Yesterday, as we were driving home from errands my youngest sidekick as me if I liked to taking care of all of them all the time. Without hesitation I said, "Yes!" And you're thinking, of course you said, "yes" why wouldn't you? Because there was a time I would have hesitated and I would have cried and felt guilty about crying. Motherhood is hard. It's freaking hard. I was a teacher before I was a mother and I was a good teacher. I loved my students and I built a rapport with them. So much so, that I am still in regular contact with at least two of them. I've been out of the classroom for 11 years and I still get excited when I see or speak to a former student and they tell me how they're doing.
But my little one's question brought me such joy because I could honestly answer yes when I don't think I would have said it in the early years of motherhood. Motherhood was not an easy transition for me. I struggled with postpartum depression. As I was transitioning into motherhood I was transitioning out of job because I felt the job and the those in charge hated me. For years I struggled with the question, "Am I good enough?" Was I good enough mother? Was I good enough wife? Was I a good enough teacher? Forget being a good enough daughter, sister, or friend. I couldn't extend myself that far. I cried regularly because I felt like a failure in every part of my life.
A friend recently told me that when I quit teaching I put all of my energy into being the best mother. But I don't think she realized at the time how much I struggled and for how long I struggled. It took me about 8 years for me to become comfortable with being a stay at home mom and to think I was doing something right. Because I didn't. I never thought I did anything right. My husband saw my anxiety and concern and my sweet man tried his darnedest to make me see that I was doing just fine. And thank goodness for therapy. Therapy is not a bad word. My doctor helped me see what I couldn't and she taught me how to give myself grace.
This is a year of transitions for me. My oldest is applying to high schools programs, my second is applying to middle school programs, my third is applying to another elementary school program, and my youngest will be starting kindergarten in less than a year. Finally, when I feel like I have a handle on motherhood, one by one they are each finding their independence. It's so bittersweet. Each of them are tiptoeing out on their own and I feel like that mama bird who pushes her babies out of the nest encouraging them to fly.
This week my oldest has been in New York City with a school group. We sent him with prayers and hugs, money, the necessities he needed (clothes, deodorant, body wash, books), and without a cell phone (the horror!). He doesn't own a cell phone nor has he asked for one. He was with a large group and his chaperone (whom we adore and trust!) kept me in the loop daily (thank you, C!!!). And through her pictures and texts I saw my boy grow. He will come back a different person. He will still stink, roll his eyes at me, and be embarrassed by me, but he will be a little more independent, a little more mature, and a little more willing to take a few more steps out on his own. It's moments like these where I think maybe I've done something right.
It will be weird for me to learn how to live my life without a constant sidekick. This year is a practice run while JellieBean goes to preschool a whopping 5 hours a week. I will finally have time to run, write, run errands, and volunteer without a constant hand to hold, to receive a snuggle and a hug when I least expect it, and a little voice in my ear asking me what we are doing next. (Did you notice I didn't mention the house or laundry?)
When I asked JellieBean why she asked me if I liked taking care of them she said, "I never asked you before and I was just wondering. I think you like it, but I wanted to make sure." It's been a long time coming for me to be comfortable in this place in my life. To see my value as a stay at home mom, a wife, and mother. I love that JellieBean asked me and I could answer her in the affirmative. I want to be a positive role model for my kids. I want my girls to see that motherhood is an honorable vocation and not a chore. I want my sons to see motherhood (and fatherhood) is a blessing and to support their future wives if she decides she would like to stay home and raise their children.
I am so happy I said yes, even when I was scared. While I am a little crazed right now looking at new schools for the kids and helping them fill out their applications and find their testing dates, I know that this is but a short moment in time. In less than a year they will all be out of the house more than they are in it. I will start my new adventure in finding out who I am without a constant sidekick. I will have the strength to let go and let them tiptoe out on their own, while being there to anchor and guide them as needed. I'm glad I said, "yes."
"Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies." --Mother Teresa