30 May Letting Go of Expectations
Growing up, my mother didn’t travel on her own. In all honesty, I didn’t see any mothers travel without their spouses and children. Girls’ trips weren’t a thing in my world. I don’t think it even crossed my mind that moms needed periodic breaks from their day-to-day lives. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I realized how motherhood changes a woman’s sense of independence and the emotional toll it takes on a person. And so when I felt overwhelmed as a mom, I never thought it was acceptable to take a break. For the first few years, my inner voice spoke with outrage even at the thought of going to dinner with girlfriends.
In the spring of 2016, nearly 7 years after becoming a mother, I took my first trip with friends. We went to Vegas for 3 nights. I didn’t go on the trip because I had a sudden urge to flee from home, where I had worked so hard to build my family, or because I thought I deserved a break. It was because it was the 10-year anniversary of my bachelorette party and we all lived states apart, so a reunion was in order. Once we got there, an immense weight lifted off my shoulders. For that short period of time, I felt freedom. The constant hustle and bustle of mommyhood really had started to weigh heavily on my body. And it wasn’t until I removed myself from the situation that I recognized how much I did for my family and our home. I temporarily felt relief from the constant worrying and caring for others. I learned on that trip that my family could survive a few nights without me. Even though I felt a renewed sense of independence from that trip, I put the experience behind me. I still didn’t consider how a trip like that, more often, could benefit me as an individual or mom.
Since that getaway, I’ve had moments of being away from the house, mostly for deliveries that kept me overnight at hospitals with my patients. Those moments, although precious and rewarding, were still moments where I was on my feet and working to care for someone else. But then, as if the universe could feel my frustration with the endless loads of laundry and homemade dinners, I won a girl’s trip to Florida. I still remember waking up Christmas Eve, the day of the raffle drawing, wondering if my name would be pulled. The moment I saw my name on that live Facebook stream, I was overwhelmed with excitement. That lasted all but 5 minutes, to be completely frank. Then dread washed over me. My heart continued to pound, but this time out of guilt. What kind of mother am I if I am crossing my fingers in hopes I’ll get to leave my family for a few days? My mother never acted like she needed to travel thousands of miles away from me, so what kind of monster was I?
After these criticisms consumed my mind, I took a step back. I looked at my life. I looked at my children. I looked at my husband. I looked at myself. Then it hit me: this is my life. This is my choice. These are my needs. My tank was running on empty. I needed to recharge or I wouldn’t be the mother and wife I wanted to be as the months and years moved forward. This break wasn’t something to ponder—it was something to grab and run. I needed this break like I needed air. And by booking that plane ticket and stepping foot into that airport in Florida, I was taking care of me. I was choosing me. When was the last time you chose you since you became a mother? I bet not much. And if you’re anything like the me of the past, when you had a thought to take time to yourself, you’d quickly come up with an excuse as to why you couldn’t. But for me, this moment of truth, flipped a switch in my mind. I felt free. I didn’t feel free from my children or my husband. I felt free from the expectations of who I had to be. This was something I had to come to terms with for myself. Taking hold of my life and allowing myself to accept this trip was exactly that—acceptance. I needed to be okay with the thought that I had no responsibility. I had to really let go of an idea that I was a terrible mother for taking this trip. And when I did just that, nothing bothered me anymore. By taking that step on that plane, I was standing up for the person I wanted to be, not the person I felt I had to be for others. I felt free from the concept of having to parent the way those in my past had parented and I was doing motherhood the way I felt fit. And it was empowering.
When I look closely, I have deviated away from a lot of other things mothers did when I was a child. Miscarriage was something parents from my childhood would have never expressed in writing, yet I wrote a blog about mine. Mothers I knew never let their babies cry for more than a minute, while I am an avid sleep trainer. The more I write and work with families, the louder my voice gets on topics in which I have truly changed my outlook. And the older I get and the more experience I gain in my motherhood journey, the more I realize it’s okay to admit it’s tough to be a mother. I can easily say that the mothers around me when I was a child never blatantly spoke about how hard it was. I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that being honest doesn’t have to be deemed as negative. I don’t have to follow 100% in the footsteps of the women before me. I can take myself down a different path. And guilt doesn’t need to follow me. Don’t get me wrong: I asked for this life. I wanted to have children. But being a mother is so much harder than I’d ever imagined. And for those who haven’t started their parenting journey yet: I say this so you know you will be surprised at how hard parenting is. I may have had a concept of what I wanted my life as a mother to look like, but I was naive and immature to think I had it all figured out. Parenting is hard and it’s a job that doesn’t get easier with time. The challenges change and sometimes you’re not ready to change with them.
But with all this being said, I wouldn’t trade my title as mother for anything. It has been the biggest lesson as a human being I’ve ever had. That’s a lot coming from someone who witnesses life come into this world as a profession. Much like all jobs, we need a break here and there. Many of you women can relate; our jobs are nonstop. We move at lightening speed, 24/7. We are criticized at every turn. Now that I’m approaching 10 years as a mother, I will say, I have heard some interesting criticisms. One from a father who said he doesn’t accept his wife taking trips with girlfriends, to other women telling me they could never take time like that and go away. And for those that may hold those opinions, feel free to keep them. I am going to stand up for myself and go on these trips. These moments, these getaways, are not about leaving my life behind; I’m taking time to connect with my inner self. I’m paying attention to me, which isn’t something I get to do so often anymore. And this realization wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for this beautiful retreat. Shannon, the owner of Mind & Body Complete, has opened my eyes to so much more I can offer this world. She has shown me that it’s okay to walk a different path and still find it beautiful. I gained so much realization on this trip. I learned what my next phase of my life needs. I’m a better mother now that I have figured out I need to get away occasionally. I know that my choices are exactly that—mine. Neither the approval of others, nor society’s impression of what a mother is, should sway my decisions. Next time you’re met with a crossroads like this, where you could possibly take time to yourself, don’t let your first instinct—fear— overpower your decision.
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