“What do you want to be when you grow up?” someone asked me when I was a child.
“I am going to be a mother,” I said.
To this day, I still remember how confident I felt giving my answer. I knew it was true the moment the words left my lips. I didn’t know when or how or what type of mother I would become, I just knew I was going to have a family and hold my own sweet babies in my arms someday.
Do you want to know what I didn’t say that day? I also knew in my heart of hearts, that I was going to attend college and have a career. I didn’t yet know what my dream job was, but I knew I would be bringing home a regular paycheck. Financial stability was never a clear path for me growing up and I needed that to be different for myself and for my children. The value of having a career that would allow me to learn about the world around me while I could provide a consistent example for my family.
Let me stop here and raise a little white flag to admit that even after years of fantasizing about having babies, being a mama was a big surprise. I thought I knew what baby care entailed. After all, I grew up taking care of babies. I have two sisters and four brothers so I’ve been around tiny humans my entire life. I had even gone to school to be a teacher.
Still, I wasn’t prepared for how difficult the personal transition would be. My body created two incredible humans, yet each demanded different styles of parenting from me. My approach to parenting tiny humans relied on 12-step wisdom: Take one day at a time. A great motto to fall back on, especially when I felt anxious, depressed or overwhelmed (which I find myself in that space a lot). It’s been my mantra, too, one that I have carried with me during each new phase of parenting.
In the midst of maternity leave, I felt forced to choose either being a stay-at-home mother or a mother with a career. Why wasn’t it possible to be both? I had a deep-seated fear that I couldn’t be a loving mother and have a successful job. I was terrified. I was also filled with anxiety because I wasn’t sure if I could continue to breastfeed while on a job or be present. My daughter was so small and our relationship was just beginning. I was still getting to know who she was and breastfeeding was one of the clearest ways I could keep and treasure a connection with her.
I had never done this mothering thing before. Could I have a job and be attentive and involved in my child’s life? Yes, it is possible, but I found that compromises are constantly made along the way. It just takes practice to walk alongside those challenges and any overwhelming fears that arise. There will be times that you feel stuck, and there will be times when you feel like you’re frustrated by the path you’re on. Just remember you are exactly where you are supposed to be on your journey. You can’t ever be a perfect parent (or employee), but you can certainly be the best you as a parent. Practice makes progress, after all.
*Image by Chuck Underwood from Pixabay
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