On October 7 our greatest gift entered the world. Elliot, our son was born. Our new roles as mommy and daddy began. In my head, I had an image of how my life would change as this tiny human came into the world.
My mom is the perfect model of a wife and mother. Always tending to my dad's and my needs. She thrives being needed and helping us (if you’re into the Enneagram test she’s a textbook 2). I know I don’t have that gene, but I thought becoming a mommy would bring it out in me. I thought I would become less selfish.
I learned quickly that was not the case.
I’ve always known I wouldn’t be able to be a stay at home mom. However, I had no idea how much my “maternity leave” would suffocate me.
Shortly after leaving the hospital--the next day to be exact--I began feeling extremely overwhelmed, smothered even. I loved this tiny human, more than life itself, but the idea that he was solely relying on me to survive was too much. What if I did something wrong; what if my capacity to love and care for him diminished; what if my need to sleep overtook and I didn’t wake for a nighttime feeding? All these what-ifs and horrible images flashed through my head. A feeling of losing myself in motherhood had a stranglehold on me and I was no longer me; I was someone’s mommy and that was my whole reason for being. I had this immediate desire to run; if I failed as a mommy, I would lose my husband, my parents wouldn’t be proud of me anymore, I would fail at this basic human role. The role “women are meant to be.”
I struggled with this for weeks, though it never felt as strong as those first days home. But I felt as though something was broken within me. I was so uncomfortable with maternity leave and focusing only on healing and adjusting to our new lives. I went back to work--only a few hours here and there--but I needed something for myself to be selfish. I had read so much about being a mom and losing yourself that you forget to take care of you. And while I still wasn’t taking care of myself in the basic sense, I was selfishly taking time away from my newborn baby to run my business because I couldn’t handle only being a mom to Elliot. Guilt and shame were constant in those first few months.
I had already set up that Elliot would start daycare at 8 weeks old. But questions would swirl in my mind, “I own my own business so I have the luxury of taking more time off; I don’t NEED to go back to work this soon. Other women must go back, so why am I forcing this?” But every time I thought about Elliot going to daycare, I felt a small bit of relief (don’t get me wrong, I was also scared to leave him) and with that a huge wave of guilt and shame.
A week after Elliot started daycare, my friend, Laura Lea posted on Instagram
Her words hit me so hard; it all made sense. I wasn’t broken, nothing was missing inside of me. Immediately, I was able to understand where my feelings of being trapped and suffocated were coming from. And I was reminded that we are not all the same. While my mom is the perfect picture of someone who needs to be wanted and exemplifies the perfect mom ideal in my mind, letting go of this ideal has been so freeing. I cannot live up to this standard because I am not my mom; I am my own perfect version of me being a mom.
By giving myself the space to run my business and have me-time, I am better for Elliot. I still struggle with guilt over this, but I am learning to give myself grace now that I am beginning to recognize who I am and what my limitations are. This gives me the ability to be a better mom to Elliot, a better wife, a better friend, and a better boss.