My son started preschool this week. Only 3 mornings a week but still….he. is. in. school. people. This is the first time in 11 years I have not been home every minute carrying for a little person.
And all at once it feels amazing and terrifying.
I have been that Mama saying that I cannot wait til this boy goes somewhere other than grabbing onto my leg & asking me for snacks every 2.2 minutes (by far his fave hobby) so it even took me by surprise when I teared up after getting back in my minivan after dropping him off the first day. These days of changes have left me feeling really PRESENT which is odd for a forward looking & always dreaming 7 (enneagram y’all). Present for me means I am a mess about everything pretty much most of the time.
Big court dates are quickly approaching for another little and our oldest is settling into and loving Jr High.
These transitions feel like seismic shifts for this Mama.
A couple of months ago I was processing these passions deep inside me that have been placed on a shelf, even if occasionally dusted off, in the process of raising little people. I was dreaming with Jason what could be next. And because my established pattern is usually act...then think I jumped into applying for justice work through organizations I really care about and before I knew it I was working on a long ignored resume (you know it is bad when you have to search ‘resume’ on your computer and cannot even remember another word that might be in the document because the last time you worked on it was over a decade ago), sending writing samples, & interviewing. And right in the middle of all the things I thought to myself “Who am I? and How did I get here?”
I have been out of the game for so long. Truth. I realized I actually do not even know how to play the game anymore and it felt horrible. Working on a resume when you have spent the majority of the last 10 years wiping butts & noses is intimidating to say the least. Sure, I have been doing A LOT of other stuff (raising kids (so ALL the things), living & working overseas, learning a new language, starting my own business (read laid back), volunteering, etc) but even when my long suffering husband reminded me of all these things it did not stop me from weeping and telling him I do not posses any worthwhile skillz (case in point I cannot even spell skills.) I have not had to prove I actually am competent at much recently. Teaching feels like a distant memory some days. I found myself stuttering through phone interviews, questioning whether I have any marketable skills, & generally realizing I am no longer the confident woman I once was in going after a job and getting it. Although, if I really take an honest look back I probably struggled with confidence back then too (it is like when you thought you were fat back in the day and then you see a picture and want to slap that skinny…..#idigress). So
maybe definitely I always struggle with putting myself out there because of fear of rejection. But that feels particularly vulnerable right now after my full time gig for years has been keeping little people alive.
I cried out to God and asked Him what to do with all this junk, all these feelings about not being good enough, having given up “too much” to stay home with my kids (a role I completely chose and was never forced on me and on most days I love). I never intended to be here when I made the decision to stay home with sweet 6 pound Annikah 11 years ago but it feels like I blinked and it is all these years later and my identity has been altered, remade, and forever changed. And I sit with some anger and sadness that often for women this sacrifice leaves us at a place where we feel disconnected from who we once were. I can feel small. Now that my kids can carry their own backpacks and as they enter the doors of the school I am asking what this means for me? So much has changed about my life and it leaves me wondering how I catch up with myself of right now. How do I even get to know her again?
I am now affectionately calling this my mid-life mama crisis. I say affectionately because MLM Crisis and I are cool now. We have sat together over the last few weeks while I ate my feelings and cried a lot and processed all the things with dear friends and I have learned this too is for my good, my growth, the death of myself to make room for rebirth.
I find myself all at once apologizing for my lack of work experience and at the SAME TIME owning and taking pride that you cannot learn what I have learned the last 10+ years without hard fought experience in the arena….without my face marred with blood, sweat, and tears. Lots of tears. Turns out motherhood revealed a lot more of my weakness than my strengths and I am grateful for that. The labor and love of motherhood has broken me over and over and has given birth to love and life I could never have imagined. It has been good, hard, good work. I catch myself being more present to the moments of gratitude over who these kids are and are becoming these days. I hold chubby hands a bit longer, I tear up watching a confident young woman doing her, I celebrate the small but HUGE win of sisters born to different mamas being for one another. These moments stop me in my tracks these days and I am making space for more gratitude. Maybe it is because so much seems to be changing, maybe it is because I feel more confident in the decisions we make for our family, heck…maybe it is because I sleep through the night (can I get a Hallelujah?! #takeittochurch) but I feel like I am taking it all in and I’m not wishing away this stage. I am thankful. Mostly, I think it is because I have learned to forgive myself, embrace grace, and continue the journey together knowing messing up is not just part of the process it IS this life. It is what makes Grace desperately needed and real and beautiful.
