My motherhood has transformed throughout the years.
I have experienced being both a working, schooling mama who had to divide my attention and time among many different paths, and also a stay at home mama giving most of my attention primarily to my kids.
I’ve been a determined teen mom, trying to find my place in this world with a baby on my hip, and a “legitimate” 20 something mom of two with the privileges of marriage and a college degree.
In both roles, I have struggled. In both roles, I have felt like I am not enough.
When I was working and going to school, I felt accomplished in the outside world. I felt like I was gathering meaningful experiences and having transformative conversations with other conscious and intelligent human beings that were helping me uncover more about who I was, and who I wanted to become in the big picture of my life.
But I also felt like my heart was breaking every day when I excelled in the outside world and simultaneously felt like I was floundering in motherhood. On long days I would come home after bed time when my sweet girl was already asleep for the night, and I would just rest my hand on her cheek and watch her breathe for a few minutes, wondering what I missed and whether she was okay without me. I wanted to tell her that I was doing it for her, because I wanted her to have stability, but that explanation seemed weak and almost finger-pointing. I would think about how she deserved stability AND me present at the same time. Mornings were a rushed mess with me snapping at her to hurry so neither of us would miss school, or me exhausted and disoriented from working overnights. I didn’t have the mama wisdom then to slow down.
I felt like we were always missing each other, and I felt like a half-assed mom.
When she would hug me tight with her little arms around my neck and say “you’re the BEST mom in the world,” I cringed and didn’t absorb it even though I knew she really meant it, because I felt like I definitely didn’t deserve those powerful, loving words from this girl I kept having to leave. She deserved so much more of me and I was failing somehow. I just felt it as a sinking guilt in the pit of my soul.
But I knew I was doing what I needed to do to step us up a bit in the world, and at the time, not working or schooling just wasn’t an option I felt like I could live with.
Stay at Home Mama
Flash forward, several years later and our lives are so beautifully different. She’s almost a teenager. I’m married now to someone who complements our lives perfectly, I’m done with school, had a career for a minute and felt what it was like to be successful in that realm. Now I am staying home with our new baby girl because it makes sense for our family and because I didn’t want to miss out again. I have time and can be present with my girls and take care of all the extra stuff that fell to the wayside when I was working.
But now some days I feel my heart breaking in a different way. I have a degree I’m not using, a certification in sleep medicine I let expire. I find myself wondering if I could hold an interesting conversation in “the outside world” that’s not about teething, diapers or leaky boobs.
I’m a wife and a mom and I love those things but I can’t help feeling … I don’t know…small and boring?
I don’t know how to measure my success without outside achievements. I’ve stopped and started a bunch of different things like an online Bachelors program, massage school and being a “book lady” because I thought they’d bring more value and purpose to my life. When really, since they were done out of guilt and fear instead of passion, they naturally fizzled into the background.
I don’t know how much I’m worth when I’m bringing home no money.
I don’t know how to take a pulse on how I’m doing, how valuable I am, how worthy I am for this life I have… to be lucky enough to stay home like I wanted while still silently questioning it and sometimes resenting it as the reason I’m feeling so small.
What is Actually Breaking My Heart?
I recently realized that my problem, my suffering, isn’t about motherhood at all. It isn’t about the time I spend with my kids or away from my kids.
It’s about worthiness in general. It’s that I let my worthiness and value become tangled up in how much I do, how much money I bring in, and how well I can juggle all of my roles in life, including motherhood. I let my worthiness be something that is fleeting and based on external things.
How many of us measure our success on this planet by how much we can do, how much suffering we can bear, how much money we can make, how many plates we can keep spinning without letting them all come crashing down on us?
What if worthiness, the right and privilege to unapologetically and joyfully take up space on this planet, has nothing to do with any of that.
What if I could just stand in and own my own worthiness every day, knowing that it’s not something that I have to chase or seek or fight to obtain? That it’s just a beautiful, blessed given in life?
What if I’m enough, and I’m whole and interesting, and I’m worthy of everything good life has to offer, right now? Messy bun, smeared mascara and all.
How would that radically change my life and my motherhood, no matter what I decide to take on; whether I’m working and holding degrees and achievements, or staying at home and pouring my soul into just my family?
I could breathe easier. I could not second guess myself at every turn.
I don’t want my girls to grow up thinking their worthiness in life is an elusive dangling carrot they need to chase in order to fully allow themselves to be important and valuable.
I want them to be still and embody the magic of exactly who they are in every moment.
So instead of focusing on being a “good” working mom vs. a “good” stay at home mom and trying to figure out which one makes me more comfortably legitimate, I’m going to focus on just being a worthy mom every day. I’m going to work at peeling away all of the layers of external conditions I’ve placed on my value as a human being and a mama. I’m going to allow my enough-ness to radiate through me and carry me through any role that I take on.
Because I want to set the example for my girls, that someday when their babies wrap their arms around them and call them the best mom in the world, that they should just pause and soak it in, and say thank you and know that they deserve all the love pouring towards them every single day.