Struggling to reconcile myself to my life choices today.
Could be the beginnings of an existential crisis, could be the inevitable consequence of being a woman and mother in the 21st century, could be exhaustion.
Is possibly/probably a combination of all three.
How are you?
I’ve noticed a few existential crises occurring recently in a few groups I belong to and I think we might be teetering on a collective breakthrough of sorts. But here’s the thing about collective breakthroughs; in order for them to occur there have to be lots of individual breakthroughs.
This week my breakthrough relates to juggling the needs of little people with the needs of big people. My son has started childcare 2 days a week and the full weight of mother-guilt is laden upon me.
Simultaneously, school holidays are drawing to an end for my 6 year old and the daily reality of school picks up and drop offs and preparing lunches and dinners and the routine of it all is looming.
In the past when this kind of perfect storm of dissatisfaction occurred, I’d create a picture in my mind. A picture of what I wanted my life to be. I noticed where it was unsatisfactory and considered how I could change that. I’d then set about creating those changes.
But each time I’d get there, I couldn’t help but notice that the satisfaction would be fleeting.
I used to think the dissatisfaction came from choosing the wrong thing. ‘Oh I tried this city and it wasn’t for me’ or ‘I had a relationship with that person and they weren’t the right match for me’. And so I moved towns and entered into new relationships and changed my perception of what was possible for my life.
Then at some point I realised that none of it really matters. There is no right person, right city, right job.
There’s only the person that works well for you and with you, in this moment. There’s the city or town that does the same. There’s also the job that suits your life circumstances and creative needs and economic requirements at particular points in time.
But as likely as not, things will change. You will change, and as you do, your requirements will change too.
Some people and jobs and cities will grow with you.
So today, in this moment, creating a new vision for my life feels like a fool’s errand. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll feel differently. But today’s job is to sit right where I am. To face the choices I’ve made, to make peace with them, and to accept myself and my life exactly as it is.
To do that I’ve had to look more closely at what’s really bothering me. I’ve had to look at fears I don’t want to face. Stories I don’t want to acknowledge.
It all revolves around what I’ve coined ‘the impossible bind’; that tension that every working Mum faces when she’s juggling work and home life.
If you’re a working Mum you’ll be familiar with the bind; when I create space to work, I feel concerned about my children. Primarily my 1 year old and how or whether childcare is a good option for him right now. And although he’s settling in as well as can be expected, my fears loom large; is he really happy? Am I causing irreparable harm with this choice?
I also feel the weight of the parenting model I grew up with – my Mum was a stay at home Mum – and I see the guilt that’s born from the mythology that the only true and real role for a mother is in the home, taking care of her children 24/7.
I notice that story holding me back. Pulling me back. Not allowing me to be fully in the business because I ‘should’ be with the kids. And yet when I’m with the kids I often feel drained and exhausted, uninspired by the thought of what it will take to keep them happy and/or entertained, and personally unfulfilled by spending so much time answering the thousand and one demands that little people have.
Of course there are many moments of bliss. Hugs and laughter and games and conversations that inspire me. And in between there’s the slog of motherhood.
In the midst of that slog I see people whose careers are booming and I long for more time for myself, to pursue my creativity, to express myself, not as a mother but as a woman with her own thoughts and desires and needs that are completely separate from those of her children.
I also try to see and question my inner stories. Is it really my job to keep my kids happy and entertained? Is it actually an impossible bind to have one arm reaching for fulfilling work and business expansion and self expression, while the other reaches for kids and family and home life? Is it even healthy for me to be with the kids all the time? Is that actually the best model for anyone?
And I remind myself that things will get easier. That as the children grow, it’s easier to create spaces for everyone. Boundaries are more easily created in a healthy way. They’re not forced upon you because, in the absence of the village, you’ve had to introduce them prematurely in order to maintain your sanity and keep paying bills and build a support system around you that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
But even as I remind myself that things will get easier, I struggle with stepping forward. Part of me wants to stop walking altogether and the other part of me wants to run. It wants to run right into the time when it gets much much easier, whenever that elusive time is.
Then I stop and remember that this is exactly the same mistake I made in the past when I went in search of new relationships and cities and jobs.
Temporary solutions. Tentative fixes.
So I realise the importance of just being here. In my life. Of my life.
I realise I’m being invited to accept and surrender.
To remember my inner stillness.
To understand that my attempts to control are illusory. That my life revolves around building a tomorrow that could be gone in an instant or could prove itself to have been meaningless or a waste of time. In this too I must find peace.
I realise I’m being invited to love my resistance. The resistance to all that is. To this world and its people. To the rhythms and the cycles and the round and round and round that never seems to go anywhere.
In all of this I must sit.
And today, that must be enough.