Once I finally settled into motherhood after a very bumpy start, I became the joyous mother I always thought I would be. Yes, there was (and will always be) very hard days, but once I gained confidence in my abilities as a parent, things started to get fun. I acted silly with my son because I couldn't wait to hear the best sound in the world: his belly laugh. I started rushing home from work to be with him. And I started to cherish all the little moments I knew would fly by if I wasn't paying close enough attention. But after having a second baby, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom for a while. And soon, that pure and complete joy that my children brought me started to dwindle.
Not only did I do it for myself, but I also [did it for my children]. I wanted to be happy for them and with them.
While the happiness they brought me never wavered, it was how much of my life that became that changed. Still, I did my best to be a content stay-at-home mom. I turned to Pinterest for fun crafts to do with the kids, joined mom groups, took my kids to the local library for story time, and more. I tried desperately to tailor myself to what I thought should be my main focus: staying at home. I even contemplated having more kids to stay rooted in my decision.
But something was off. I buried myself in my role as a mom so much that the real me — the other equally important parts of me — rarely came out. While there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home mom, in my heart, I knew that it just wasn't going to totally fulfill me. I needed more, and it was a tough truth to admit. "As a woman, shouldn't this be ingrained in me?" I thought. "Shouldn't all women want to be with their children all day?" The guilt tortured me for a long time.
But eventually, I chose to bring myself back up to the surface. Not only did I do it for myself, but I also didn't want my children to remember their mother wearing a frown instead of a smile. I wanted to be happy for them and with them, and I knew that by making myself and my dreams a priority again, I would be a better mother. So I went back to graduate school, work part-time as a tutor, and freelance as well. Today, my work fulfills me right along with my children, and I couldn't be happier with my decision.
Being a stay-at-home mom is such a hard job, and I just wasn't cut out for it. Every woman and mother is different, as are our needs and what makes us feel fulfilled. I needed work, and that doesn't mean I'm any less of a mother. You have to stay true to yourself and listen to your gut. It's OK if you pour all of yourself into your children. And it's OK if you don't.
Moms, you need to choose happiness — your happiness — whatever role works for you and for your family. Motherhood can make our new identity tricky, but always remember to think of yourself, too. You want your children to remember you with a smile on your face, whether they see it all day long or after you get home from work.