The Catch 22

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I am about to let you in on a shocking secret. Are you sitting down?

Motherhood does not fulfill me.

I’ll let you catch your breath after all that gasping and clutching at your chest.

I know, I know…I’m female. Ergo — motherhood would be my highest calling, right? It would complete me. Fill in the empty spots. Bring me joy that nothing else can come close to achieving.

I’m sure that’s exactly how many women feel the moment their child — born of their body or of their heart — is placed in their arms. That all the questions are answered. The missing pieces fall into place.

I didn’t grow up wanting children. I don’t recall playing much “house” or “teacher”. I loathed baby dolls and wouldn’t even play with Barbies. Instead, my interests were puzzles and books, playing board games — sometimes by myself for hours, moving the positions for up to four players (geeky, I know!). I rarely babysat as a teenager — even for my sister, who was nearly four years younger.

We were 12 years into marriage when my husband got the itch. College was finished, we had completed a 5-year stint as youth pastors, and bought our home. The future was looking secure. He felt it was time.

Not me.

Besides the obvious — I enjoyed my freedom — I had too many nagging worries. I wasn’t sure I wanted children at this point in my life. Would I be a good mother? I regularly reminded my husband to help out more around the house — why would that suddenly improve with the addition of children? In my heart, I knew it was a decision that changed my life far more than it did his.

And I didn’t want to lose myself, to simply become “his wife” and “their mom”. Nameless. Having no identity or purpose other than caring for spouse and offspring.

I still had aspirations. In my youth, I wanted to be a writer. Then a singer. Then a music teacher. Then back to a writer.

Which is my real calling — down to the depths of my soul.

Numerous people urged me to have children. Told me I was missing out on so much. That it was better than anything I could have hoped for. That I’d regret it if I didn’t. That I’d be alone when I was old.

When my firstborn was placed in my arms, I felt the amazement. I was deliriously happy she was here (especially after 18 hours of labor and still ending up with a C-section!). I knew I would never love another creature more than this squirmy, red, screamingly-unhappy-to-be-displaced-from-my-womb being. Her sister’s arrival 20 months later brought about the exact same feelings.

But….not fulfillment.

Because — and let’s be honest here — I felt whole before having children. I didn’t feel anything was missing in my life. Other than the self-discipline to sit down and write a best seller.

And the brutal truth? Motherhood has not been a rosy, glowing story (not that it ever is, right?). At the age of 2, my oldest showed signs of being strong-willed. At the same age, I knew something physically worrisome was going on with the youngest. Her special needs diagnosis only confirmed my worries. And while it gave me a direction to find her help, it hasn’t lessened the difficulties.

My days are filled with chatter, bickering, noise and a struggle of wills. Most days, I am so overwhelmed by 8 pm that I do not want to talk to anyone, think about anything or be touched (which the youngest does all day long, often in a painful manner, due to her sensory issues).

Pursuing friendships takes more energy than I can spare right now. Leaving the kids with a sitter is too problematic due to the health concerns of our youngest. I rarely have two minutes alone in my head (it’s taken me a week to write this post, for example!), struggle with resentment and guilt like every other mom, and am simply too tired to take time for myself.

I have no idea what a social life even looks like at this stage in life.

But — I cannot imagine my life without them. I love and adore my children. They are an amazing gift, and I’m sure the struggles are strengthening and improving me in many ways. It’s a true joy to watch them become who they are meant to be; to be responsible for guiding them into adulthood. I am grateful for that responsibility, and take it seriously for the privilege it is.

Even as I long for more time to sit down with a cup of coffee and write that best seller.

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3 thoughts on “The Catch 22

  1. I think we often fail ourselves the most with ideas of how things are supposed to be as Mothers. I too never played with Barbie dolls (loathed them although I think I had one or two), and had maybe one regular baby doll. I mostly played guns, cowboys/Indians, CHIPS (a 70’s kid version of cops and robbers lol), and of course Star Wars… Yet I was rarely Princess Leia. Recently I was roped into volunteering at church with the preschool class during service. This was and is hard for me. I’m not a great *kid* person. This is rather ironic as I have several from my blended family. I have two stepsons, one who lives at home with us, two biological daughters, and one heck of a surprise biological son. Our children range from 24-5 yrs old. The 5 yr old has many of the same issues your daughter has. Yet I will say this. I’ve done both sides of the coin, and I realized that neither being the full time working mother, or the stay at home mother fulfilled me. How can that be? Because the definition of fulfillment I had was society’s standards (see a theme with me here.. I often find we are told that we should be X or Y or that things should be as simple as X or Y.. see my friendship comment). Here is my definition of fulfillment. I need to be involved in something. I need to feel useful. I need to be involved in my children’s lives and yet I am careful to not overly extend myself or them so as to burn out. I do need to be a presence though so that we have a relationship more than passers in the night, or best buds that hang out and get mani/Pedi’s together. I want my youngest to have the fond memories that my oldest daughters to, of trips to the zoo, making teepees in the front yard and so forth. I want to work, but I don’t know that I want to work full time. I want to pursue my interests and dreams. Making soap, crocheting, making cheese, gardening, having my homestead. My idea of fulfillment might not be yours, but it’s mine and I am finally starting to figure it out. I can pick up things and drop things as I need to, as long as the core of my family needs are met, and I have something/s that feed my creative side. Some weeks there is a lot less time for that than I’d like, but I make sure I squeeze it in. Now.. how about one Monday morning we virtually squeeze in a cup of coffee together? 😉

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