Motherhood and the former self.

The greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of its parents.” – Carl Jung

Every person on this earth wants to find fulfillment. We all have dreams that affect our choices. And we all make choices that affect our dreams. For better or worse, life can often show us who we are meant to be, and fulfillment finds you in ways that challenge your own longings. Big life changes, even joyous and thrilling ones, lead to a mourning period of what we knew before, and this is so little talked about.

Before I was “just a wife and mother,” I was a performer. Acting, singing, and dancing have always been great passions of mine, and following my dreams of being a working actress shaped nearly every decision I’ve made since high school. And in the years leading up to the birth of my daughter, I was a working actress; getting gigs consistently, able to find work I loved, able to travel to share my passion with audiences, and able to make a living doing so. My work became my lifestyle, and I’m forever grateful for it — I was following my dream job, and it was going well, and I was making friends and having fun along the way. However, I was never overly reflective or in tune with my own inner workings, only those of the characters I played. Anyone who has performed in live theatre can tell you it is a completely immersive experience that requires creativity and immense devotion and focus. I had spent so much time being other people that I never really took the time to figure out who I really am. I had personality traits, but at my core, I had no idea. I still don’t –and it makes me wonder: do we ever come into a place of total self-awareness and knowing?

Shallowness was never an issue because if you never stop, you never sink.

Through a series of choices, my life changed quickly: falling in love, becoming a military spouse, leaving my job, moving across the country, and becoming a mother. The hardest was moving to a town where there was no paid work in my field; hardly even any unpaid work even. I didn’t know that following one dream meant I would no longer be able to fulfill another. My passions quickly became seen as a hobby, and I was focused on just being a great wife and mom (jobs I truly feel blessed to have taken on, make no mistake). But it quickly became clear that my dreams of having the career I pictured were going to have to adapt, or more accurately be put on hold until decisions were mine to make again. Being denied the opportunities I felt like I needed, or sometimes even deserved, hit me hard. A huge part of what I feel like is one of my God given purposes I was no longer able to cultivate, grow, or share. I came to the realization that what I was experiencing was a sense of mournfulness that surprised me, given that I’d only ever felt that with physical loss. I had to mourn the life that I was used to, had to mourn the loss of the career I may not ever have, mourn the fact that you can’t necessarily have it all (specifically in the military spouse role), mourn the realization that I didn’t know who I was without my craft. Life had thrown me this beautiful, joyous curveball that I gladly welcomed with love and support from a wonderful husband and family. The sacrifices that followed still shake me, and though I’d never change a thing, I wonder if other mother’s find themselves mourning their past selves, and then feeling guilty, and then allowing that guilt to turn to shame.

I was sort of forced into finding new hobbies since the thing I wanted to really be doing wasn’t (and isn’t) an option in the towns we’ve been required to move to. It quickly became clear that any job would not be possible due to my husband’s bizarre work hours and constant trips, and the astronomical price of childcare — if you can even find an open spot. So for my family, me being a stay-at-home-mom was our best (if only) option. At first, I started doing things out of boredom and loneliness, then worse: self-loathing. I worked out because I was unhappy with my body, and how it was a manifestation of everything that had changed, of everything I was no longer given the opportunity to be. If I could still look like I was doing 8 shows a week, maybe I’d feel like it. I started blogging about getting in shape because I felt the need to be seen. I lied to myself for a long time, justifying my own self-loathing because the benefits were real and positive; I was in fact getting healthier, helping other women, and enjoyed writing and sharing. The connections I made throughout the fitness community (#fitfam) were certainly encouraging and uplifting, but I found myself too often playing the comparison game, and spiraling again into plummeting confidence. It wasn’t even about only how these other women looked (though of course they looked great; lash extensions, implants, highlights and all) — I was noticing their clean, white living rooms, their marble countertops, their husbands being home, their mothers in town to help with their children, the warm climate in which they lived, their other jobs, or their contentment in being a stay-at-home-mom. Of course, social media can be dangerous in this way because we all are presenting our highlights reel; our best versions of ourselves for the world to see; we all know it isn’t completely real or honest, but we shame spiral nonetheless.

Only when I was able to let go of the version of my dream I thought I needed, was I able to start engaging in new passions, discovering how I feel about different topics, and getting a better sense of who I want to be; of the mother I want to be. Motherhood felt limiting to me for the longest time, but at some point (probably once I started sleeping more than 3 hours a night and my husband was actually home for a full month at a time), I began to see it as this greatly important opportunity to grow and learn alongside the people I love most – my husband and daughter. I found myself becoming invested in nature, which led me to becoming an advocate for our beautiful earth, which then sent me down a path of sustainable choices and sharing then openly and honestly. I found passion in slow living. For the first time in my life I was able to solely focus on one thing at a time, and that was building a beautiful connection with the incredible tiny human that love had brought to us. I turned to God in new ways, found amazing and inspiring friendships through a thrown together Bible Study that I feared no one would show up to (and God provided me with incredible women I now call friends).

I took the time to mourn, most importantly. I’ve accepted and mourned over the reality that many choices are not able to be my own in this phase of life, and to slow down and find the benefits of where I am, what I’ve been given, and who I can connect with. By letting go of what I envisioned my dreams were supposed to be, I was able to realize that although Musical Theatre is a huge passion and purpose of mine, it isn’t the first priority — and that’s okay. I cannot compare myself to other performers who either 1) don’t have children or 2) have their family in the area to help whenever needed. Rather than feeling bad about these things and feeling stunted, I’ve been able to embrace the incredible blessings that I’ve found in being a mother and exploring new places (though, admittedly, I’d give almost anything to be at least a days drive close to family). I invest in meandering walks with my family under the late evening sun, as we forage for berries. I share my love of music with my daughter as she invents new songs while prancing around the living room wearing a tutu and nothing else. I reach mountain peaks alongside my husband that I never thought my legs could carry me to, taking in God’s beautiful creations with gratitude and reverence along the way. I am continually learning captivating information through my relationships, both new and old. I lean into teachings of all kinds, question everything, and pay attention to what grips at my heartstrings. I experience daily abundance, blessings, pure joy, and constant love. I’ve chosen to enjoy my time in the waiting; not let my life go unlived.

“When the time is right, I the Lord will make it happen.”
Isaiah 60:22

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