On the eve of Mother’s Day I find myself reflecting on my role as a mother. Never more has that role held as much weight in my identity as it does now. I have always defined myself as a working woman and for the last 10 years in particular I had a career that I absolutely loved. It formed a great portion of who I identified myself as, a role in which I was immensely proud. My identity had the richness of so many roles; mother, wife, professional, volunteer, coach, friend, mentor, mentor-ee, advocate…
At the moment, many of those roles are on hold – leaving me as simply wife and mother. My role as a wife is what led me to this journey and gave me the courage to say “I’m with you. Let’s do this.” But it is my role as a mother that has shaped so much of my being here.
My new life as a stay-at-home Mom has been eye opening. I have had to rethink my perspective on this role considerably. I was so surprised by how challenging and busy my days were. (Even after I reduced the original 16 bus rides a day down to a civilized 5!)
The part that caught me off guard though, like a sucker punch to the gut, was how hard the days were mentally and emotionally. I’m not talking about the days of browsing through the Friday market and riding my bike through the countryside…who are we kidding, those days are Ah-MAY-Zing.
Wow, was she ever right. There’s nothing that can rattle your confidence like a solid dose of stay-at-home-mom-ing.
I feel as though “the real me”, the ultimate me, has been paused. My internal dialogue is rife with excuses and guilt about it.
And yet I know, I hear it so often from those of you good enough to read and share your own perspectives, that what we are doing for our family, for the kids, is some of the most important work we’ll ever do. That pressing pause on our life, on the identities we had grown so comfortable with, was the boldest step of all.
How often, as moms, do we give ourselves permission to press pause? More than just a quiet morning to enjoy a hot coffee or a stolen moment in the bathroom where you can eat a tiny Halloween sized pack of m&ms without having to share…(is that just me?)
I’m talking about a real pause in life. Where everything becomes on hold.
It is often an illness or a tragedy that forces a significant pause in our lives, that makes us stop short and put everything else on the back-burner. It is rarely a choice.
And yet the effect of that pause is so important in our lives; for our lives.
We need to empower ourselves to press pause. To grant ourselves the space and perspective to see our lives through a different lens. It brings into focus that which we may have lost sight of or that which we have yet to discover.
Anyone whose life has been railroaded by an illness or tragedy knows how effective it is at reminding us of what truly matters.
Family, health. Time together to appreciate both.
If, to date, your life hasn’t had one of those interruptions you would consider yourself lucky, as you should. But is it lucky to be traveling down a path without a broader perspective? Down the path of busyness and reaching, with all the wrong distractions and priorities?
Sure, you think, easy for her to say, she’s living the life of a Hausfrau in Switzerland; all the time in the world for navel gazing and genuflecting.
I’m well aware of the preachy Eat Pray Love tone of this post. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had a book deal that afforded us the chance to travel the world to find our passion again.
There is no book deal. Much of this has not been easy. We walked away from so much.
And yet, to be fair, much of this has been easy. We have the choice of a home in either Canada or Switzerland. We are exceptionally blessed. I never lose sight of that.
For us, this journey looked like a choice to those around us. And yet, just as is the case with a typical cause for pause, it wasn’t a choice. But I would choose this journey 100% of the time if given the chance again.
It is far from original wisdom to say that life is a journey, that the journey itself is the destination.
But it is worth repeating. If we continue to live life with the goal of a bigger house, a bigger bank account, a bigger promotion, we are missing the point.
Sometimes walking away from the big house, watching the bank account become decidedly not big, saying “not now” to the big promotion allows us to find a joy and freedom to live.
I hear the preachiness of this, believe me. I cringe at the idea that I am somehow coming across as imparting some special wisdom. Trust me, this message is as much for me as for anyone who is reading this.
I talk a good game. I’m all “rah rah, be the change, blah blah blah.” But my own self doubt is constant. I need to consciously remind myself on a daily basis here that I am enough.
I am enough.
The role of stay at home mom challenges that perception for me. It’s not a role I’ve ever identified with and so I am struggling with it. Struggling to believe my own words that a pause in life is good, vital, necessary. Struggling to believe that I am enough.
Why, as moms, do we do this to ourselves? Heap guilt on ourselves and tell ourselves we aren’t measuring up. How do we give ourselves permission to step back; to just be?
The nights when I have to cuddle a little longer because one of our two is having a hard day, missing home especially and the tears are flowing. Those are the nights I question it too, despite the certainty I find in other moments, that we made the right choice.
I wrestle with guilt all the time about not working. I’ve always identified as a working mom. I feel like there’s something lazy about not working despite the crazy pace of my days. I need to constantly remind myself that looking after the kids, our family, is vital, important work.
I’m well aware of how much of a gift this extra time together is. It is by far the most important work I can invest myself in. And yet why do I struggle to believe I’m measuring up.
I had a conversation with a Swiss mom in our early days here while the reality of the kids’ school schedule was settling in. I was expressing my exasperation at the absurdity of how much time each week the kids aren’t in school. She shook her head and said “we cherish this time.”
Oh. Right. Of course we do.
At that point I didn’t. I was frustrated that my ability to work would be hampered by this.
But now I do. My pause in life has allowed my role as a mom to be the defining role. Thankfully it has come at a time when my kids still think I’m pretty darn great too and they indulge me in many great moments together every day.
Being a mom was always a role that was important but before, I hadn’t allowed it to be enough. But it is.
Do you hear that all you moms out there!?!?
YOU ARE ENOUGH.