I have a feeling this one might bring out some ugly. I remember when a fellow AMBer shared about why she chooses to work and holy batman, people were hateful. It broke my heart. I often find myself sucked into the rabbit hole of a comment section and each time my heart regrets the journey. So with all that said, can we practice some kindness? Please remember the women that write for AMB and everywhere else on the internet are actual real live human beings with feelings.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” -Maya Angelou
My voyage through the vast sea of motherhood has been flawed and rocky. A surge of emotions, some joyful and transformative, others dark like a wave swallowing me whole. I’ve learned along the way that the ups and downs, the back and forth, the predictable and unknown are all perfectly normal and living a polarized existence is exactly where I thrive.
I wasn’t always sure I could handle motherhood. I come from a broken family and constantly feared repeating a cycle of pain and dysfunction. My husband on the other hand comes from the most nuclear of family goodness and knew instantly that he wanted all the tiny humans running circles around us. I told him we could take it one step at a time. No promises for the basketball team of his dreams, but we could start with one kid and go from there. That was my compromise.
Our son was born in 2012 and I took 12 weeks maternity leave. I had grand visions of cooking all the Pinteresty zucchini pizza bites and apple chipotle veggie skewers of my hopes and dreams. I was gonna fold my husbands underwear in perfect squares and vacuum the ceiling all while teaching my infant to recite his ABC’s like a boss.
My reality was drastically different. I sat in a diaper and all the spit up while crying ugly tears over my baby and my battered nipples. I couldn’t figure out latch, let alone how to chipotle anything. In fact, I don’t think I cooked anything other than frozen pizza and the only chipotle we enjoyed was the jumbo burrito my husband would bring home after work. My vacuum was a constant reminder of my failures and my newborn was too busy using me as a human pacifier to even consider becoming a child prodigy.
By the time I even figured out that postpartum depression and anxiety were potential realities, it was time to go back to work. My first week back, I got mastitis and my already measly supply dwindled further. I struggled to balance all the things. I struggled with each of my identities, wife, mother, and professional. I felt each role was impossible to master. I was drowning and hated myself for not loving motherhood more.
Eventually my postpartum darkness began to subside. I released breastfeeding, worked through my guilt and started giving myself more grace. I adjusted to our new routine and started being more present in my journey. Slowly my hearts desires started to shift. Work seemed less important. Motherhood consumed me more and I was completely overwhelmed with the desire to be home with my son.
A year into juggling the work life
balance disaster, we found out we were pregnant with our second child. I was already feeling an intense pull to be home, but now we had a new reality to face. After much deliberation over every possible option and the stark realization that two in daycare was equal to my monthly salary, we decided I would transition to SAHM.
The transition to being a SAHM was similar to my unrealistic expectations of maternity leave. I envisioned jaunts in the park and field trips to the zoo. Grocery shopping would be fun and full of bonding. I’d finally catch up on all the laundry and have a hot home cooked meal waiting for the husband when he came home. My reality was preventing my toddler from killing himself in parking lots or gorilla enclosures. Grocery shopping was more like wearing a winter coat in a sauna and bonding? More like bribing. Frozen pizzas were still the norm and here’s how laundry played out:
So here I was again at a cross roads. Just as I had chosen to step into motherhood and expected to love every single sticky moment, now I had chosen to delay my career goals and focus on raising the best tiny humans I could. I was supposed to love this choice too. But I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. Immensely. But I still felt pulled to the other parts of my being. Even more, I was now one role short, yet still couldn’t seem to manage the daily grind. I had now walked both worlds, working mom and SAHM and neither felt like the perfect fit. Sacrificing a part of myself either way.
I feel like I always knew I wanted to work. I felt passionate about my career choice. I worked really hard for two degrees. I became licensed in the field and I had big dreams for my professional future. I told myself becoming a mother wouldn’t make me falter. I would do both and I would do them both well. Yet here I was excelling at neither.
I started to realize that the hard days, the struggles, were making me feel as if I was doing everything wrong. The truth inside me that whispered you are good and doing your best became unsteady. That’s because the pressure from the outside was saying darkness is bad. Failure is wrong. Wanting more isn’t right. But why did it have to be one or the other? Why did I have to choose to either embrace joy or fight sorrow?
The truth is none of us have it together. We all feel and experience some of the most polarized of emotions in one single journey. Motherhood is wonderful, but it’s also hard. It can be both. Working is fulfilling, but it can also be overwhelming. It can be both. Marriage is joyful, but it can also be draining. It can be both.
I’ve come to realize that the things in my life that were all of it, the good, bad and ugly, are actually the things that brought me the most joy. That made me grow and change and become more human. I don’t have to love every moment of being home with my kids, just like a working mom doesn’t have to enjoy every second of her journey either. Existing in a dual experience of good and bad doesn’t have to diminish your mothering or your working or any other part of who you are. We can struggle and still be good.
So yes, I don’t completely love being a SAHM. It’s a mix of beauty and sorrow and that’s ok. I won’t walk this path forever either. My hopes and dreams haven’t diminished and I still have the capacity to figure out a space where I can be all of it. Until then I’ll keep embracing the mess of life and continue to find ways to let the magical and mundane mingle with purpose.