. A life of privilege and pain. And.She.Is.So.Real. She tells it like it is even when it is herself or her kids or her husband she’s telling about… I think this is fabulous.

So, I hope you enjoy her words. She is my first ever Guest Poster. Her journey is a beautiful one. And I’ve been blessed with a front row seat for this part of her journey.

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Tough Italian Broad writes…

I was up feeling alert and well rested a few minutes before 6:30 this morning. Early by today’s standards, but late by standards of days gone by. I laid in bed for a few moments before getting up and getting in the shower. A nice, long, hot shower while the rest of the house was still quiet (I made sure to turn the baby monitor off first, just in case). When I left the bedroom, ready to take on the day, the house was still quiet, but my oldest son was already snuggled into a chair, doing his daily reading. We greeted each other, and then, the baby still sound asleep, I watered the garden, made pancakes for breakfast, assembled dinner, and checked my email, while polishing off a Diet Pepsi (the first of many for today, I’m certain).

The baby woke just before 9 o’clock. He enjoyed his breakfast, squealing happily as he stuffed his sweet cheeks, and then I cleaned up the kitchen while sounds of my two babies, one nearing the teen years and one barely a toddler, played together happily in the room adjacent. I threw laundry in, and made my husband’s lunch for tomorrow. Then my oldest got back to his lessons, and the baby and I headed outside to sit in the baby pool for a few minutes before the scorching southern heat that has swallowed us became too much to bear. And then he went down for his nap. And I sat down at the computer.

Nothing exciting. Nothing even notable. But I am so filled up by this, and by my gloriously boring life, that I can scarcely contain my happiness. Was there life before this?

Well, there was, if you can call it that, and, looking back, I’m not sure I can. I had a “real” job, up until one year ago. I worked for a large medical center, caring for adults with a myriad of lung problems. I was fulfilled by my work. I enjoyed it, though it often caused me stress, anxiety, and placed me in situations where my internal emotional response can only be deemed as having been “full of rage”. Yet, when it came time to have my youngest son, I actually struggled with the decision to leave my career. Careers in health care are not the type of career where you can take five years off and reenter the workforce without a problem. Even as I write this, I acknowledge that my expertise is now outdated, and my once capable hands are thoroughly out of practice. I am no longer the expert in my field that I was just one year ago. I am, professional speaking, a “has been”.

But when my husband and I discussed our life, as a family of four, and the many implications that spidered out surrounding the decision to stay at home or return to work , there were many factors that arose and tipped the scale in either direction. I had wonderful benefits, tons of vacation time. I never worked odd hours, never had to worry about working on weekends or holidays. I loved my coworkers fiercely (they were mostly all men, which helped tremendously– I have found women to be the most awful creatures to work with, and I’m certain other women say the same thing when referencing me). I had what people in my field consider a “dream job”, the mother load, the kind of position that you stay in FOREVER. I didn’t want to give up my “dream job” because I didn’t want anyone else to have it. You like that? Total domestic abuser mentality: If I can’t have it, no one can. Totally dysfunctional.

The fact that our baby was a colicky mess and I was afraid someone would shake him (true story), and the desire to homeschool our oldest son came into play on the plus side for staying home, but the clincher ended up being financial. We would actually LOSE MONEY if I chose to return to work. Yep, you read that right. The cost of transportation, higher childcare costs, and vastly higher income taxes, coupled with paying a housekeeper to do the things that I certainly would not be doing if I was working all day ate up my salary. I would be working to pay for childcare, housekeepers, fuel, and for someone on welfare to stay home with their baby (chew on that for a minute– I’ll wait…) and collect a check for it.

So, back to that whole notion of “if I can’t have it, no one can”, this time referencing our household income (“Playing with my money is like playing with my emotions, Smokey!” Sorry, I can never resist that opportunity!), I decided to throw in the towel, “suck it up”, and stay at home. I turned in my notice, and the word spread throughout my social circles. People who knew me fell into three categories.

