The sun shines through the window, and the house is quiet. It's a gentle respite after a crazy week — a Saturday of calm, which is a paradox to so many of us with kids.
When did we get so busy? What happened to those lazy weekends of lying in bed until 9 and brunch at 1? It seems like overnight I went from a child to a twenty-something, and then to a parent.
There are such marked differences between the different stages of life. At one time each one of us is warned, "if you think this is hard... just wait!" and then, like a click of Dorthy's heels in the Wizard of Oz, we are struggling through the next stage. We are simultaneously over and underwhelmed. Life is nowhere near what we expected, but we are so busy with things that "need" to be done that we don't get to allow ourselves to just, "be." Each stage of our children's lives turns over to another, and then another, and we flow right along with them, guiding them along.
Somewhere in the middle of all this, we are still finding our place in the world. We struggle with working and childcare, or the decision to stay at home and the guilt of wondering, "what if I had gone back?" We struggle with wanting to succeed on our own, yet also acknowledge we are now in charge of forming at least one other future in that of our children.
There is so much pressure to be everything to everyone at this stage of life. Something invariably gets lost in the middle of all of the chaos that sometime long ago all of us wanted. Maybe it is our marriage that gets put on the backburner, our career, or our own identity. As mothers, we lose some part of ourselves to help another's life truly begin and come into focus. It is our role, and most of us do it without question. The second we find out we are pregnant, our children come first.
I remember the afternoon I found out I was pregnant with my first child. I remember taking a walk with my dog with a small secret-smile on my lips. I remember having the understanding that life would never be the same again. It was terrifying and also extremely gratifying to know that I would be a mother. Ten years later, the smile is no longer secret but the thought still often comes around. I am still scared that I am making the wrong decisions as a mother, but I also relish the times so often that my daughter (and now my son) make my heart sing and my soul content.
For the longest time, I wasn't sure I wanted children. My ambitions were high, and my dreams reached the stars. I was afraid of giving up those hopes, and the opportunities I would lose by starting a family. My wavering on having children was spot on: I would have to give up what I was working for in my career. What I didn't expect was that the dreams I had would change, and then somehow beautifully intermingle with my children's own goals.
One of the best pieces of advice my husband and I received when we were starting a family was to continue to live our life as we had before: travel, hike, explore new places and have adventures. The children would go along with us, and by the time they got old enough to complain, they wouldn't know any different.
We followed this advice to a "T," and our friend's advice was correct about everything except one thing: our children still complain. You can hear them long before you see them on the trails in the White Mountains of New Hampshire every summer, or see their faces scrunch up as we introduce them to a new cuisine. It's okay, though. I love knowing they are strong enough in their convictions to give us their opinion, even when I don't agree or care to hear it.
My success is not just my own; I share it and owe it to the support of my family. Looking back though, it was different. Before I had children, my aspirations were high, but I was shooting for the stars alone. I would celebrate success with a glass of champagne or a new dress. There was no one's hand to squeeze nor happy voices ringing out in cheer. There is nothing in the world like hearing, "Good job, Mommy!" from my four-year-old son or the approving look from my nine-going-on-nineteen-year-old daughter. The love from my family is all I need in celebration now, followed by that glass of champagne.
This Saturday is quiet only because my husband gratefully took my son for father-son time and my daughter is in her room writing her dreams down in her journal. I am grateful for the quiet as I am grateful for the busy that will inevitably start again. As crazy as this stage of my life is, I'm happy I am in it. I am not sure yet what part of me I lost or gave up to get here, but I trust that I am where I am supposed to be.