“I wasn’t born to be a mom”
The first time I said that out loud Charlie was 2 years old and I was pregnant with Carter. The person on the receiving end was perplexed, stunned for a second. They navigated through the awkward conversation politely, reassuring me that I’m a great mom. But I charged on…
I was one of the first in my close circle of friends to get pregnant. I read a bunch of books, subscribed to emails that told me what adorable fruit my baby resembled that week. I thought I had checked off every item on the prepared to be a mom checklist. I knew how to change diapers, learned about breastfeeding, stocked up on bottle feeding accessories, assembled the best stroller, had my baby wearing gear ready, built a safe crib, etc.
“No, I don’t think I have the ‘mom gene’”
Leading up to my due date, people who had kids (mostly coworkers and acquaintances) told me the same thing: Parenting is really hard but so worth it. I thought "hard" meant I would be tired and busy. So I was prepared right?
If you're reading this you're probably a parent. And so you know I was WRONG! So wrong.
When Charlie was born I couldn’t believe how much I loved her. The first few months were tiring but full of bliss with my perfect baby girl. But by 4 or 5 months she turned colicky. Each day blurred into the next, this never ending continuum of feeding, screaming, crying, diapers, more crying, boredom, anxiety, more crying. Oh and no sleep.
I felt this profound sense of loneliness and questioned whether I was cut out for this life. Dare I say, I started to hate my new reality. I’d pass Charlie to my husband the second he walked through the door and run out of the house.
I felt so useless, so purposeless, and I completely lost my sense of identify. I resented my husband for getting to go to work, I got annoyed when people tried to give me advice, I lost my self-confidence, and I isolated myself. By 6 months I knew I couldn’t stay home much longer without losing my mind.
I went back to work when Charlie was 9 months old. I was so relieved to go back. I love to work! I know, it’s weird. But I do. I’ve always been ambitious, I’ve always strangely prided myself on working crazy hours, and I’m proud of my professional accomplishments.
But I was haunted by mom guilt. I regularly felt this pang of ‘what’s wrong with me?’ when people expressed surprise or confusion that I had chosen to end my mat leave early. I mean, what kind of mother would choose to sit in meetings over making precious memories with her child at home?
Time passed. We settled into our new normal. And after A LOT of consideration and discussion, Derek and I decided to try for a second baby. I was excited but it was sometimes overshadowed by a deep-seated fear of falling back into that dark hole of failure and self-doubt again.
When I got pregnant, this scared voice in my head kept gnawing at me, ‘I'm not born to be a mom’, ‘not strong enough to be a stay at home mom’, ‘not patient enough to deal with kids all day’ (that last one might be true, I’m not very patient). And deep deep in the dark corners of my mind I worried that maybe I didn’t love my kids enough. Maybe I didn’t love my kids the way that other good moms loved theirs.
Carter arrived and I was just as obsessed with him as I was with his sister. I mean, look at him, he's so cute! I didn't want that euphoria to morph into despair this time. I was determined to figure out what I needed to keep myself sane, determined to enjoy this time with my baby by taking care of my needs as well.
Honestly, I fell on the answer pretty quickly. So quick that I thought…WTF Steph, this is so obvious, why didn’t I do this when I was home with Charlie?
Work. I needed to work.
BEING A MOM ISN’T ENOUGH FOR ME
I still feel a hint of shame and guilt admitting this but it's the cold truth. I love my kids and would go to the ends of the Earth for them...but being their mom is not enough for me.
I need a sense of accomplishment and productivity outside of being a mother. I need to work on something with measurable impact that's apart from the endless struggle of keeping two little ones alive. And that was the jump off point for mui + kai.
Who I am as a mother is simply different than what I originally imagined it should be. I thought being a good mother meant living, breathing and doing everything for your kids, that they should be all you need to feel fulfilled. Turns out that ain't me. Building this business has created a sense of balance in my life. It's actually allowed me to enjoy my children more.
Friends always praise me for opening a business at this time in my life. But you know what? It was never meant to be some kind of a brave venture. I NEEDED to, it's my version of self-care.