I turned down the opportunity to go further with these job opportunities because once I was in deep I realized it was not a good fit for me and for us. And I care a lot about me & us. It was good work that I wanted to be a part of but at this stage it would have not been life giving. It was painful to realize that mid process when I felt the pressure to perform and to prove myself worthy. It still feels a lot like giving up to my prideful self. But I realized maybe I am rushing to fill a perceived void too quickly. I struggle with doubt that I will not do something worthy with this new time and space and the recurring fear that begins to creep in that I am wasting my life. That it is not big enough, that I do not risk enough, adventure enough, love enough, accomplish enough, do enough. Maybe this anxiety over getting this right and figuring out exactly what is next is driving me instead of truly seeking God’s leading and just resting in who I am right now. A wise friend Becky dropped some knowledge on me when she shared something she recently learned, that sloth is always thought about in terms of laziness but it can also be filling a void or space with lots of things to distract us, to avoid doing the hard work of discerning THE thing. Um, Ouch.
Maybe I need to just sit with this space. My wise sister in law said that maybe I’ll be surprised at what this time allows for me and maybe I should not rush to fill it. Um, truth. This is why I need my people! Maybe I should embrace wonder more in this. Maybe with this space I will dream some new dreams. Maybe I will pursue new paths. Maybe I will find old ones to continue on. Maybe I will rest a bit.
My oldest overheard J and I discussing what working more would look like and she started crying and said she needs me to still be present with her, to cheer her on, and to help her figure out all the things. And as I reflected I knew I want to be there with my time. Still. It is not out of guilt, as it once was, but because I see that teaching my children is GOOD and worthy of pursuit. To be kind by practicing being kind to each other, by forgiving each other. Teaching my kids to be honest by being honest with myself is good work. It is work I often forget matters in this world. It is work that is worthy of my time and energy.
Let me be clear, I am not a woman who believes my only responsibility is to my husband and kids. I tried that role on for a hot minute and it felt a lot like the death of joy to me. Staying home with my kids has been both a privilege AND a sacrifice. Being a mother and wife is a big part of my identity and I make no apologies for that but I also know there is much in me yearning to breathe and needing space to expand. I can lead and follow and grow and learn and love best when I am joyful, using my gifts, and being challenged and encouraged. Some of us do that inside our home and some outside, and many do that in a crazy combo of both (and I celebrate US ALL!). That feels exhausting some days and right now looks like saving and saving to take a photography trip even when my kids beg me to stay home or editing into the wee hours because I choose to work from home and there are never enough babysitters. Sometimes it looks like never missing a performance or activity they are involved in if I can help it and living for the look on their faces when they see me cheering them on. And it looks like dragging my kids to the homes of recently arrived refugee folks to help fill out medical forms (also, #sidenote people I speak English and I have a hard time understanding this complex mess) and laughing and eating through language and culture barriers. It looks like resting in my identity as being loved and capable of great love. It looks like figuring out the rest as I go. It looks like being joyful in activity and rest.The stripping of our perceptions of ourselves and our identities is painful but it is a gift. Adjustment never feels great. It is wrenching, uncomfortable, and requires patience with ourselves.
I realize this too is privilege. The privilege to dream about what your life will be and to decide for oneself is privilege not afforded to many. I remember having conversations with neighbors and friends on the other side of the globe who wanted to know what it was like to decide something for yourself. Women I counted as dear friends and used to sit with daily doing laundry and talking about our children and our lives. We were all learning so much together. My agency and choice in so many things reminded me just how much I stare into a face of privilege and yet still scorn my reflection.
When I shared this all with other mamas and heard a resounding “me too!” I breathed deep and was reminded I do not have to journey alone. I am not supposed to figure this all out and I need God to speak into this all and give me peace and remind me life is about what we give away, not what we accumulate- be that stuff, experiences, or bullet points on a resume. That the work I do or the title I have is not as important as the woman I am. It is about knowing that I am LOVED just because I am. This presence of God’s peace is needed but the chorus of other women I admire who listen to me and extend grace helps. A lot.
I have not “lost myself” rather I am rediscovering who I am now and that is a process that can be life giving. This MLM Crisis is giving me the gift of wonder and asking questions. It feels hard, vulnerable, refining, and needed.
It feels like maybe God is saying yet again to me “Well, you could die to yourself. You could learn to trust that I know what you need better than you. You could embrace wonder. You could choose to be transformed.” God is showing me I do not need to worry about who I am becoming or what my identity was since so much of that was rooted in things outside myself or of the temporal, material, or circumstantial. What I need is to keep plugging away for Him, and however flawed my ways are, seek to keep learning and growing. So Jesus, I want to to be PRESENT to these changes. I want to wonder more about what you are doing & who I am.