Since deciding to leave my job, and then subsequently losing my job....I have been unemployed. There is only one other time, since I was 17, that I have been unemployed for such a stretch. It was the couple of months I took off after leaving my job of 4+ years as a certified veterinary technician while I prepared to go back to college at 29 and finish my bachelors degree.
That break I took before going back to college felt really different than this one. I was still struggling through the depression and angst brought on by the massive identity crisis I went through in the first year of my marriage and I was incredibly resistant to acting in any way like a "typical Betty Crocker house wife". So, even though my partner was working all day and supporting us both financially, I felt entitled to do very little in the way of "housekeeping" and instead spent days indulging in various comforting activities such as watching really bad soap operas and day time television. Because that isn't right out of some stereotypical housewife script, right? The truth is, I had a really hard time finding a way to be "me" in the context of marriage. I had, and have, an incredibly loving and supportive partner - but marriage just carried so much baggage for me. The word "wife" felt like a heavy and uncomfortable piece of clothing that I couldn't figure out how to make my own. While I did need some of that time to just veg out, convalesce, regroup - it was really hard on Mr. Spicy because not only was he carrying all the burden financially, but he would come home at night to a messy house, a depressed wife, and a "to do" list that just kept growing.
It's not a period I am entirely proud of.
So, when we contemplated my being unemployed while we went through IVF together - it took a lot of faith on the part of Mr. Spicy, and a lot of optimism on my part, that we would not be revisiting that time. I was, and am, very aware of the great luxury and good fortune that I am being afforded in being able to have this time off - in being able to just focus on IVF, and I did not, and do not, want to take that for granted for a minute. I promised him, and myself, that this time would be very different. I am a different person now. I no longer feel fear that I will somehow morph into some version of a cookie-cutter, 1950s housewife that I am not. I have claimed my role as his wife and partner and made it my own, and I love that role. I have found solace and pride in our home, in the first home that has ever truly been mine, and I have enjoyed bringing my creativity to it more and more every year. But still, I wondered how I would react to no longer counting my contribution to this household in part by hours worked or money earned but solely on what I could contribute to our home, our meals, our garden, our time together.... Would I be able to hold my own there? Or would I descend into procrastination and avoidance again?
So far, I am greatly pleased to find that I am able to hold my own. I am not the most efficient or quick house cleaner. I am not the most organized home keeper. But, I am accomplishing a lot and more importantly, I am enjoying it. I am enjoying cleaning out clutter, re-organizing and creating new spaces for us, and taking care of us during this time. I am also rediscovering things I really love, like throwing the doors open on a sunny day, cleaning something really well with hot and soapy water, planning our gardening, taking care of our dogs, grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking.
Today I was in the kitchen, sunlight streaming in the windows, Feist booming on the stereo, and I was chopping garlic and cilantro for the marinade I was preparing to plop some salmon filets in for dinner tonight. I was completely delighted and filled with joy down to my toes. The smell of the cilantro and garlic, the oil of the garlic coating my fingers, the green leafy-ness of the cilantro - it was intoxicating. I remembered that I love this experience. I love creating with food. I love the relationship with the food as I prepare it, feeling it, smelling it, tasting it, marveling at the colors and textures and beauty inherent in each ingredient. I love the alchemy at work in mixing these different pieces together, chopping, mixing, blending, squishing, stirring, kneading them together - to create something new that is decidedly greater than the sum of its parts. It's close to what I experience when I am painting. I especially love creating meals that I know will nourish and bring comfort to someone I love. Today I was preparing salmon for a Thai salmon dish that Mr. Spicy loves. It is a simple recipe, but it tastes so good and it brings him such joy that I couldn't help but smile as I prepared it, infusing it with my love for him - and my gratitude that his hard work and earning potential and incredible generosity are making it possible for me to have a moment like this, alone, in the kitchen, delighting in our home, delighting in creating, delighting in being a home maker.
I am a stay-at-home home maker.
Making a home for us.
And unexpectedly, loving it.