I can’t believe it’s already September. I mean really, where did this year go? I really thought that by adopting a new lifestyle that time would move slower, life would be less harried… But nope. Seems that there isn’t much you can do to slow down time.
It’s been eight months since I made the decision to leave my full-time job. A decision I made because I was unhappy and had grown ashamed of the person I had become. An absentee everything – mother, wife, sister, friend… Work got 90% of my attention. Which I resented. Which in turn meant that I wasn’t the best employee and boss that I had the potential to be – how could I be if I was angry all the time?
Like many, I’m addicted to Pinterest. I’ll spend hours pinning all these cute little crafts, DIY projects and recipes – confident in my ability to execute them with ease even though my cooking skills are mediocre at best, I’m not nearly as crafty as I like to think I am and even though I have a sewing machine I’ve never actually sewn anything. I admit that at first my approach towards full-time motherhood was the same as I take towards those projects – totally oblivious of what I am actually getting myself into. I had all these visions of having a completely clean house, clean kids and healthy, homemade dinners every night. Of taking my kids on daily trips to the park for play dates, me gossiping with the other moms while we push our kiddos on the swings. Of hitting the gym every day… and never did it cross my mind that I would actually miss the career I thought I loathed.
It didn’t take me long to realize how hard my new “job” was. How much I had loved my old job. Even though I had been 110% sure I was doing the right thing for myself and my family, doubt crept in.
I started taking a good hard look at myself, trying to figure out why I am the way I am. How I had become a person I didn’t really like or care for. How I had let myself fall so out of touch with my loved ones, my children, especially. It depressed me that my husband knew them better than me. That it was him that they went to when they were upset or hurt, that it was him they went to with their problems or silly secrets, that it was him they would snuggle up to on the couch. It depressed me that I was jealous of him for it. It depressed me that my friends didn’t call me for dinner or lunch dates anymore, and that my once daily interactions with my BFF had become limited to a text or email every few weeks or so. It depressed me that my siblings had grown closer without me, and that I was now the last to know what was going on in each of their worlds when I used to be the first.
Mostly, it depressed me that I had done this to myself – that my situation was no one’s fault but my own. And it depressed me that it was something that was so hard to undo. And, to be completely honest, it depressed me that I wasn’t instantly good at all the things I wanted so desperately to be good at. On top of that I found myself getting angry again – angry at myself. I fell into a mean case of the summertime blues.
Luckily, my birthday is in July. I say luckily, because it gave me an excuse to do something I had always wanted to do. I wrote about turning 35 with a skydive, and how it’s funny that it took something as extreme as skydiving to help kick me out of my funk… But it worked. I’m not saying that I don’t still struggle with depression or doubt, but that day was also the beginning of me looking at things a little differently. Or trying to, anyway.
This year has been an exercise in learning to forgive myself for the past four years of disconnect from my family and friends. Of realizing that I can’t be instantly good at motherhood, wifehood, sisterhood, friendship-hood… That like all things worth having they require work and effort. Of learning to lower the bar just a little and setting realistic expectations. Sometimes celebrating the small stuff. Learning to let go of the anger I wore as armor. Accepting that life is not ever going to be perfect, but that you can have perfect moments.
I’m continuing to work on becoming the me I know I can be, Shan 2.0. I know my journey has probably been a doozy for those closest to me, dealing with Happy Shan one minute and Sad/Angry Shan the next, so I’d like to say thank you to those people. Thanks for sticking by me, listening to my rants and sometimes calling me on my bullshit when I relapse or start to feel sorry for myself. Thanks for supporting me as I seek to find balance in both my work and personal life. Of those whom I’m speaking, you know who you are and I hope you know how much I love you and how important each of you are to me.
The other week I made quinoa for my family, which my husband politely ate even though it really wasn’t that good (I’ve since learned from a foodie friend at one of those long overdue dinner dates that the secret to quinoa is to add citrus). Stella, my youngest, looked up from her plate and said, “Mommy, you aren’t a very good cooker. Can I have a pop tart?” Ordinarily, my first reaction would have been to tell her to be nice and eat it all anyway, and then sulk and stew over how my family didn’t appreciate the dinner I had made for them and hell even though it wasn’t that good they should eat it and keep their mouths shut. But this time, I gave in. She happily skipped to the pantry to get her pop tart, and then came and hugged me tight and said, “I love you mommy. You’re the best mommy ever.”
There’s nothing quite like the honesty of a 4-year-old to help you see how silly you’ve been acting. I still can’t cook worth a damn, and yes, my child ate sugar for dinner instead of a healthy meal, but for a brief shining moment, she thought I was the best mommy ever. Score.