If you were to ask twelve-year-old me where she pictured herself in 20 years, she would have said she was going to be the most badass girl boss CEO working in a big city answering to no one but herself and loving every self-affirming minute of it. She had big hopes and dreams, and she was going to do it all on her own.
Fast forward to present day me and you’ll find me married, a stay-at-home mom to a three-year-old, living in a suburb 10 minutes from where I grew up, and giving up on any prospect of being the girl boss I wanted to be by the time I was thirty.
To say I adjusted well to motherhood would be a gross exaggeration. In fact, I did everything all the “experts” say not to do, such as co-sleeping, constantly holding my baby, and never leaving him. Much of this could be attributed to me having severe postpartum anxiety, to the point where I honestly believed my son would die if I were not right next to him. It was crippling, and even with the help of a therapist, I felt misunderstood and unsupported. Dealing with a chronic autoimmune issue on top of that furthered my isolation. I cried every single day for eighteen months, both wondering how I allowed myself to get to this position and wishing I were better and more in control. It was a complete nightmare and I wanted out.
But the other day, as I was cleaning poo smears off the floor while my son screamed about having to wash his stinky hands, while the oven timer went off and the cat was screeching to open the gate to allow her downstairs, I had a revelation – one that I had been waiting on for nearly three years: It’s okay not to love every second of your life.
Parenting is hard. Trying to deal with mental illness can feel impossible. Exclusively breastfeeding is really hard. Chronic illness, especially when undiagnosed, is hard. Trying to make a career out of writing (or any career for that matter) while raising a tiny human, prioritizing marriage – or not – and cleaning the house, making appointments, cooking, attending conferences and meetings, is really freaking hard and can be so very isolating. I have been there. I still am there and I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to mess up. It’s okay to recognize that you might not be living the life you thought you would have twenty years ago. Or maybe you are, but you hate it. It’s okay.
Something I learned recently thanks to COVID-19 and needing to quarantine is how much you can’t ignore your problems. For me, my marital issues and personal issues all came to the forefront. It felt like the world was ending (jury’s still out on that one) and that my life was over. But recognizing the symptoms does not treat the disease, and ignoring your feelings doesn’t make them disappear.
Motherhood is tough. Comparing yourself with others on social media, something I hate to admit I’ve been doing during quarantine, is damaging. Especially when I wonder why everyone else seems to be happy and have their life together except me. But they don’t!
This season of life feels never-ending, and it’s been so important for me to be mindful of the things that make me happy. The hugs and kisses make up for it. The snuggles and laughs make up or it. Watching the wonder in my son’s eyes as he discovers new bugs or runs without abandon across open fields invigorates me and brings me life.
It can be so easy to get caught up in the negative day to day – especially in a pandemic. Especially in a crumbling marriage. Especially when living in the past. This isn’t the life I planned, but that’s okay – because it is mine and because it’s shaping me into the person I am meant to me. A mother. A wife. A teacher. A writer. And even the badass bitch girl CEO I wanted to be – completely and totally in charge of my life.