Wondering

“So Mom, do you think that you’ll be going back to teaching or something now that Michael is doing better in school?” asked my eldest son, home for the in between of his college days and his working days.

I understand why it’s on his mind.  He has spent every day since his graduation last May searching for a full time job.  He worked hard for four years, graduated with top honors, and is ready to strike out on his own.  I remember the feeling; I was so excited to be “near the end of the tunnel” at the end of my college experience.  Since I’d moved home when I had Z, I looked forward to that rite of passage of graduating, getting my first job and setting up my first apartment, just me and my little boy, finally self sufficient and on our own.  My end of college and subsequent job search though ended up getting intertwined with my mother’s illness and then her passing, so life and plans and expectations changed.

But Z, he has a clear path.  And he’s very focused.  So I can imagine that he looks at me, the former teacher with a degree and a certificate growing yellow around the edges in a file cabinet in the basement, with some confusion.   He’s seen me work as a teacher when he was young, and then still pursue it in the evenings when he was an early teen.  But that all fell by the wayside when we moved here and my youngest was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.  I needed to be available during the days, because sometimes things happen.  And over the years we’ve lived here, R’s job has made him less and less able to help, until we’ve gotten to the point now where it truly is all on me, all of the time.  If R’s around it is a bonus, but I pretty much expect that I am the one in charge of all things related to the children.  It truly is my job at this point, and everything else plays second fiddle.

It’s not where I thought I’d be when I was standing where Z is right now.  I thought I would work and have children and be married and share all of the home and children responsibilities equally with my partner.  I made all sorts of black and white statements, the kind that kids that age make when life hasn’t thrown them too many curveballs yet.  But yet somehow, here I am.   I’m OK with it for now, after many years of struggling and chafing at the thought of being “only” a mom.  Watching Michael do well in school or Melinda push herself because of something she’s seen me do or say helps me stay in the game, seeing Z prepare to take on his first real job after college and start his life.

But still, I wonder too, where I will go from here.  I thought of the times in my life when I didn’t have a choice.  All of the choices that life took away from me.  But I realized:  I’m lucky to have choices now. And I realized that I have plenty of time to think about it and make the right choice for me, whatever that may end up being at this stage in my life.

“I don’t know yet,” I answered Z, honestly.  “I think I’m fortunate to be able to be here for all of you now, and to be able to decide which job I want as opposed to which job I need just to survive.  It’s a blessing, and I’m grateful to be in this place now, because so many people don’t have a choice.”

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