Staying at home for the first two years of Munchie’s life was an unplanned blessing – but it wasn’t easy. During those years, I watched children from two other families… and I still love those kids to pieces. I wouldn’t change those two years for anything in the world… but something was missing… and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I knew becoming a parent had changed me – and I worked tirelessly to define my role in our new family of three. I tried to be happy with our new groove – attempting to force myself in the cookie cutter role of Mommy – but it seemed to be an uncomfortable fit.
Admittedly, I think I tried too hard to shove myself into the shape of what I thought a stay at home mom should look like – and I had a limitless amount of information at my fingertips to guide me through the process – right? Pinterest, parenting blogs and forums, listening to other moms… articles, magazines, studies from the Mayo clinic and beyond. I had to piece the information together – but, finally, the world had come together to write the parenting manual that previous generations yearned for. My generation was lucky to have access to such a gift. Sure, you have to sift through the information… but you could read all about the ins and outs of being the perfect parent and raising a creative and intellectual genius who would one day save the world.
Convinced I needed to be the perfect mom, create a Montessori learning environment in my own home, offer all the experiences and opportunities right here in my child’s immediate vicinity, I made all the things. I needed all the educational games. We went to all the story times. I took my kid and others to museums, parks, pools, and events.
I rocked the yoga pants daily, paired with t-shirts and hoodies that served as reminders of the past life I had once lived – the organizations I worked for, the camps I worked, places I had volunteered, events I attended. They were billboards of my past life… the pre-baby years… a tribute to the individual I had once been.
I missed that person.
You see… I was trying to jam the old version of myself through this cookie cutter of who and what I thought a mom should be. I was frustrated that I didn’t fit into that mold, but being the stubborn soul that I am, I couldn’t accept defeat. I was going to transform myself into this image of the prefect mom… and I was going to be happy about it, dammit!
As I tried and tried to become someone I wasn’t ever meant to be – my frustrations grew, my anxiety levels skyrocketed, my health plummeted to an all-time (and dangerous) low, and my relationships with the other two members of my household (my awesome husband and my totally incredible kid)… the most important people in my life… well… they were far from perfect.
Then… one day… I snapped. All I remember is screaming in the face of the man I love, collapsing onto the bed, and sobbing… like can’t breathe, ugly crying, complete breakdown… right there on the bed. I was a heap of human… and my husband scooped me up in his arms, held me tight, and told me everything was going to be okay… and that we’d figure this out together.
A quick visit to my therapist, a tweak to my medications, and a shitload of support from my family and friends… and in a matter of days the haze started to lift. I started to see that I didn’t have to sacrifice myself and try to cram my life (my individuality) into some unrealistic mold of what I thought the perfect stay at home mom looked like.
Ultimately, what I learned through my healing was that some parents are cut out to be stay at home parents… but that’s just not the life for me. Yes, I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be home for those two years… but doing so made me hold myself to standards that were far too high. Feeling as though I needed to afford my child EVERY opportunity imaginable wasn’t realistic.
We did a lot in those first two years… but it nearly killed me (seriously, stress and anxiety are horrible triggers for UC patients). Would I trade them for anything? Absolutely not.
Once I began to see clearly, I realized my desperate needed to start relying on more of the “village” to help transform my offspring into an awesome human. I needed it. He needed it. Our family needed it.
I ended up going back to work part-time, where I’m able to exercise my mind and be a contributing member of a team – independent of my family. We enrolled Munchie in an incredibly fantastic preschool – where he is absolutely thriving, making tons of friends, and learning skills I never would have even thought to teach him at two years old.
As for our little family of three – we are more in love with one another than before. We don’t take our time together for granted… we have more energy and patience for one another. We’ve always LOVED one another – but now we LIKE each other and genuinely ENJOY the time we spend together.
A family is a living and evolving system. For the ecosystem to be healthy, we must each find our place, our groove, how we contribute to the organism… which can be tricky, since every family is a little different and continually changing. We’ve learned that communication and flexibility are key to finding how to not only co-exist… but for each of us to thrive.
We aren’t perfect. What works for our family might not work for yours – but, I can promise you this… if you aren’t happy… you need to talk to someone about it. And if you can’t find JOY in your life… that someone needs to be a professional.
It’s estimated that nearly half of women with Postpartum Depression struggle for more than a year. Some women and doctors have found PPD to last 3 years are more. You aren’t weak. This doesn’t have to be your “new normal.” You can be happy… and you don’t have to walk this path on your own.
If you live in the United States and feel like you need some help – or aren’t sure – and want to confidentially speak with someone who can help guide you in the right direction, please call 2-1-1.
If you live outside the United States, please contact your local mental health or crisis hotline – these incredible people would be delighted to point you in the right direction.