You know there is more to life than mothering…
but you can’t quite remember what that life looks like.
You remember being an engaged and going-somewhere person before kids. But your life doesn’t look like those fairy tales promised it would. The plot twists have been brutal, and this is not the 2.5-kids-with-a picket-fence life that you were hoping for.
You feel worn down by the daily grind and like that person you used to be has been erased. You’ve just been dealing with crisis after crisis, hoping you can keep it all together, and that other moms aren’t judging you. You put yourself on hold because your family needs you. That’s the noble thing to do, right?
But when you’re really honest, the daily story of this life just feels empty.
I’ve been there.
I’ve looked around at my bleak life and said, “How did this happen to me?” But I’ve come out the other side.
I work with moms like you who know that there is much more to life than mothering – but they aren’t sure what it is. Their life hasn’t turned out quite like they expected, and until now they have just been trying to keep up. I help them unearth their passions and step back into their powerful, intentional selves, so they can live a life far bigger than just being Mom.
When I was in college, I was going to take on the world.
I was a take-no-nonsense young woman. I was an art major, with extra classes in the literature, religious studies and women’s studies departments, and all the culture-questioning that came with those fields. I wore Dr. Martens and a motorcycle jacket with my vintage dresses, and even though I “passed” as a polite law office secretary during the day, my life on campus where we questioned everything from what art was and who god was to the role of the patriarchy was where my heart lived.
Still, though, I had a pretty simple vision for my life. I was going to fall in love (with a man) and have a baby by the time I was 25, 27 tops. I’d have a career (that part was fuzzy - I didn’t quite see myself as a professional artist), and I’d buy a house and we’d be happy. I’d stay home with the kids, tend the garden, bake bread, raise some little feminists.
I look back on that idealistic young woman, and I just want to hug her.
Because my life didn’t go that way at all.
I had no good models for relationships or love, and so I toured through a string of bad relationships in my 20s. I did pretty well on the career front, following a random lead to an interview at Apple, Inc. I showed up with my hair dyed clown red and wearing motorcycle jeans, but they hired me anyway and paid me enough to buy that house on my own.
I finally got married at 30 - to a woman. We talked about having kids, but the logistics of that eluded us, and the relationship ended after a handful of years anyway.
By the time I was 36, I’d fallen off the end of all those dream timelines and I was lost. I was great at my job, but I was burnt out. This was not at all the life I had dreamed, and I was ready to take my power back in my own hands. I applied to graduate school and turned in my notice at Apple.
And then I found out I was pregnant, and I’d only been dating the baby’s father for a short while.
It was terrifying, but it felt like a sign. This was the life, the family, I had been wanting. This was going to be IT. I had the house. I could afford to stay home. My partner and his 16-year old son moved in with me the month before our daughter was born. I quit the graduate program, because I couldn’t see myself going back to corporate work and leaving my baby behind at home. I was going to be baking bread, after all.
After wanting to be a mother for so many years, my biggest surprise was how much I resented the loss of my own life after motherhood.
It was immediate, too. I wanted to sleep, and the baby didn’t. I wanted to be alone sometimes, and I suddenly had three new people living in my house. I was on a crash course in mothering and relationship and step-parenting, all at once.
But it was the loss of big stuff that felt like a net tightening around me when I hadn’t been paying attention. My partner was the only one working outside the house. So of course I took over all the housework. I’d quit my career to do this, right? The least I could do was commit myself full time.
So I committed myself as hard as I’d committed to my career, the one that resulted in promotions and raises every year. I learned how to cook and shopped the farmer’s market weekly. I learned to clean tricky stains out of baby onesies and my man’s shirts.
I learned how to clean toilets and baseboards (they sure didn’t teach this stuff in my women’s studies classes!). I taught my daughter sign language and took her to baby yoga and Music Together and playdates, and we co-slept and I nursed her until she was three.
I stopped reading books. I stopped going out. I lost track of my old friends and didn’t make new ones, because my time was devoted to my family.
I was all in.
Except the job of Home Maker doesn’t come with any promotions or raises, and also basically no recognition. And it is far more than a full time position. I was working so hard, and no one really cared.
I had built for myself a tiny, tiny world.
My new job had taken over my life, and I wasn’t making any space for the woman I was outside of the mother and caretaker. I was dabbling a little with freelance writing and I had started a blog, but I mothering was my focus. That was who I was now: Mom. There was no room for anything outside of that any more.
I was miserable, but I didn’t even know how to talk about it. I thought this was how it was supposed to be. Wasn’t this what it meant to be a good mom?
My tiny life was suffocating me.
We wanted more kids, but I lost two pregnancies in one year. When I had just about worked up the courage to try again, I was felled by an abcess, which had turned into septic shock by the time I got to surgery. Six weeks later, the abscess came back. Then I had two rounds of pneumonia, one after the other. I was seriously sick for a solid year.
The housework and toddler-enrichment activities suffered, but I was still trying really hard to keep it all running.
I didn’t see it yet (how was I so blind?), but my body was telling me ENOUGH.
And then I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer.
That got my attention. I cleared the decks.
I let the housework go. I asked my family and friends to bring us food and I didn’t even care if it was organic. I hired and begged a lot of childcare. I sat down with my partner and got really clear about where I needed help. I quit writing on my blog. I took a writing class and got in touch with what I REALLY wanted to say (even if only in my private notebook). I rented a studio and started painting again for the first time in years.
Cancer treatment and recovery are the hardest things I’ve ever done, but that opportunity to pump the breaks on my life and re-build is what has saved my sanity.
Today, life no longer feels tiny.
I’m now almost four years out from my diagnosis and three years from rebuilding my life from the ground up. It hasn’t all been butterflies and roses - my relationship crumbled in the middle and we are still trying to rebuild, and I suffered many months of panic attacks.
But also, I spent a year training as a life coach, which I had wanted to do for years, and finally launched my business. I built a little studio in my backyard where I write and paint and podcast. I hired a cleaning crew and I have baby sitters on speed-dial.
I have friends who I meet for lunch or drinks on the regular and a book group where we dive deep on serious literary discussion. I just took a 4-week modern calligraphy class, just because I wanted to learn how to write pretty. I’m planning to travel this year - both with and without my family, and I’m pondering where my next annual girl’s weekend will be, and with whom (so far I’ve done Napa twice and then Santa Fe).
My life feels big again, and there is room for me in it. The parts of me that needed air are breathing fine again. I know who I am. I know my mind, and I’m not afraid to say what I want, or what I don’t. I’m learning how not to carry the whole burden, because it isn’t my job. I’m more than mom, I’m a woman with needs and desires and a voice.
And you know? My family and my home are fine, too. Better, even, because as they say, “When mama is happy, everyone is happy.”
I don’t want you to wait until your life falls apart to make it better. I can help you find room and direction in your life again, right now.
Would you like to learn more about how I can help you find yourself and create a life you love again? See how you can work with me here (link) or schedule a call to talk about the results you are looking for in your life.
New here? Here are some places to start:
Sign up for the Nurture Notes weekly email newsletter and get my free guide to help you learn to say "No," more easily and often.
Set up a free 30-minute coaching session.
Take a listen to the Nurturing Habit Podcast.
Listen to my interview on the Mom Hour podcast about Radical Self Care and Cultivating Creativity.