Memories aren’t always exactly the truth. They are somewhere in between reality and perception. My perception of my upbringing is that I was raised to be a stay at home mom. I don’t recall ever being able to consider any other choice. The goal, I believe I was taught, was to marry, have children and stay home with them. That was the ultimate achievement I feel I was taught to believe. And being a first-born, a Virgo and an over achiever I was going to achieve that goal.
I married a man I adored. He made me feel more stability and strength in myself than anyone ever had. I was better for being with him. He was the partner I wanted for life because I knew together we were more than young birds in love – we would be a force of a team and sources of strength for each other.
We had our daughter when we were both 28 years old. Old by some standards, but young in my circle of friends. None of my close friends were even remotely having children. So I was in this new world somewhat alone.
Our daughter was born this pink, smooshed, beautiful little baby with the biggest eyes and lips. Like every new Mother, I was instantly smitten. I have videos upon videos of me just starting at her – not wanting to miss every blink, every coo, or facial expression that reflected what she was thinking. No one’s face held my attention more than hers – and it’s still true for all three of our children.
The goal I had aimed for was happening. I was a stay at home Mom. But then life took us in new directions like it always does. My husband left his job to start a company, the financial world economy crashed, friendships with people who judged me evolved and things just got…. off course somehow.
If I’m honest with myself I wasn’t a happy stay at home Mom. Not then at least. It was like I had a life I loved and was cruising at 100mph down a highway that I was happy on and I was forced to slam on the brakes and get off exit ramp. I had worked full-time, had a career, a life, a world and then…. solitude. Quiet, stay at home Mom solitude filled with Elmo and The Wiggles and responsibilities of helping a person grow and thrive.
But honest to God even though I was succeeding in helping her grow and thrive, I felt like I was also doing her a disservice. Because simultaneously I was going backwards. I was becoming empty, and lonely and angry and sad and guilty. I was living the goal wasn’t I? I was doing what I had set out to do? This was the deal and the ultimate achievement I had wanted. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t just be happy with that?
The truth is while I was working so hard to build a foundation for our daughter and our family I had no foundation of my own. The ground was not sturdy beneath my feet.
Our boys were born a few years later, when we were both 31. While I wasn’t yet sturdy, there was no time to contemplate my own emotions! Life was 100% feeding, diapers, burping, doctor appointments, preschool events for her, speech therapy for them, reading books, trying to feed three kids at the same time, bath time. Repeat all day every day. Who had time for loneliness? I was so exhausted it didn’t matter how I felt – we were all still alive and that was all I could want at that moment.
I spent years in therapy thinking through my journey as a woman and a wife and a mother. I worked out in my own head and with my loving doctors not what I was supposed to do or want, but come to grips with what I wanted and who I was. Not easy, none of it. Painful, enlightening and humbling conversations with myself brought me slowly a step forward at a time.
I write this now with such a different point of view on those times. I used to not be able to talk about it because I was still very much in the thick of it. Perhaps it’s honest to say I had pretty severe depression for several years. I often think of those years as my brain being very foggy. I wasn’t myself – or at least, not the self I had known before Motherhood.
With my husband’s support I spent years working through my feelings. It was a process. I know it wasn’t easy on him, but I also think it was important for our marriage for us both to work through this together. Long years, but I can say that right now they seem like a safe distance away. Close enough to remember vividly, but the pain and strength of the memory of that depression feels further away more and more.
Today we both went to the reception for our twin boys Kindergarten year. Yesterday was the event for our daughter’s 3rd grade end of year. The past two days have been so —- lovely and calm. Those are the words – lovely and calm. My husband and I have waked hand in hand down the school hallways for two days with our heads held high and that sense of team unity we had when we met.
Our kids are thriving. Our marriage is thriving. But more than that – each of us as individuals are finally thriving.
It’s a rare moment in time when all of that happens. I know it’s fleeting but I’m so happy to share that today, in this moment, we are all on solid ground and all full of joy and comfort inside ourselves.
Would I erase those years of depression? Ugh. They were awful. God awful. I regret so much during that time. But perhaps I needed to bottom out to stand up taller. I needed the humility, the anger, the resentment and all those nasty emotions to bottle and explode so I could see them outside myself and examine them for what they were. And only after painful examining could I see who I was, what I wanted and who I wanted to be.
I know my parents did their best raising me just as I’m doing my best to raise our children. But raising children is only half the battle. Once they turn into adults it’s up to them. Just like it was up to me to pull myself from that depression. I had to raise myself up and figure it out myself.
Thank you to my dear husband for being my teammate. You and I can conquer it all with love, forgiveness and humor. And thank you to my children for loving me through it all. I love all four of you more than I can ever express and it is truly my goal to always be my best self for you, because you deserve it.
Today is a good day. This life phase is a good one. And I accept it with arms wide open. And as always, say my daily prayer of “God forgive me, help me and thank you.”