The Seasons of Self--One Woman's Journey to Motherhood
Growing up I always knew that I wanted to be a mother. My mother was a nurse, however by the time I came along (eight years after my brother) she was able to make the choice to be a stay-at-home mom. She was always a very involved mom—shuttling me to a variety of different sports practices, youth group, piano lessons and countless other activities. She placed a high importance on education, and growing up as a girl in the 80’s and early 90’s, I was always encouraged to be and do anything I wanted. She believed in me—and I wanted to be that same kind of mom.
After high school, I travelled for the better part of a year after which I spent the first two years post secondary at a community college. I then transferred across the country to finish my undergrad degree. During this time my ambition to be a professional women in the workforce flourished. I fully embraced my campus community and surroundings. Finishing university in 2005, I had a robust experience, multi-tasking playing university rugby, being involved in student council, writing for the University paper and having a very active social life. All of these things conditioned me to believe that I could and would be the type of mother who worked a full time job, managed a home with several children, while maintaining personal activities and interests. After all, this really was how society was framing a young woman's future—if we wanted it all, we could have it all, the job, the husband, the magazine house, the kids... all of it!
I completed my masters degree in 2009 and began my dream job working in international sport. Despite long work hours, extended travel and time away, I somehow managed to reconnect with my childhood sweetheart, eventually becoming his wife. I took on my new role with zeal. I loved cooking delicious complicated dinners, didn't mind the domestic household duties, and still found time to socialize and be with friends. I was always busy. The idea that I could do anything—and as many of those things as I wanted—continued.
And then I had a baby. Late in 2011 we welcomed our first child into the world. Loving my job and being focused on succeeding professionally, I returned to work four months after my son was born, my husband taking the remaining parental leave. I had myself convinced that I was going to be able to do it all. Work a demanding job, attend to my infant son, be an attentive wife, and find time for me. For much of that first year of motherhood I don't think that I did that badly. I continued to enjoy my job, and it was wonderful having my spouse at home. He embraced the role of primary caregiver, bonding with our baby very naturally and easily. However I would be lying if I didn't admit that there were times amongst all that busy, that I thought to myself: this isn't the motherhood I had once, wholeheartedly envisioned. Like the times when I was tucked away in some back corner of the office pumping breastmilk so that our boy wouldn't miss a nourishing feed. Or like those days that I arrived home at 6 PM and quietly cried while I nursed him thinking about all the things that I had missed during the day while I was at work. It didn't take long before I wasn't willing to work the overtime, began to say no to social invitations and personal interests as I felt called to be at home, to spend all the time I could with my baby, to be a more present mother.
On our sons first birthday my husband returned to work and we entered the world of daycare. Nothing about it resonated with me. Our workdays resulted in too much time away from one another, and our time together as a family too short. The growing sense of guilt I was feeling became hard to suppress. The busy was becoming too much. And then….the universe shifted and a plan was put in motion that was beyond my control—initially a very uncomfortable plan.
My dream job abruptly ended—and with it much of my sense of self. All of a sudden, I was a full-time-stay-at-home mom. I felt as though I was living in two worlds, but not able to be fully in one or the other. I welcomed and enjoyed our day together-just mother and child-but there was a part of me that longed for the sense of accomplishment and drive that I loved and came from the high paced life of a professional that I was used to. My husband and I both always knew we wanted more children and with the changes in my situation, the time seemed right to add to our family. My second pregnancy began with much joy and a distinct hope that this would help me settle into, and fully embrace, being a stay-at-home mom.
After the birth of our second baby, I had arrived at the place that deep down I always knew I wanted to be. I'm content in my life as a mother. I feel satisfaction daily and recognize that being present, attentive and hands-on in our children's lives is vastly important. It’s a different type and pace of busy now. I’m a committed classroom volunteer, I love being with my children at the few weekly activities they do and I feel deeply connected to them as they grow. It’s true I don't enjoy the housework that comes with being a stay-home mom, but I'm settled in this season of my life and really that's what it is—just a season.
Our son started kindergarten this year and it all feels like it's happened in the blink of an eye. And as our third child grows in my belly I take solace in knowing I'm right where I need to be, right where I'm supposed to be. It won't be long from now and all our children will be in school, and I will have days open to fill with whatever season of self emerges. Perhaps a return to the workforce and a professional life again, or maybe a new adventure as an entrepreneur or another opportunity that presents itself. What I know for sure though, is that I will be present and committed to my continued journey of self.
In my teens and early twenties I was a student, an athlete and an adventurer. As I ended my twenties and stepped into thirty I was a professional, a social butterfly, a wife. Now as my thirties are coming to a close, I'm a mother, a caregiver, an encourager and mentor. I've embraced my new season of self and discarded the old idea that I have to do it all—that I must be busy. I know that I'm capable of doing almost anything I put my mind to, but for now I choose to be right where I am, to be present daily, to enjoy the simpler things in my life, to let go of many expectations and most stresses. I can truly say I am happier, feel a deeper sense of connection to my surroundings and am aware of a greater purpose than ever before. As I mindfully raise a daughter I still value the notion that we as women can do it all, but I now embody the idea that it doesn't have to be all at once.