Part 1: LOST IN THE SAUCE: The Stay-at-Home-Mom’s Guide to Self-Rediscovery
Seven years ago I was a Vice-President at a prestigious investment firm, commuting into the city. I had two young children and was expecting a third. I knew who I was. My days were over-booked filled with meetings and projects during the day and night-time feedings in the evening. I would wake up early, go to sleep late. I was exhausted and stressed but fulfilled.
Being pregnant with my third child made me question the idea of being able to do-it-all. I felt like I was being pulled in too many directions. So, I made that hard heart-felt decision of giving up my career and becoming a stay-at-home mom. I had attended a top women’s college, which made it even more difficult to give up my identity as a high-powered, career woman. Especially since I had gone to a prestigious women’s college whose students actually sent around a petition saying that Barbara Bush had not accomplished enough in life to warrant being our graduation speaker – after all, they claimed, she was only a wife and mother.
I was comforted in the fact that many of my friends were going through the same thing. Our conversations about our decision didn’t center around how easy it had been to come to the conclusion to stay at home. The conversations were more self-defensive and full of justifications – we were clearly not comfortable with our realization that we couldn’t do it all.
But then once we got into the routine of not having to get up and somehow make ourselves look presentable enough to get on a train at seven in the morning after only a few hours of sleep the night before, things weren’t so bad. And as the babies turned to toddlers and pre-school came into play, we actually had some free-time. It meant we had time to accomplish some personal goals that we had been putting off – getting some exercise, perhaps even losing some weight, organizing the house, having lunch with friends. Life was good – at least for the moment.
Along with the toddler years, came the age of being able to get a full night’s sleep again, which meant more energy. Energy we needed to find an outlet for. I had been in marketing, which meant I was used to creative projects. This background led to homemade, laminated flashcard sets and personalized photo storybooks for the kids. I also organized the kitchen cabinets and redecorated the kids’ rooms.
As the kids each came to the stage of wanting to have play dates with their new-found friends rather than playing pattycake with me, I needed to find broader outlets. I joined a volunteer group and started helping out at their schools. I found myself comparing these groups to the groups of people I used to work at the office with. The hardest thing about running a volunteer project is that when someone doesn’t do what they are assigned or show up to meetings, you can’t fire them. You are just supposed to smile and say you understand that everyone has their own priorities and that they are all “volunteers”. And working on school committees had its on issues. I was chair of an event for mother’s to enjoy an evening out. Our theme was supposed to be A Mystical Evening, complete with a fortune-teller for entertainment. That was until one of the mother’s went to the local newspaper and all but pronounced us as witches. So after about a year of that, I took another good look at my life.
My days used to be full of important budget and personnel decisions, project completions and sales forecasts. Then it consisted of teaching my little life forms how to walk for the first time, how to talk, huge milestone moments that any parent could claim as big accomplishments. And now, I found it consisted of driving kids to play dates, doing dishes, cleaning the house, making doctor’s appointments, planning the family vacation.
The April I turned 40, I found a new significance that month to writing the word “homemaker” under the occupation category of our family tax return. I found myself wondering who I had become. I remember a conversation I had with a close friend of mine that was in a very similar situation. We talked about how the kids are barely home, they are starting to have “their own mini-lives”. Our husbands come home tired after a long day of work, or what we like to call having the luxury of being out of the house all day, and leave their dishes in the sink. When we recount our day, it consistently entails picking up toys, doing laundry and trying to get the marker off our child’s legs. I was feeling particularly anxious that day when we were having our talk. And I will always remember what she said, “I know exactly how you feel. It’s like you are lost in the sauce.”
She was right. I did feel like I was drowning in a big vat of family dinner tomato sauce. I felt like I had lost myself and no longer knew who I was. A personal daily goal of tackling a large pile of laundry was not a fulfilling one to me. So, this is where I decided to get on the road of self-rediscovery. Not to rediscover who I used to be, but to discover who I wanted to be in this next stage of life and to take action towards that end.
Once I started to do that, I found that I was becoming happier and more content. But I also found that so many of my friends still found themselves “lost in the sauce”, unable to figure out how to even take those first steps towards self-rediscovery. In my past career one of my focuses was coming up with manuals to help people take the first steps to investing towards their financial goals. Their financial goals were more like personal goals that they wanted to achieve – where they wanted to see themselves 5, 10, 20 years from now. Not too dissimilar to trying to help stay-at-home moms try to uncover what they want to achieve and how they want to see themselves in the future, and then helping them take the steps to get there. So, that’s the basis of this part of my blog.
So, whether it’s getting back into a career, finding ways to achieve a life-long goal, or to even become a more fulfilled homemaker, the next few blog posts in this section will help start you on that path. We are all self-empowered strong women. We are naturally inherent caretakers. But now it’s time to take steps towards taking care of ourselves, too, because we are in charge of our own happiness and a happier, more fulfilled mom leads to happier children. So, we shouldn’t feel bad about taking care of ourselves, because as they say during air flight emergency procedure instructions, place the oxygen mask over yourself first so that you are able to then place one on your child. As moms, if we can’t breath, we’re not going to be much help to anyone else.
For this journey, you will need a notebook. Label the notebook “My Road to Self-Rediscovery”. This portion of my blog works like a workbook. It doesn’t go from oldest to newest like a blog. You should follow it in order, just as it is sequentially numbered. Good luck!
To see how to navigate this blog, click on “What Is Mommysoffice?” in the TOP HEADER MENU.