Two babies in 15 months–that’s what got me here. My life has been so completely and utterly engulfed by this motherhood thing that I hardly remember what it’s like to pee without an audience, let alone pursue interests and passions of my own. I have become so consumed by the task of raising tiny humans–which, if I’m being honest, actually consists of about 6 million smaller (and often overlapping) tasks–that I hardly remember who it is that I am without them.
Time is not slowing, it’s pulsing by at record speeds. And I–the mom receiving sideways glances as I attempt to carry both my screaming, full-on meltdown of a toddler in one arm and a 30-pound car seat stuffed with not only a no-longer-peacefully-sleeping baby, but also the keys, wallet and cell phone that were ripped from my purse and thrown to the ground just moments before–I don’t know how to make this freight train slow down.
So they call this being in the weeds, in the thick of it, underwater, in a giant and never relenting dumpster fire, and you know what? It’s hard, like really freaking hard.
I’m not going to tell you that they’re worth every second of it, even though of course they are. I’m going to go out on a limb and be candid, because that’s what I would want. Being a stay-at-home mom is the most difficult, frustrating, mind-numbing, simultaneously monotonous and completely unpredictable, body-breaking, stress-inducing job that there is. I liken this chapter of my life to the experience of natural childbirth, which I’ve personally endured not once, but twice. There really aren’t words to describe it, you just have to live it to truly understand. And still, entrenched in such a ridiculously challenging scenario, I don’t know if I’d have the strength to do things any differently.
Nestled in all this uncertainty and disdain and undying love is a yearning to be something more. The other day I logged into my LinkedIn account, which I haven’t used in years (since before my husband and I decided that I could best serve our family at home) and I realized that my profile was pretty outdated. My profession still read as “K-12 teacher,” but I hadn’t been in that position for almost three years. Feeling silly, I immediately went to work on changing it and that’s when it hit me–like the way a humid heat smacks you in the face the second you open the door to your air-conditioned car. Who am I?
I wracked my brain trying to come up with clever ways to articulate to the unknowing masses that I–a woman who had spent the better part of her adult life working toward becoming something, toward being independent and responsible and big and bold and the kind of woman no man would ever question the authority of–spent my days at home (usually in pajamas) singing Disney songs and playing make-believe.
How did I get here and why in God’s name can’t I just feel content? This job, in addition to being difficult beyond measure, is–to say unappreciated feels like an understatement, so I’m going to use the word invisible–this job is invisible in our culture.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve caught myself telling people that I’m just a stay at home mom. Just a stay at home mom?! I expend more energy before 9 am managing my household than I ever did managing a classroom or a small business. I juggle babies and breakfast and homework and playdates, lunches and nap times, laundry, coupons and rebates … and the clock never hits five in this world I’ve constructed. It ticks on and on and I push myself beyond what I ever thought possible. I bend and stretch in ways that no yoga class could have prepared me for. I’ve lost friends and gained some too. I’ve judged and been judged. I’ve had highs and deep despairing lows. I’ve lived more life in the last three years than in my other 28 combined.
But there is no box to check, or title to ascribe for the experiences that have brought me to this place. No marketable skills acquired. No resume building buzz words to post. Yet, I can clearly feel the growth within me, like the roots of a great tree expanding, cementing me to what matters in life. My husband reminds me again and again how grateful he is for all that I do. He acknowledges the difficulties and reassures me that this is what’s best. But no degree of placation or self-assurance will change the fact that there is, in the eyes of an employer, a giant three-year-gap smack dab in the middle of my resume that, much like a black hole, is constantly expanding and sucking into it all of the hope and promise of the future.
I’m writing all of this not to say that motherhood has somehow taken away from the life that I had planned for myself; on the contrary, becoming a mother has helped me to understand and appreciate the preciousness of life. It has transformed me into a far better version of myself and I owe so much of who I am today to this journey.
So, I cringe at the thoughts of discontentment as they race through my mind. The thoughts that fill me with anxiety, insecurity, and an overwhelming feeling of being left behind. The thoughts that take me away from the moments, of which there will not be many. Away from my children, their growth and the happiness that rushes to my heart when I hear them laugh. I shudder at the feeling of betrayal that courses through my body when I experience these thoughts. Betrayal of a love so deep that just the thought of losing it brings me to my knees.
So today I choose not to think those thoughts. I choose not to allow the pressure to stay relevant to define me. Today I am a mother. Someday I may define myself differently, but until then I choose to embrace every second of this season I’m in, and measure my success not by the dollars in my bank account, or the stuff I can or cannot buy, but by the knowledge that I have carried them through another day and this is exactly where I’m meant to be.