I’ve been thinking about this topic for approximately every second since I found out we were going to have a baby. It was small at first. But has grown into an Albatross that is always present in my thoughts. Always at the forefront of my mind. Always the unanswered question…..
Who am I now?
This may not be the question you were expecting, but I promise it’s what I meant to say.
You would think the answer becomes obvious once you have a child…..
“You are a mother now! Your new role is secured forever. It is your new identity and it’s the most important job you will ever do! The most important thing is to be with your kids all the time and teach them everything they need to know and they need you every second.”
As much as this statement is rooted in truth – I’M STILL CONFUSED. I feel like no matter where I spend the hours in a day I carry a load of guilt and doubt along with me. Let me explain….
Before we had a baby I was secure in my role in this world. My husband and I both worked full-time, we served in our church and community and we had lots of time to spend together and be blissful newlyweds. Yes, I wore a lot of hats, but I never had to wear them all at the same time. I knew my role. I knew my responsibilities. I knew who I was. Black and white. Plain and simple (and also I showered and napped whenever I wanted to). pfffff.
But now I feel fragmented and pulled in a million directions every single day. How do you begin to decipher the best use of your time? How do you decide which hat to wear and when? Maybe the more realistic question is “how many hats can I physically get on my head at once and still function at 100%?” Because let’s get real…..there are no longer enough hours in the day to “do it all”. I can’t stay at home with my child all day and work a 40 hour work week. I can’t tend to everyone’s needs and all of my own. It can’t be done. How do you even prioritize where those hours go? How do you choose one important need over another “just as important” need without feeling like you achieved one but failed the other? These are the thoughts that run through my mind every day. And just in case you wanted a deeper look into my neuroses, here’s a few more…..
“I need to be home with my son all the time.”
“But I need to work or we can’t pay the bills.”
“I thought being a mother meant being a stay-at-home mom.”
“If I put my son in daycare 7 hours a day will he be damaged forever?”
“What am I missing when I’m not with my son all the time?”
“Does he feel abandoned when I drop him off at school every day?”
“Is going back to work something I will regret for the rest of my life?”
“Am I putting equal amounts of time into my marriage, myself, my children, my friends, my faith?”
STOP. THE. RIDE. I. WANT. TO. GET. OFF.
When I was kid growing up, my mom stayed home and did not work. I always assumed this is what I would do as well. But as it turns out, my journey as a mother has been completely different than anything I ever expected. I work outside the home. I have to. These days, unless your husband is an ASTRONAUT, you probably don’t make enough as a couple for the other spouse to contribute nothing at all. At least that is the general consensus among people in my immediate circle. It’s just the new normal of the middle-class American family, I guess.
I spend as much time with my son and my husband as I can. And I agonize OVER BOTH DAILY. Oh and time for myself that doesn’t include split-personality guilt disorder? yeah…… not a thing.
Wherever I am, I find myself feeling guilty that I’m not somewhere else, meeting some other simultaneous need. It seems so unfair and cruel for the needs in your life to be competing for the exact same hours in the day. This CANNOT be how I am meant to feel for the duration of motherhood. There has to be something I’ve missed.
I recently spilled this tangled-rat-nest-of-thoughts-and-emotions to my husband. (Bless him. If he only knew the amount of crazy he was getting into when he said “I DO”.) Anywayyyyyy, after I finished choking on all my words as they came out like an exorcsim, he said something that planted a little seed in my guilt-ridden soul and I’ve been slowly allowing it to grow…..
“Did you ever consider that YOU are the one that’s putting all this pressure on yourself? Nobody else sees you that way. Nobody else expects you to have all the answers or do everything. You are doing a good job. And we are all in this together.”
I don’t know why it took as long as it did. Maybe I just needed to hear someone else say it out loud so I didn’t put even more guilt on myself for trying to justify not being a time-traveler. But his words pierced through the guilt and started to bring me back from full-blown crisis mode.
WE ARE ALL WEARING ALL THE HATS TOGETHER. AND IF YOU RUN OUT OF HEADS TO PUT HATS ON, THEN GO OUT AND FIND SOME MORE PEOPLE WHO WILL WEAR THE HATS WITH YOU. AND TAKE TURNS WEARING ALL THE HATS AND CUT YOURSELF SOME FREAKING SLACK!!!
Amen and amen.
It’s not my 100% responsibility to raise my son. I take a percentage of that….and however many more kids we have (which at this moment I cannot fathom). It’s not my 100% responsibility to teach my son everything. His Dad and his teachers and grandparents and friends have big roles to play in that part too. And part of that means being with me and part of that means being with other kids his age. And different people. Because at the end of his childhood……he needs to be a real person. Not a person that’s still 100% dependent on me and my husband for everything.
And…..I need to work! Not just for the money…..but for MYSELF. Turns out I need a break from goldfish crackers in my bra. I need to have lunch with someone without the baby wipes sitting on the table. I need to be the normal human being I always was before I had a baby. I still need to wear that hat. It’s a good hat. I absolutely CAN be a mother and have a job. It helps all of us. It has great worth. And I shouldn’t feel guilty about it. It’s not like my son is sitting in a dungeon tower while I sit at a computer all day. I need to chill.
I hope you’re seeing my point. And I hope it’s bringing you encouragement and relief if you have ever been in this vicious cycle of guilt and doubt. It’s ok. You’re not crazy. I’m not crazy. And we are doing a good job!
Also, as a final note, let’s remember that the hours of love and attention you invest into your children and your husband and your people don’t just go into a bucket with a hole at the bottom. They take it all with them! They carry it in their lunch boxes and clean clothes and memories and inside jokes. You are there with them wherever they go.
Turns out, you really can be in two places at once. Or more.
real stories | real life