Not counting the 40+ weeks my son took up residence in my uterus, I have been a mom for 12 years. To the day. That’s us in the photo … when he was 12 hours old.
This birthday feels extra big to me. It has for the past several weeks. As I marvel at the person my son has become and dream with him about all the possibilities that lie ahead, I celebrate the priceless gift parenthood has given me.
Like other moms also now in their 40s (or “old and a half,” according to my kiddos), I had childhood visions of a fairy tale version of motherhood. There were no sleepless nights. Our babies calmed right down when we picked them up or fed them or changed them. Sometimes, while our husbands were at work, we walked our babies in carriages in the park and had picnic lunches with mom friends and their babies. Other times we cleaned the house and whipped up gourmet dinners from scratch. Our cheeks were naturally rosy. Our hair was always tidy. Life was grand as we played out different scenarios with Barbie, Ken, and their baby cruising around in their Corvette or lounging by the pool outside their Town House.
I’m not trying to be stuck in the “olden days.” That is exactly what I grew up wanting. To be a picture perfect stay-at-home mom married to a wealthy man. My future life was so beautiful … in my imagination.
Fast forward to reality. It’s 2016. I am madly in love with my husband of 15+ years. We have a 12-year-old son and a nine-year-old daughter. We’re on our third golden retriever. My husband works full time, commuting 45 minutes to an hour each way. I work from a home office at the helm of a business I launched in 2007 after walking away from an incredible job that didn’t even come close to covering full-time daycare for two kids. Most days, I wear yoga pants and a ball cap. Showers are a rarity.
And, I am an alcoholic in recovery with almost 15 months of sobriety.
In motherhood, my life absolutely changed. But, not in a way anyone would have predicted 10 years earlier.
For the longest time, I felt a void in my life. Before I met my husband, I thought it was the absence of lifelong companionship. Yet, after finding true love with him, somehow I still wasn’t complete.
I decided having children would make me whole. Something was definitely missing from my life, and I simply assumed it was kids. So, we had one. And, two-and-a-half years later, another.
Our children are healthy and fabulous. I wouldn’t change anything about them or the experience we have had as parents so far. Not the sheer exhaustion. Not the projectile vomiting. Not the brutal struggle to nurse my first born. Not the daycare nightmares. Not giving up a job I loved, starting my own business, and fighting to keep it growing. Not the picky eating. Not the ridiculously expensive sport our son plays. Nothing. We are beyond blessed. Truly.
But, I made a mistake. In thinking parenthood would make me whole, I fabricated a fantasy world in which becoming a mother would fix a brokenness deep inside me.
As the kids grew older, I became increasingly incapable of taking challenges and failures in stride. Not just parenting situations. Everything. Instead of working through life’s basic trials and tribulations, rising above, and allowing experiences to empower me, I gave each and every one of them a chunk of control over me. I lost my sense of pride and value. Ultimately, everything in my life was bigger than me. I was overwhelmed all the time. I found solace and comfort in a glass of wine or two at the end of an especially tough day.
The glass or two a few times a week turned into a bottle at a time. The bottle turned into two bottles. Every night. The two bottles begged for an appetizer, just a beer or two. Over time, my own private happy hour began earlier and earlier.
My transition into a high functioning alcoholic took years. And, by the time I hit rock bottom just over two years ago, beer had begun to sometimes trump coffee in the morning and I was up to a six pack and two bottles of wine per day. At least.
Then, one day, I received my gift. I still don’t know exactly where it came from. And, it doesn’t matter. Motherhood did finally make me whole. It fixed what was broken in me.
My life didn’t lack love and companionship. Kids weren’t responsible for filling the void. I was absent from my life. And, I had to start showing up – for myself and for my family. While I didn’t know it at the time, my decision to become a mother ultimately saved my life. Because of my kiddos, my conscience stepped up to wage war with my alcoholism and won.
By simply being alive, my kids saved me from myself. I was so absorbed in my self-destruction, I ignored the most important thing. Their lives are not mine to ruin. Those little people are mine to nurture and protect and guide and embrace and love with every fiber of my being. I needed to become the person who could do that. So, I did. And, things have never been better.
Life is still far from flawless. But, I am embracing each and every imperfection. Because this is my happily ever after.