Saturday, August 14, 2010

Intellectual life of a stay-at-home mom

I have always heard about stay-at-home moms feeling stuck, trapped, stagnating, or what-have-you. That they wish they could go back to work or get out of the house just to get some adult conversation -- to feed their intellectual life. But this just isn't a problem I have -- not yet anyway.

First off, there's the internet. Savior of stay-at-home moms everywhere. We can debate the Big Issues or write poetry while listening for the baby to wake up from his nap. I recently joined Twitter and have a fun time keeping up with all the conversations. (Though at times I do have to step away from me... I feel like I'm getting ADD just trying to absorb it all.) Then there's this blog, Enchiridion, and the many blogs I read -- mom blogs, cooking blogs, political blogs, religious blogs. And, of course, Facebook.

Through the internet, I've been able to research many issues that are dear to my heart. Breastfeeding is big these days, perhaps because I spend such a large percentage of every day nursing! There are so many issues within that -- the politics, the unethical practices of formula companies, the roadblocks that keep women who want to nurse from being successful. Childbirth is another -- I get very worked up when I hear of various situations where women are denied their rights when it comes to the medical care they receive. I think a lot about women's rights and what, exactly, that means and should mean. I think about food: what constitutes nutrition and what the political pressures are that make our food system the way it is instead of the way it should be.

I also can be part of a community with many other mothers. I watch babies a little older than mine to see what I can expect. I watch babies a little younger than mine so I can reminisce. I trade advice with others. It is amazing how much help I receive when I ask for it.

I get to practice my writing skills, do research, and analyze different opinion pieces to form my own opinion. I am way more educated about many parenting issues than I was a year ago.

And yet, even aside from the internet, my intellectual life is alive and kicking. I'm not just counting wet diapers and timing naps -- I'm also trying to see through the eyes of my baby and figure out why he cries or what bothers him so much about nursing. I'm weighing various parenting decisions and choosing the best for our situation. I'm figuring out ways to make ground beef stretch for more meals, or new recipes using the same five ingredients I used the night before. I'm keeping a constant finger on the pulse of our laundry hamper and working out when I need to do each kind of load. I'm trying to make our tiny apartment look nice without spending any money. I'm finding ways to make a two-week grocery supply cost under $70. I'm price-comparing powdered detergent with liquid. I'm a cook, laundress, maid, nanny, pediatrician, nurse, lactation consultant, child psychologist, interior decorator, gardener, and mathematician.

But my favorite part of my intellectual life is my husband. I'm lucky enough to have found a very intelligent man who comes home from a 12-hour day with enough energy to expound on the news or the sermon. When I was pregnant, we were both too exhausted to talk much, a lot of the time. I came home from work and just wanted to put my feet up and surf the internet on my laptop. John got home and opened up his laptop and we would spend time together, but only in a parallel sense. Sometimes we'd get really far out and watch a movie.

But now, every evening around eight o'clock, baby, Daddy, and I take a walk around the apartment complex. We watch the sun set and baby kicks in our arms and starts to feel sleepy as he watches the trees go by. As we walk, we discuss all kinds of things. Recent topics have ranged from the taxonomy of insects to Calvinism. Last night we stayed up till midnight figuring out that many of society's problems come from a false dichotomy between the soul and body. But another evening we might spend making parodies of song lyrics and trying not to wake the baby with our laughter.

I'm two years out of college, and in those two years my intellectual life has never been so alive as it is now that I'm staying home. Instead of frying my brain trying to do the same thing all day, I'm free, as Chesterton put it, to cultivate all my second bests.

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