Monday, September 11, 2017

GUILT, FREEDOM, SPACE, DREAMS, AND LIFELINES



This morning, my two bigs went to school (first day of kindergarten, woo hoo!).   I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to feel right now.  I saw moms get teary as they waved goodbye to their little kindergarteners getting swallowed up by that great big school building.  I think maybe that's how I'll feel when the last one goes to school.  Maybe not.  I feel celebratory today.  I raised three kiddos capable of doing part of life without me by their side.  I feel thankful that we have such an amazing elementary school.  I feel relief at having some breathing room.  I feel hope at resurfacing pieces of myself that haven't had space for a long time.

And today also marked the first day I dropped Pippa at an at home day care for a few hours.  As a stay-at-home mom, I would have never done this with my older two kids.  I think I felt like I needed to be with them constantly and that I didn't have the right (self permission?) (confidence?) to leave them in someone else's care when I could be home with them.  

But here's what I want you to know.  Today feels a little weird, but today feels good.  I'm nervous about all my tiny humans out there in the big world, but I'm also celebrating in my heart.  This motherhood thing, it's hard work.  It's beautiful and powerful and fulfilling in a lot of ways, but it's the most challenging thing I've ever done in my whole life.   After 8 years of being a full time, stay-at home mom, I'm ready for a little break.  I know I've done my job, and though there have definitely been days that I would never want to re-live and moments I wish I could re-do, I know I've done my job well.   

I have carried around a lot of guilt as a mother.  Not the "you should potty train this way" or "let them cry it out" or "only feed them organic, paleo, from scratch foods".  Those things are definitely guilt inducing as well, but that's not what I'm talking about.  I feel a lot of guilt because, while I am very certain I am supposed to be at home and the primary caregiver for my children, I am not totally fulfilled by that.  The world tells me I should be and that, if I'm not, then the message I hear is, "Something is wrong with you."

About 4 years ago, I realized that I lived motherhood with a one foot in and one foot out mentality.  I had always been so afraid that I would be consumed by motherhood and that I would lose my own identity outside of that.  I wasn't necessarily doing anything to create an identity outside of my kids, but I stuck one foot on the other side of the line out of fear and planted myself firmly in this middle ground.

As I wrestled with my own insecurities and restlessness, I decided to try jumping in with both feet and really committing to this motherhood gig.  All in.  A year later, instead of feeling better about everything, I felt more restless than ever before.  And more guilty.

I deeply love my kids.  I don't regret having them.  They are the loves of my life.  I don't regret staying home with them.  I have felt passionately that I want and need to be here and have never felt like my calling was to go back to work full time.  

I do, however, regret not listening to my heart.  

I regret that I knew that I wasn't thriving and I wasn't at my best and that something was missing for me and not doing anything about it.  I definitely wanted to.  There were lots of tears and lots of exhaustion and even bits of rage, but I think the hardest part for me was that I didn't know what I was supposed to do.   I didn't have a "career" to go back to part time or a skill set to really work from home.

I didn't want to just have a job, I wanted to do meaningful work.  I wanted to be creative and have an outlet of some sort that would be fulfilling to me, but it's really hard to give yourself permission to do that when you know it's not paying anything and in fact, you are actually paying to do it because child care isn't cheap, am I right?

But I know I'm supposed to do more.  I'm created to do more, and even though I'm not exactly sure what that is, I feel it deep in my bones.  Being a mom is one of my favorite things in the world, but it is not all for me.  

I had a really clear image in my head a few years ago.  It was a hot air balloon with the burner blazing full force.  The balloon was so full of hot air it was ready to burst, and it was trying so hard to fly.  But it's ropes were still tethered to the ground.  It strained against these ropes and could not break free.  It could only go as far as the ropes would allow.    

I understood that the hot air balloon is me.  Trying to fly.  Trying to move beyond the life I'm in. The ropes are my kids, my husband, my home.   I felt so bound by them.  So limited in a lot of ways.  I felt angry and bitter and resentful.  

Friends, I have no idea what I'm doing right now, but I do know that I'm going to spend some hours filling my tank every week.  I'm letting go of any guilt of my two year old spending some time at day care while I'm at home.  I'm going to allow myself time and space to create some things, write some things, paint some things, move some things and see what happens.  I'm going to figure out what meaningful work looks and feels like to me.  I'm going to deem it a success if not one person gets anything out of it other than me.  Because if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.  

If you are feeling stuck, I understand.  If you are feeling tied down,  I understand.  If you feel held back,  I understand. If you are feeling guilty for your feelings,  I understand.  If you feel like you don't fit the mold and something is off, I understand.

May you give yourself freedom and space and permission to do some things you love if for no other reason than it makes you happy.  

We are not martyrs here.  We are women with dreams and loves and ideas AND kids.  I used to think those things were mutually exclusive.  They are not.  

The more that I'm doing this, the more my perspective shifts.  I'm still that hot air balloon, and I still want to fly.  But those ropes, maybe they aren't working against me.  Maybe they are anchors, securing me to a safe place while allowing me to fly high and see things from different viewpoint. Maybe they fill me up and show me more and more the truth and the good and surprising things about myself.  

Maybe they are actually lifelines.  




*I sent this song to my husband the weekend of the retreat.  He was my biggest encourager and support when I totally stepped out of my comfort zone to do this thing.  I'm reminded of it as I type these words today.  Maybe it'll resonate with you too...

Click here to listen →  Anchor by Mindy Gledhill










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