Haven’t we felt it before? The emotional purgatory of not knowing what we want from our lives?
Adults are not immune.
Career women are not immune.
Mothers and wives are not immune.
These feelings are real, but what do we do about them? Freak out or embrace the emotions? Do something for just ourselves?
This is a guest post from my friend, Molly James, who reached out to me about the topic based on her own personal experience. Yes, yes, yes- I thought- as so many women can relate to these feelings but feel shame and not want to acknowledge them.
Thank you, Molly, for sharing your truth.
I tend to be a little self conscious. One of those extroverted introverts we hear so much about in our news feeds. I sent my sister a sort of embarrassing photo montage of myself yesterday, and the following text exchange ensued.
Knowing nothing of our relationship, you’re probably wondering why you should care whether or not I posted something to social media, why it made my sister so happy, and what the heck was the collection of pictures.
Let me give you some background.
Eight years ago, while still just engaged to my husband, I left my job as a Manager of Recruiting for the University of South Florida and opened up a bridal boutique.
It was my first baby.
I put my all into that store.
I knew every detail about every bride who walked through my door or called for an appointment. I pored over the smallest details of the bookkeeping and when it became too much, I spent hours researching the best accounting software (I would say it comes down to freshbooks vs quickbooks, by the way) to replace me. I memorized every dress, shoe, and accessory in the showroom. I swept the floors, dusted the shelves, took out the trash, and scrubbed the toilets.
I secretly cried in the storage room when customers were mean.
I toasted myself with champagne when there was reason to celebrate. I did it all. I felt passionate, driven, and fulfilled.
Then, I had an actual, human baby.
Maybe you’ve been there?
You feel so self-assured as a professional woman, unstoppable and impervious to silly things like maternal instinct.
And then this tiny person came into the world, and all I knew of myself was turned upside down. My entire focus shifted to my child and I couldn’t see anything else.
For the first year of his life, I barely left the house. I hired an amazing friend to manage the bridal store (thank you, Katie), and most of my passion for those brides and their dresses just vanished into thin air.
And now, Poof! again.
Where did the time go?
I sold my store in March of 2017 because I knew it deserved an owner with the passion that I had when I first began. My oldest son is now five and just started “real” school. My youngest is almost three and is attending preschool five days a week. After years of constant togetherness with one child or another, I am suddenly staring several empty hours a day right in the face.
My house is [sort of] clean, the laundry is done, I’m actually cooking dinner [this is huge], I’ve read stacks and stacks of books, my volunteerism is off the charts, and I’m even working out at the gym.
The luxury of time sounds like a dream. I have no delusion that there is anything to be pitied here because I know it’s a blessing to have this time of respite. So why am I not thrilled, delighted, ecstatic?
For one, the life we live requires that I eventually start contributing to our household financially. Beyond that, I feel extremely “between.” So very, very between. Between full-time motherhood and “what’s next”, but what is next?
If my husband, mother, sisters, and friends have to hear me ask this question one more time, I think they may all go crazy.
I’m sick of asking it myself.
I’m almost forty [don’t tell] and I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve thought about going back to graduate school, but there are some very real things called bills that need to be paid. The idea of producing zero to very little income while paying grad school tuition for the next few years does not exactly mesh with our household’s economic reality. I’ve dabbled in MLM, but it is so far outside my comfort zone I might as well be selling crack. I scroll through job sites daily, maybe I’ll find something that’s the perfect fit?
It’s hard to imagine returning to a full time position working for someone else after running my own show for so long.
Perhaps I should take up day drinking?
Just kidding, that doesn’t pay the bills either.
Maybe you’ve been there? Maybe you are there? I have a hunch I’m not alone in this place. I’ve got a feeling there are a lot of mamas out there who can relate.
Back to that photo montage. It’s embarrassing, so embarrassing [I swear, I own a hair brush].
I share because I want to tell you it’s okay to be between, it’s more than okay. That’s why my sister loved it, because she loves me and she knows I spend more time than I should feeling like I’m not enough right now. Maybe instead of feeling guilty all the time, those of us in this place should occasionally just let ourselves enjoy it.
Take a day off from trying to figure out what to do next and, instead, have fun in the moment. The kids aren’t infants, but they still adore us.
Breathe, and then do something just for you.
I went to Disney World all by myself and still made it back to the kids in time for carpool. I rode all the rides my kids can’t or won’t ride. I felt self-conscious, like a lonesome weirdo, but I had a smile on my face the entire time. It was delightful.
It doesn’t have to be a theme park, but maybe one of these days, drop off the kids and go and do something completely random and just for you.
You deserve it, mama!
Molly Warfel James is a wife and mother of two young boys who lives in Tampa, Florida. In her spare time, she enjoys reading books, enjoying a poolside cocktail with family and friends, and conquering Splash Mountain with reckless abandon.