Before I became a mother, I spent a lot of time romanticizing the notion of staying at home with my children. I was a personal trainer. I worked most days of the week, starting my day long before the sun would rise. I worked when my clients could meet—early morning, after the regular work day, and on the weekends. I had a handful of clients who could meet at “normal” business hours, but they were the minority. I enjoyed my job for the most part, but the fantasy of being home with my sweet babies was one I preferred to the grind of days upon days at the gym.
Then I became a stay at home mom.
My first birth experience was quite traumatic. After nine hours of labor, my daughter’s heart stopped. I was rushed for an emergency c-section. When the doctors extracted her from my torn and bleeding body, she was without a heartbeat and was not breathing. I will never forget the sound of counting as CPR was performed. She made a full recovery thanks to skilled medical personnel and God. In a showing of unequivocal naïveté, I believed birth to be the hard part. Little did I know… all her birth took was a miracle. The day to day raising of a child takes real grit and patience beyond imagining.
Ten and a half years and two more children followed. I continued to work as a stay at home mom. There were many moments of wonderment. More than I can count, in fact. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to my frequent imaginings of a career outside the home. I’ll even admit to my resentment of my husband’s “freedom”—his daily adventures to the office. His eight to nine hours each day spent problem solving with colleagues, lunch out, and most especially, the monetary and peer validation received with each paycheck, promotion, or recognition of work well done.
Some will read that last bit and think me shallow. Certainly the contribution of a stay at home parent—raising humans, is valid, whether recognized or not. My rational brain agrees. I chose to be at home with my small children because I wanted to be there. I couldn’t reconcile the idea of someone else doing those day-to-day tasks for which I reserved the right. This is not to say I think it the best choice for everyone. I’ll also note there are certainly others who do/did it better than I. That’s a simple truth. Still, I can live with the job I’ve done. And I can live with the fact that when the opportunity came knocking for me to transition from stay at home mom to working mom, I was ready to make the change.
Like I’d done in the past, I romanticized the reality of what a full time working parent’s daily life resembles. I can tell you this, in those first weeks…er…months, my house looked more like a war zone than an actual structure housing actual living people. Our laundry situation was…well…a situation. There were more occasions than I can recount when one or more of my children announced we were out of some essential item—milk, bread, toilet paper. And due to the nature of my new job, I put in an unusually great number of hours over a three week span that had my three year-old saying things like, “Mommy, are you going to live with us tonight?”
I found myself treading water. I’d cannon-balled into the deep end (like I tend to do), and while I’m a damn good swimmer, even the strongest eventually tire. A couple of months and several major projects in, I realized my mistake.
I’d bought into another lie: We (women/mothers/humans) can do anything!
Well, yes. We can. But the distinction must be made…
We can do anything…but not everything. At least, not everything right now. And we most certainly can not do everything well. If I’m spending anywhere from 30-85 hours each week at work, which I enjoy and which benefits my family on many levels, I simply cannot be all the other things I was before…chef, housekeeper, laundress, homework helper, errand girl, treat maker, social planner, reader, writer, book club attender, volunteer, runner, etc. Something has got to give—not everything, but some things sometimes.
In the past, I’ve made the mistake of listening to lies about how I should be. This lie is no different. If I buy into it—believe it, I end up painting myself into a corner where nothing is good enough.
Before I end up in that desolate and depressing corner of life, I’m conceding. I’m waiving the white flag. I’m not giving up. I’m giving grace…to myself. I am great at a lot of different things. I’m just not going to be great at all of them at the same time. And that is perfectly okay…and not at all unlike my earlier admission of being comfortably unbalanced. I am ready to be at peace with doing anything I set my mind to, while also not doing everything.
In the future, when my children recount our family’s past, I hope they will remember that Mom did it all…but she didn’t to it all at the same time. She lived and believed simple truths. She believed…
It is enough to be able to pursue the doing of anything…and not everything.