Sunday, March 29, 2015

Life Long Lessons

I have struggled with admitting this without sounding elitist or being judged, but I was not sure I was cut out to be a mother.
I am the oldest of five from a working class Catholic family. I was the designated "smart one", and I wore that title proudly. I graduated from high school at 16 and college at 19, and I felt the pressure to so something grand in my life.
When I was in high school, my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and I was thrust into the caregiver role for my siblings when my saint mom was too ill. Being a young teenager who knew too much about cancer, but not enough emotional maturity to process it, I shut down to block out my fears. I judged myself too since I was a perfectionist and I couldn't fix things. Somehow that morphed into thinking I would not ever be good enough to protect or nurture any future family, so I just kept on studying.
My original dream was to work for the State Department. I spoke three languages and was learning another. I spent my junior year in Montreal and realized I would need more education if I wanted to pursue that, so I applied to Georgetown and got in, but funds were iffy so I deferred. I met my husband in college, and because we both had brain malfunctions at the same time, we got married a year after I graduated. J. was working full time and finishing his engineering degree. The plan was I would stay on the fast track at my job while Joe finished, and then I would finish my masters and apply to State. Fast forward a year. In the dark ages of birth control, I had to take a break and immediately got pregnant. There were plenty of snickers and we were shocked.
It was a precarious labor with both me and the baby in danger, and I was not allowed to hold her for three days, but that moment erased all doubts that I could love more than I thought possible. I will skip the rest, but I never got my masters, it took my husband seven more years to finish his degree, I switched from fast track to slow track to part time to work at home mom, and we had three more children. There were plenty of bumps, a cancer diagnosis for me too, plenty of years when my husband was building his career and I was essentially single, and many child rearing mistakes that my kids still hold over my head. Currently, all four are doing what they love which was our hope. I focus on that when I am disappointed that Mom and Dad are not central in their lives anymore, and I find myself questioning if I had more children than I should have, or did I lose myself raising them.
What I would love new moms to know is being unsure of yourself is normal, dreams will change and you will adapt, and never let other people's expectations and statements define you and your motherhood. I am still the person who values life long learning, and I got to instill that in my kids. They have taught me plenty too, but I will never learn to love snakes or baby powder pancakes. They also picked up some of my bad traits, but I am thrilled I embraced motherhood and took a chance.

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