Motherhood: Expectations vs. Reality - Sometimes You Have to Choose
One of my best friends (and godmother to my youngest!) is the creative force behind Go Forth and Mother. I was so excited when she asked me to be a part of her blog hop, discussing how motherhood was different than what we expected it to be. I'm actually carrying the baton over the finish line, but be sure to go back and check out the other blogs who participated:
Today we're going to talk about the fact that sometimes, as a mother, you have to choose.
Birth - it's an exhausting business!!!
To say that I knew absolutely nothing about babies when I had Therese would be a huge understatement. Andrew and I really knew nothing about babies. Pregnancy didn't go at all how I had anticipated (I didn't even know that hyperemesis gravidarum existed before that first pregnancy...and I still didn't know that's what I had had until my second pregnancy!). My post-partum experience ended up not being what I'd expected either. Regular blog readers know that I have suffered from post-partum depression. Due to excellent care this past time around, it was much, much milder but...it was pretty bad that first time around. And I felt pretty alone. But that's a whole different story!!
Prior to being a mother, my experience of life was: 1) set a goal for yourself; 2) set out to achieve that goal (maybe with a few challenges along the way but nothing debilitating); 3) successfully achieve your goal and wow everyone around you. I was - and am - a bit of a people pleaser, and I thrived in an environment where I could get good grades or accomplish a lot or be recognized for my creativity. Failure wasn't really a part of my vocabulary. (On a funny note, my poor parents were always trying to help me to be less of a perfectionist and would occasionally have to say things like, "You know, Michele...it's okay if you get a B on your report card. We don't expect you to get all A's.") But, I was little Miss Overachiever and thought I could tackle it all. I fully expected to get pregnant, have my baby, and neatly tuck her under my desk while I continued to work full time at the parish I was at.
Then, I met Therese.
Therese was not a hard baby, or an easy baby. She was somewhere between the two extremes. I don't know if she had a touch of colic because she did fuss alot, but it was nothing like her baby sister's colic. She was a needy baby, as babies go, but I was also a clueless mom and I had a steep learning curve. Thankfully, we had a lot of help from my family and Andrew's, to get us through those first few weeks.
But then, six weeks post-partum, I had to go back to work...with Therese in tow.
Prior to my pregnancy, I had loved my job. As part of my graduate program in theology, I was working full time at a parish, mainly doing ministry work with people with disabilities. I had written curriculum, developed materials, taught classes - the whole bit. It was a bit of a dream job for me.
But then, I had Therese, and even the most meaningful and enjoyable work I did just didn't mean as much to me as she did. She was more important to me than all of it.
So, without getting in to too many details here - I had a really rough transition back into work, for a lot of reasons. Not least of those reasons was the serious case of PPD that I was battling, but more so I think that I just didn't have support from some of the quarters that I needed it. And, although I loved my work, I really did love my daughter more. And - surprise, surprise! - I realized that I couldn't just neatly tuck my baby under my desk and expect her to stay happy while I worked. She wanted me. She needed me. And I wanted to be with her.
I went in to my graduate program expecting that I would continue to work part-time in ministry while raising my children. But once in the thick of it, I realized - I couldn't take care of my children full time and work full time. If I was getting work done, I couldn't be with them. And, likewise, if I was with them, I probably wasn't going to get much work done. At the completion of my program, I surprised myself and discerned that God was, in fact, calling me to stay home full time with my daughter.
Even though it wasn't what I had envisioned for myself, I haven't regretted it at all. I know that many women do work and raise their children, and the balance works well for them. I think that some women are called to work full time or part time outside the home but it very clearly wasn't my calling. In all honesty, it isn't as if I've stepped out of the loop entirely. Since graduating and discerning that I was called to care for my daughter full time, I have done freelance writing, have taught (and been paid for!) teaching in a children's faith formation program once a week, have written a couple books (and have a third one in the works!!!), and have done some speaking engagements. But all of that has taken up very little of my time. I realized that if I truly wanted to be the full time caretaker of my children, I had to choose to step back from some of the other opportunities I may have previously been interested in. I couldn't do it all, and do it all successfully. I had to make choices! Having a baby wasn't like adding another extracurricular to my resume. Having a baby changed who I was, completely.
It's still a balance I'm trying to find. Whenever I am presented with an opportunity to be involved in something ministry/theology related outside of our home, I always have to stop and weigh that balance. Sometimes, I have had to say more no's to things I may have said yes to when I was younger. Sometimes, I've been surprised by the incredible opportunities that God has placed in my life (opportunities fully in keeping with taking care of my daughters full time!).
Before becoming a mother, I saw life in a much more black and white way. But since becoming a mother, I'm realized that I do have limitations, and there's only so much that I'm capable of. I have to make choices. And I can't do everything. I can't always be perfect.
But with that realization, I think that God has given me a lot of grace. There is no better way to learn that you are a limited, fallible human being, than to be taught so by an adorable baby or two!
Thanks, Amy, for letting me join up with the blog hop!! This blog hop is the beginning of a year long project of Amy's called, "The Happy Wife Project"...so be sure to add her to your blog feed and follow along over the course of this upcoming year!!