Both.

Ever since my oldest daughter started 4k, if you asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up she’d always say a “mom.” Of course this filled my heart with joy because what better compliment than that, right? For career day in kindergarten, she went with her baby strapped to her tummy and diaper bag slung over her shoulder.

A few months ago, she came home from school with a drawing of her with a dolphin and declared, “I’m going to be a dolphin trainer when I grow up!” Of course I thought this was great and a creative career choice. “I need to learn to jump off the diving board, you know, for when I am a dolphin trainer,” she’d said this past summer. She even received a dolphin trainer barbie as a gift. “You know that means you’ll have to move far away from mom and dad,” my husband said to her at one point. “I know, but you’ll come visit me,” she answered nonchalantly.

A few weeks ago for career night at Wednesday night church, she eagerly planned to wear a snorkel mask and bring a stuffed dolphin. But that evening as we prepared to leave, she became quiet and worry swept over her face. Something was wrong, I thought. Her voice quivered a bit as she spoke, “Mom?” “What’s the matter?” I asked. Her voice was soft and slow. “Well, I think I want to be a mom instead.”

In the split second before responding, a million thoughts raced through my head. Here is one of those defining moments in parenthood, I thought. One of those times where my answer is really important.

*****

I wanted to tell her that I wouldn’t trade the path I chose for anything, but you, my daughter, can choose your own path. It doesn’t have to be mine, and I’ll love you and support you through it all. It’s okay to want to have a career that you love and kids too. Or have kids and no career. Being a mom is a joy that cannot be explained, but it’s okay if you don’t want to be a mom when you grow up. It’s okay if you do.

To my children, I’ll always be mom first, before anything else. While, I am okay with that and I love being a mom, that’s not all that I am. And you, my child, if you choose to be a mother- that will not be all that you are either.

You are strong, smart, capable and confident. You can absolutely be “other things” without betraying your motherhood. Be a dolphin trainer, a scientist, a teacher, a doctor, a writer- please, chase after those dreams and fight for them. Those goals and dreams, that desire to “be” is what makes you, you. You don’t have to give up on your dreams you are running after in order to be a mom. You are not less of a mother if you have a career, and you aren’t more of a mom if you don’t.

If you decide to be a career mom, you are not alone if you are exhausting yourself trying to give both your work and your family one hundred percent. Here’s a little secret-whatever you are giving to each side- it’s enough. Let the rest of it just be. And breathe, mama.

And if you decide to be a stay-at-home-mom you are not the only one on a difficult day wondering, as you stand over the sink eating cold mac n’ cheese for lunch with your toddler begging for “uppy,” while hearing yet another sibling fight, how can I do this one more day? 

Mothering is in no way glamorous, career or no career aside. It’s marathon nursing sessions, a sink of dirty dishes, piles of laundry, in which you actually ponder if death-by-laundry is possible. It’s cold coffee, yoga pants, lunch packing and grocery store tantrums. It is holy work.

But it is also bedtime stories, sand castle building and Candyland playing. It’s singing littles to sleep, pillow fort making, sloppy kiss and gigantic hug giving. Its bouncy curls, homemade crafts, Christmas concerts, nature walks and piggy back rides. And a house full of laughter.

You see, becoming a mother adds a layer of richness to your life; it fills a part of your heart that you didn’t even know exisited. But it doesn’t take away from who you were before. That person still exists too. She may become lost in motherhood for a while, but she’s still there.

*****

I wanted to tell her all of this, but instead, I looked her in eyes with a smile on my face and said, ” My sweet girl, you don’t have to choose.” Her head perked up with a glimmer in her eyes and a slight smile crept across her face. “I can be both?” She asked. “Yes, you can be both!” I answered. With a sigh of relief and a huge grin on her face, “okay,” she said excitedly, “then I want to be both!”

Satisfied and joyful, off she went- the future dolphin trainer AND mom. And my heart is full. ❤️

xo, Becca

 

 

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Confessions of a First-Time Kindergarten Mom

My mom has told the story of when she dropped me off at my first day of kindergarten for years. And how when she was crying in the parking lot a woman asked, “Why are you crying? You have more children at home.” I think the comment bothered my mom for years, and I admittedly never understood why on earth would my mom be crying about me going to school or why that woman’s comment upset my mom. Until now.

Twenty seven years later, I understand now, Mom! Funny how sometimes it takes us years to understand our wise mothers. Sending off your child to school is bittersweet no matter if it is your first, second, or last child because you love them, you want the best for them, you worry about them,  you will miss them. More children at home does not in any way dimish the significance of ushering another one into school. It is a milestone for that child. And now it all makes sense, Mom.

So now, here I am, a first-time kindergarten Mom, and I have ALL the feelings. Joy for my girl because she is SO ready. Peace because I know in my heart that she is going to rock school. Worry that she will be okay without me. Grief because I hate change. And let’s be honest, this is a BIG change. Sad because I will miss her and because this means I have to let go a little more. AGAIN.

We went school supply shopping today–finally. Something I had put off for weeks because I was in denial that this is where we are at. I know this is the next natural step for her. I could see the joy and anticipation in her face as she picked out her pencils, markers and 20 glue sticks. (seriously, why so many glue sticks?) But as the mom, it is never easy to let go.

With each milestone, I see that I have to let go a little more so they can grow and be strong without me. And this is HARD. But they need me, I rationalize. Well, yes that is true, but not always in the same way, you see. It is our job as mothers to guide them, teach them, encourage them, love them, but not hold them back from who they are meant to be. We have to loosen the grip so one day they will fly. 

I am excited for my girl, really! But at the same time, I am, selfishly, sad for me. The first day of kindergarten is as much about the Moms (and Dads) as it is about the children. Because for the kids, it is about the beginning of the “school days” chapter, until graduation, which I will completely ignore, for now.

And for the moms, it is the realization that daily life as we have always known it, will never be the same. And that is why I fight the tears from falling. It is a reminder that my children will always be growing. Even though some days feel like they last forever, each day ends and another begins and time carries on.

The days of all three of my littles at home with me everyday are done. It is the end of an era. A chapter in my life that was both filled with the greatest joys and also some of the darkest days. Are we really here, already? And I am just a little bit nostalgic about it all. We get one shot at being a mom and doing it “right.” So now I sit here and question everything these last five years.

Did I teach her enough?

Did I prepare her enough?

Did we laugh enough?

Did we read enough?

Did we snuggle enough?

Did I encourage her enough?

Did I do ENOUGH?

And then I hear the little voice in my head. Relax Momma. You DID enough. You taught her enough. You prepared her enough. You laughed enough. You read enough. You snuggled enough. You encouraged her enough. Now LET GO, Momma. She’s got this and so do you.

So on the first day of school, I’ll pack a carefully planned lunch, make an extra special breakfast, pick out the perfect photo-worthy outfit, take a thousand pictures with her chalkboard sign and walk her bravely into school. I’ll smile and tell her I am SO proud of her and that she is going to have so much fun and that I love her to heaven and back. Then I will kiss her goodbye and let go of her hand so she can grow up a little bit more.

And once I am sure she cannot see me anymore, I will almost certainly burst into tears.

xoxo, Becca