Welcome to the board!
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Of course you're not "normal". No one is. Normal is over rated anyway. Perhaps it would help to write down both the pluses and minuses of sah and working. Your profile says that you write so writing thoughts down might help organize your thoughts. Along with that, discuss your feelings and thoughts with your dh. Get his imput. And, depending on your family dynamic, perhaps even get the boys involved in the decision making.
That being said, I didn't have your internal debate when I decided to go back to work after being a sah/wahp for 12 years. The girls were all in school, we needed the money (my working took a lot of pressure off dh), and we had afterschool care covered. I found a job I liked (not glamorous but it was one that fit me and my interest/obsession with sewing) which did lead into my current career. Dh and I, allong with our girls (who were 13, 11, and 7 at the time) discussed everything from who was in charge of who afterschool (13 yo was in charge of 7 yo, the 11 was in charge of herself with the neighbor the final say) what chores other people will take over and how my working will effect the lives of the rest of the family. And when our son was born, I had my career going, dh had changed careers. There was no pressing need for a sahp because he thrived in daycare and we had built in brother watchers at home.
The truth may be out there but lies are in your head. Terry Pratchett
I don't think most people actually would love to SAH with their children if they didn't have any friends or family to spend their extra time with.
"Most people would love to have the opportunity to stay at home with their children. And I'm not saying I don't appreciate the opportunity. I just can't help but feel it's a menial and unfulfilling job most of the time (basically I'm an unpaid maid / nanny / cook / chauffeur)."
Um, I think there's a problem there. I think most people wouldn't necessarily love the opportunity to stay at home with their children...for the reasons you stated (unpaid maid/nanny/cook). Or maybe some of my friends would love it if they could afford "help".
I believe the most recent studies show that most moms say that their "ideal" is part time work.
It can be hard to decide how to fill your "free" time, when your friends and family don't HAVE that free time. I know that I work part time...my FT friends can't "hang" with me at 4 pm on a weekday, because they are working. My SAHM friends are busy cooking dinner - they hung out at 10 am. The other moms at the park, for the most part, are friends already who hang out. I do have a growing group of PT Friends to hang with occasionally.
It's a tough thing, and not pathetic at all. I get a lot of satisfaction and adult interaction from work. It's why I do it.
I disagree. While most people wouldn't necessarily love to stay at home, I'm sure most would love the OPPORTUNITY to stay at home - that is, to be in a financial position where they could work full-time, part-time, from-home or not at all. Most people love having choices.
1. You are not pathetic.
2. It is not selfish to want some fulfillment in life. It is a basic human need.
3. How will it screw up your kids, they are not home anyway ;).
My suggestion would be that for right now you go sign up for one course at the local CC or whatever is reasonably low cost and convenient. Take it one step at a time since you have the luxury of not having to go get a FT job tomorrow.