Last year was most definitely a year of questions.
What sex would the baby be? When would he be born? How was I going to deliver? Would I feel okay afterwards? What was maternity leave like? How would going back to work be? What sort of parents would we become? How would having a baby change us/our relationship/our life?
Well, as the months passed, all of those questions started to become answers. The year become 2014, we had a tiny baby, and I was finding myself identifying with new labels: working mother, writer. With gusto and grace, I took on the role of being a working mother. Every morning, in the coldest winter in years, I would drive my three month old baby to my mother’s house, at 7AM, drop him off, shed my mother-skin and adorn my teacher-cloak. These days were long. I was tired. I began to worry that I was going to lose my ability to be an influential teacher, a supportive and helpful wife, and a devoted mother. It became harder and harder to leave my boy in the mornings, even though he was with people who have done nothing but shower him with unconditional love and kisses. The year progressed and my questions about becoming a working mother started to find their answers, but those answers were wrapped in a lot of sadness, anger, tears, and struggle. Slowly those questions became answers, as my days became darker, my tears flowed heavier, and my stomach continued to knot. I couldn’t handle it all. I couldn’t handle leaving my son every day. I got resentful that I wasn’t with him longer than I was. I resented the fact that my house was messy, that I didn’t have time to shower, or check my email, or read a book.
I pushed aside a lot of these feelings.
I powered on.
I’m a working mother! I’m leaning in, guys! I’m doing it all! Supermom? Right here, folks!
Except, I wasn’t actually feeling that way. I was feeling miserable, angry, and sad. My questions morphed into, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I do it all? Other women rock at this working motherhood stuff, so why can’t I? Why can’t I stop crying and just power through for you know, three years?” But, the human body is only so strong. There’s a quote I’ve heard, “tears are not a sign of weakness, they are a sign you’ve been strong too long.” I tried. I really did. I woke up, I took baby out, I worked, I graded, I taught, I shopped for food, I made dinner, I cleaned, I bathed, I put to bed. Eric works too, so having both people out all day leaves a ton to get done between the hours of 5-8 at night. We traded baby back and forth to get work done, we cleaned, we rocked, we swaddled, we sung. We were exhausted. We woke up a million times a night, we rarely saw each other, we spoke little to each other. The days zoomed by, full of questions, questions.
Is this what life is going to be like now? Is this it?
Just as Spring was awakening, I woke up one morning and knew something had to change. I simply could not keep living my life that way, as it simply wasn’t living. I fought really hard to be on this earth, and I wasn’t going to settle for a life of tears and headaches. I had to face the fact that I couldn’t handle it all: and that is OKAY. Maybe my life isn’t supposed to be structured that way, maybe something had to change. I hated that I was gone from Weston all day. It tore me up inside. While I love teaching, always have, my son is my priority. My relationship with my husband is my priority. After many long, long discussions with Eric, I decided to think about possibly putting my teaching on hold (or as baseball players say, “shutting it down”) and focus on being a mother and wife.
It was time for a change. A big one. But, giving up something you’ve been since before you met your husband or had your child is really big. A bigger deal than I realized. Being a teacher is my identity, along with mother, wife, writer, sister, daughter, granddaughter. I adore teaching. Flipping back and forth on this decision was like going through a mind-trip. It was a huge weight on my shoulders; it was like walking through a fog of your own life and forgetting who you are.
It was a confusing time for my brain, heart, and soul. I felt like a part of me was going away, forever. In an odd way, I spent time grieving. As silly as that sounds, by giving up teaching, I’d be losing part of my identity, my soul, who I am. I went through a grieving period, for the loss of that part of myself, and putting that time in my life in the past. I felt in such limbo. I knew that a change had to happen, but I didn’t know what risk giving up teaching would bring. I still don’t. It’s a huge leap, but it’s a necessary jump.
Life is ever changing. The only constant about life is that it changes. I’m not one to deal well with those changes, even positive ones. This road has been difficult, but you know what? The life I was leading wasn’t going in the direction I ever imagined, and therefore I know that my decision is right, for me, for this moment in my life. I’m a teacher, and I will always be a teacher, but right now in my life, my focus is on being a mother, wife, sister, daughter, granddaughter, and writer. I know it sounds weird, but this decision about teaching was harder for me to make than deciding whether to have a baby or not. I was a teacher before anything else, and I’ve learned, through this process, that that doesn’t have to change. When I think about being with Weston every day, my heart soars. My mouth can’t help but smile. My stomach feels light and happy. I know where my place is in this world, right now in this moment, and I’m ready to embrace that.
As we say in Latin, “ad astra per aspera,” to the stars through difficulties.
If you need me, I’ll be playing in the stars with my son.