I'm a stay at home mother and am feeling... unfulfilled. I have a wonderfully supportive husband and three beautiful children that I love, but I often spend my days in a fog, living somewhere inside my head. I take pottery classes and run half marathons and am pursuing plenty of outside interests that I enjoy immensely. But I feel like something's missing, like perhaps I made the wrong decision to leave my career as a lawyer and stay home to have children years ago. I look at my former co-workers on Facebook with envy over their corporate world and exotic trips and have recently deactivated my account to avoid the jealousy I know I shouldn't feel.
I love my children, my husband and my life. And yet, I feel myself asking, "Is this it?"
I don't think returning to the workforce will quiet my feelings, but I'm not sure what will. Is this called a midlife crisis?
Love, Midlife Mama
“Is this it?” you ask. In a word, yes. Sometimes it’s enough, and sometimes it is nothing near enough. It’s not on the same street. It’s not even in the same city. It’s not even visible on Google Earth. Did you make the wrong decision to leave your career as a lawyer and stay home with your children? In a word, yes. But would my answer be the same if you had chosen to keep your career? In two words, hell yes.
A funny thing happens when you make a choice: all the options on which you turned your back start tapping you on your shoulder, buying you drinks and asking you to dance, trying to flirt you away from your chosen life. Everything looks better after a few sips of what if. Adding a few kids to the cocktail just makes it stronger and before you know it, you’re knocked out flat on your cute little bum. Happens to the best of us, Mama. Listen. You’ve got a life hangover. Stop drinking up everything you don’t have. You’re officially cut off.
You did the right thing to deactivate your social media. The Internet should feed you with inspiration, to-the-second news, and insane sales. Not crazy discontent. As with anything and anyone that leaves you feeling worse than when you came to it, you knew to walk away. Well done. I’m proud of you. I am going to be brutally honest here. Motherhood is a suck. It robs us of our time and freedom, steals our decision-making confidence, and rarely offers a bonus check. Sure, those little ones you’ve made are lovely. They smell lovely, too, most of the time. But let’s tell the truth: they are ingrates on their best days. They are small people who need to be told when to say thank you and reminded when to go to the restroom. And don’t get me started on monogamy. He is lovely and smells lovely, too, but in the words of Andre 2000..."forever ever? Forever ever?"
I’m going to be brutally honest here. You’re the luckiest girl in the world to have the chance at this family and this life, aren’t you? I think you know this, too, which is why your restlessness troubles you. Here’s the trick. Real life – the good kind that gives you the confidence to turn yourself into a better version of you – sometimes looks boring. Safe. Predictable. Snore inducing. Kick the covers off annoyed. But here’s the truth: all the things you feel are holding you back from the ledge are actually pushing you to leap. They'll be the ones to catch you when you fall. Most days, we just forget to see it that way. We’re just stuck on the edge looking down. So see it that way, okay?
Now. Step back and let’s get practical. I feel strongly that moms need to be able to take care of their babies: emotionally, physically, and financially. The best you can do is the best you should do. You never know what tomorrow may bring, but it’s wise to prepare for the worst. I’ve got some stories that would make your heart crack and have you scrambling to update your CVs. I have no idea what sort of law in which you specialize, but is it possible to find part-time opportunities to give you little sips of the professional life you’re missing? Forget the money and exotic trips for a minute. Even if you start by donating your time, you’ll still feel tipsy with the found again knowledge that you’re still you. Plus you’ll stay current. Relevant in your field. And that, my sweet Mama, is enough of a trip for now.
I think the fog will clear and you’ll figure out where you need to go to find the rest of you. Just don’t forget to bring along those babies and that man of yours for the trek.
That's the only way I live my days. (And remember: If your days stay zero-visibility, please don’t be ashamed to get some help from your doctor.)