“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.”
― C. JoyBell C.
“Starting a new way is never easy so…keep starting until the start sticks.”
― Tim Fargo
Well, here I am 21 years after having entered motherhood and dedicating the bulk of my time, thought and energy (very willingly, I might add) to my four daughters. Two of my girls are now out of the house and in college, one more leaves for college in July, and the fourth one will be a sophomore in high school this fall. After all of these fun, exhausting, delightful, frustrating, and extraordinary years helping and watching the girls grow up to follow their dreams, it is almost time for me. And I’m terrified!
When my kids were little I longed for chunks of time alone when I could do things for myself, be more than “just” a mother, be a real person separate from my kids. As the time grew closer to the girls leaving, I became a bit nervous about all of this time heading my way. Who was I outside of being a mom, middle school teacher, and wife? Who/what was I before I was a mom? I find that I don’t remember and this is more than a little scary to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about the possibilities for my future, it’s just that I didn’t expect to be afraid or overwhelmed when I for once wasn’t surrounded by children all clambering for my attention. I thought I would know exactly what to do with myself and think, Yes, finally!! There was a time in my life when all I hoped for each day was to be able to sleep in until 7am. Seriously. That was it.
It shouldn’t surprise me that this change scares me. All of life’s major transitions have somewhat thrown me for a loop in one way or another. I was over-the-moon excited about becoming a mother for the first time and then shocked beyond belief at how much of myself I had to give up in order to be the kind of mother I wanted to be. I felt guilty whenever I wasn’t interacting with and stimulating my new baby’s developing brain. I felt guilty because I wasn’t as warm and fuzzy as the other moms. I felt guilty because I was mind-numbingly bored staying home and briefly considered going back into teaching. Most of all, I felt resentment towards my husband because he was still himself and he got to be a dad too. He went to work, traveled to cool places like Japan and Australia, talked to adults on a daily basis, and had interesting stories to relate at the end of the day. I used to be a teacher and myself. Now it seemed like I was just a mom…no more me.
After my bumpy start I settled into the role of mom and whole-heartedly loved all of it. My next unpleasant life transition came when my youngest daughter went off to full day kindergarten. Rumbling around alone inside of my silent house was no fun. I felt uninspired and quietly desperate. Rather than enjoying this long anticipated gift of time, I was kind of depressed. What??? I’d been waiting for this for years!!! I tried hanging out with friends, going to the gym more, volunteering at school, crafts, joining the Officers’ Wives Club, etc., but it all felt so empty. Filling the hours with “stuff” until my kids returned home from school was not how I wanted to spend my days. It was time to rediscover me again. I decided to look for a part time teaching job, but was scared into inaction for a while because I seemed to have misplaced my confidence somewhere along the line. Is this what happens when you lose yourself in motherhood? What if I wasn’t a good teacher anymore? Those new helicopter parents, could I deal? What about all of the new technology? What’s a PowerPoint? My husband loaned me some of his confidence until I found my own and I soon found myself a job I loved. This allowed me to strike a nice balance between being a mom and a teacher.
So the next road I travel, which is destined to be filled with potholes, will be that of navigating life without children living at home. I’m glad I lost myself in motherhood; it’s been a beautiful and priceless journey. I’m not really sure what’s up next for me, but I do look forward to reclaiming myself, even if it does seem a little daunting at times.