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When I had my first son in 2012, I was finishing up my BA in English Lit. I had him in July 2012, went back to school in September, and one week before my May 2013 graduation, found out I was pregnant with his younger brother. My husband (also a college student) went to night classes that summer and worked so I stayed home with our toddler during the pregnancy. When our second baby boy was born in January 2014, I stayed home and tried to find a groove with two small children as I watched my friends go off to graduate school or abroad or start new jobs in their fields. My husband graduated that May and started a really good job a month later in June. Though I had been vocal before having children about a desire to stay home, we never had a formal conversation about what our roles would be. Life happened and we showed up as we were needed. Everything made sense and I was okay with my role until one day my husband and I were arguing and he said that I brought nothing to the table. I was crushed. It felt as if I had had the wind knocked out of me. Though my husband has been adamant over the years that he only said something so harsh out of anger, the damage was done. His statement, coupled with my insecurity that I wasn’t contributing enough, created a need in me to prove my worth. In the Fall of 2016, I began an online Masters of Library Information Science program. That November, I found out I was pregnant with our third son. Although I received stellar grades, it didn’t feel like enough to prove I was doing something. The day after I graduated, I went out on my first job interview. When I received the job offer, I knew it wasn’t the right time for me to enter the workforce. The baby was not two, my oldest was in speech after school, and both he and my middle were going to therapy to help manage ADHD. I talked to my parents who assured me we could do it together. My husband agreed. I took the job and for the first two weeks, everything was good. Then my parents decided that the arrangement was not something that they could continue with. I had to find a daycare and after-school care for the boys and because the timing was so sudden and last minute, the choices were slim. Between the illnesses and the bad behavior my children were exposed to, I had ample reasons why I should’ve probably quit and come home. I consistently chose the excuse that I continued to work and sacrifice their needs to provide them with a life I didn’t have. The thing is they already had a life I didn’t have. The truth, the hard truth, that I’ve just recently come to face, is that I continued to work at their expense for my benefit. For the first time in my marriage, I was able to put my value down on paper. I was an indisputable contributor to my household for 6 months. I was able to strut with a certain confidence knowing that what I brought to the table held a monetary value. Unfortunately, my children’s health, both mental and physical, was collateral damage. Perhaps one day they will forgive me. Maybe they won’t know to because it won’t be something we discuss. I just know that when my contract was up and I looked in the mirror, I wasn’t proud of the woman I saw. I know I’ll never forgive myself. Like many women, I have tried to quantify my worth. Whether it’s pounds or dollars or children or years or how many people we have slept with, we have been taught that numbers don’t lie. When there are no numbers to represent a value, the value is zero. Many women are walking around, like myself, proud to finally fill in a number that is more than zero. Somewhere there is a woman who believes she won’t be a real woman until she can bear one child. There is a woman who is justifying her worth based on the loss of ten pounds. And here I am, strutting around with thirty-six thousand dollars of societal worth but feeling more unworthy than ever. Maybe one day we’ll get it right and every woman will learn that to be is to be enough. I have yet to quantify that though.

Both a keeper and a weeper. A writer, a wife, a mother, and a life long scholar. BA English Literature(2013), M.LIS(2018), current MSW student. She/Her/Hers

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