Category A was made up of those individuals who couldn’t believe that I’d leave a job with (my employer) and the benefits that they offered, not to mention that I’d “waste my education” by staying at home to change diapers. Some of them told me that I was way too “type A” to survive life at home, and even jokingly placed wagers on when I would return. Category B was those individuals who told me how “lucky” I was to stay at home with my children. They were often those individuals who worked but longed to stay at home. Not a single person in my professional life– i.e., my peer group– fell into this category. Category C was the group of people who was enthusiastic for the change I would be making and who offered positive sentiments, but who also acknowledged the fact that it was a difficult adjustment, and that I would mourn the loss of my former self, as I simultaneously realized that hanging out at home wasn’t what the working world imagined it was.

I hated everyone. Equally. Well, maybe not equally. I identified with Category A, mostly because, well, I agreed with them. Despite the decision having been my own, I was focusing on the loss of my professional life. I couldn’t see the future, the enthusiasm that I would feel for a normal day at home with my children. I could only see what I wouldn’t be if I left the workforce: I wouldn’t be an expert clinician. I hated Category A because I thought that they were probably right, which by default, made me wrong, and I hate to be wrong.

I wanted to strangle the people in Category B for two reasons. One, because I felt that they were better mothers than me, better humans even, for actually WANTING to be at home with their offspring, and two, because the professional side of me saw them as the ultimate cop out, and as professionally inferior. You “want” to be at home, but you are actually at work. Why? If you want to stay home, stay home. Turn in the keys to the Lexus and learn how to make dried beans and watch network TV. But for the love of all things Gucci, pick a priority and commit to it. Don’t take up a desk at work, half ass-ing it on the job, while your brain is checked out worrying about your kids.

And so that leaves Category C. Category C, well, I guess if we’re being honest, I may have actually hated them the most. Why? Well, because they knew what I was in for. They knew that even though I would refuse to exit the house without makeup on, ask for help, or ever let on that there were days when I second guessed my choice, and didn’t know what the heck I was doing at home with my kids. I didn’t know how to spend a day at home with my kids. What would we DO all day? I was struggling with the adjustment. And they knew it, despite my best efforts to not let on. And I hated that, so I hated them, too. Yeah, I guess I did hate them the most. Because they actually WERE right. And like I said, I hate to be wrong.

What a difference a year makes. After weeks and even months of struggling with my new role at home, wondering how to do it “right”, and getting used to the fact that infants, and even preteens, don’t listen as well as residents, I’ve settled in. Barring errands and occasional social outings, our days are pretty much variations of the same. Some days I still joke that the worst day at the hospital wasn’t was bad as a bad day at home with a cranky set of kids. But I don’t miss it. I’m not sorry I left my career anymore. I don’t long to return to the days of rising at 5:30, rushing to ready myself for work and the children for school and daycare, fighting traffic to drop them off and make it in to work, doing my actual job with the stress that it entailed, rushing back out to pick up children in time to make dinner and do all of the activities that elementary aged children are involved in, followed by rushing home to do baths and bedtime, pack up our bags for the next day, and finally crashing on the bed, too exhausted to make love to my husband. Was that really what I considered life? As I write this, I can no longer remember what it felt like to pick up on a patient’s symptoms and put together the complex puzzle of a diagnosis before anyone else. I can no longer remember the feel of an IV catheter as it pops in the vein. I don’t dream of the melodious beep of the cardiac monitor (I used to), the collective “DAMN!!” my colleagues and I would make as we first viewed images of a particularly impressive CT scan, or the sounds and silences of a diagnostic procedure. I’m a “has been” when it comes to my professional self. A shadow of what I once was in my field.

But you know what I’m not? What I’ll never be?

I’ll never be a “never was”, at least when it comes to being a mother. I won’t look back at my life when I’m an old woman and wonder why a silly thing like work was so important to me. In fact, I may wonder why I took so long to figure out the truth about things.

So, I’m here. Where I need to be. With my children. Better late than never for my oldest, and right on time for my youngest.

And as an added bonus, my colleagues who were over there holding up Category A– you were wrong. Again. Some things never change! HA!

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