Wednesday, February 6, 2013

thoughts on an identity crisis and learning about myself

i've been wanting to write this post for quite some time now but haven't been sure how to put into words all my thoughts and feelings. but this my attempt.

before hero, i had worked very hard for a very long time to build my life and my sense of self into something that i was proud of. i had earned a master's degree in a field i adored and was lucky enough to have a great job working in that field as an art therapist with adolescents. i also taught as an adjunct professor at a local university and found teaching to be incredibly rewarding. it sounds silly but i often felt impressed with and proud of myself when i was working and when i thought about all i had accomplished by my mid-twenties. 

then hero came into our lives and things changed. i felt a level of love, happiness, and excitement that i never knew before. my relationship with chas deepened and my appreciation for his love and goodness grew even stronger. we were a family of three now and my life suddenly felt so much more complete and meaningful than before. 

and then came the reality of being a stay-at-home mom: staying home all day. for the past two months, or so, i've really been struggling with this. being an art therapist and teaching a class full of college students during the day had suddenly been replaced with a trip to the grocery store and an occasional afternoon play date with mom friends (thank goodness for these friends!). i found myself in a whole new and different life and, to be honest, i'm still trying to figure it out. i often felt jealous of chas. it seemed like he got to the live the best of both worlds: going to work every day where he got to be creative, challenged, and interact with like-minded professionals and then come home and get to be a dad for the evening. 

of course i love being a mom and am so grateful for the chance i have to stay home all day with my daughter but that doesn't mean there aren't some challenges. in the process of stepping into this new world of stay-at-home mom-ness, i felt like i was losing myself. that person i had worked so hard to become had all but disappeared and i wasn't sure who i really was anymore outside of the title "mom."  i'm still not sure but i think i'm getting closer to finding out. 

then, last night, i stumbled upon a blog of a talented photographer named, rachel thurston. i started reading some of her recent posts and found that, in just a few short sentences, she said pretty much exactly how i have been feeling AND answered a lot of questions i had been grappling with as well!

in this post she says,

  • Am I a bad mom because I want to spend time working?- Somedays it might feel like it but NO! That’s like asking if I am am a bad mom for being me? NO. If I try to be something I am not I will only hurt my family and myself. Working and neglecting my responsibilities as a parents are two different things. I work FOR my family. But I am learning how much I want and need to work. It’s a gut feeling I am learning to listen to and not ignore.
  • What do I need to feel content?- Is a creative person ever content? I can be happy and positive but I have come to accept there will always be more that I want and need. It keeps me moving forward.
i felt so much validation and clarity after reading this. 

first, i LOVE the idea that spending time working and being a great mom are NOT mutually exclusive. instead, for me, being able to work- and thus, being able to be more of who i am- can make me a better mom because i'm being true to my whole self. i just really love that truth. 

secondly, for years and years i've struggled with feeling content. i've written plenty of blog posts about wanting to be better at being content with life and more grateful. at the same time, however, i DO feel like i'm a grateful person and that i DO see and appreciate all the blessings i have. so it's always felt a little confusing to me as to why i feel grateful but then continue to struggle with grabbing hold of that ever-elusive "contentedness." 

maybe i'm a total dummy but i had never thought of a creative person never feeling content- simply because they're creative. it was like a breath of fresh air in being allowed to accept that part of myself and even acknowledge my discontent as being a good thing! after all, it was my discontent and creative drive that started our little film production company, kelly arts: films. in fact, i can probably trace almost any creative accomplishment in my life to this same struggle with feeling fully content. only, now i don't see it as a struggle, but as...a talent? yes. a talent. 

i have great hopes that, in time, i will find a balance between being the great mom that i am and being the great creative, working woman that i am as well.

here's to constantly moving forward! 


B said...

Okay. I feel like you just wrote everything I'm feeling right now. I'm not having a baby, or becoming a stay at home mom just yet, but I am getting married. So, of course I have been thinking about who I am, what type of wife I want to be, what kind of mother I want to be. I am a musician at heart, so I also have that little feeling of longing constantly. Let's embrace it!

Thanks for posting. This is inspiring.

xo - Becs, Good As Gold

Cas said...

I totally and completely understand. Even though I'm not a mom yet, I can already forecast myself feeling these things you're describing one day. I know that I won't find the same fulfillment in grocery shopping and dinner-cooking that I do in my work. I just went through a short spell of unemployment and even that was agonizing. I'm sure it will be slightly better knowing that it's a choice to stay home with a child as opposed to a lack of work, but the struggle still remains. Good luck on the constant quest for contentment! We're all with you.

Stephanie Griffioen said...

This makes such simple and complete sense it's almost shocking.
Feeling discontent, yet being so grateful...the creative person that is me... This just plain makes sense. Thank you for sharing this!

Amy said...

I love this post, mainly because I love that you make it okay to have a minor identity crisis. I feel like I'm in the middle of one too, and it's nice to not feel alone in that :)

Catherine said...

I just had a baby last year and I've been feeling the exact same way! Being his mom is awesome, but like you, a lot of days I was left thinking "but who am I?" I've coped with it by finding ways to be creative--and so I loved how you connected the sentiment that that creative drive is also what makes me antsy. I'm going to work on channeling that creativity into a sense of self. Thank you for putting those two ideas together--and I'm so glad to know I'm not the only new mom feeling this way!

Anonymous said...

You often seem to say what others don't think, lesson of the day - there can be a positive in discontent! I think sometimes we're taught not to be discontent as it can drive us to pursue things in a direction away from God, but it's good to remember discontent can do the opposite too. Thank you for sharing and being inspiring.

Meredith Bleak said...

It wasn't that long ago that is seemed my only tasks were 'mom' duty, and I longed for the att-a-boys that came from doing a job well. But I've learned, motherhood, like the rest of life, is a balancing act. What works today may not work tomorrow. Kids change so quickly and move through stages so rapidly that you'll find you're constantly changing and adapting to keep up. Great parents always second guess themselves in an attempt to be better for their kids. As long as keep trying and show 'H' unconditional love, she will grow up to be a strong, capable woman.

leah ruth said...

it is hard adjusting once you have a new little one... i went through it when i had my baby, and before that when i got felt like i was losing myself by gaining them, and it took a while to adjust and understand that i wasn't loosing me, but i was adjusting and re-prioritizing... and i continue to need to. i have a ton of flexibility with my job, so i still work - but i have cut back. i have found new creative outlets that i enjoy from home. maybe it's not about striving to be content all the time, but just about enjoying what is happening around you as you and your family continue to move along?

Kayde said...

Thank you thank you thank you!
You described this so beautifully. I don't have children yet and my husband really wants me to be a stay at home mom but I love working. You described my fears and answered them so well.

Maddie said...

Love this. We have very similar school/work stories and I'm expecting our first baby in a few months. I've always dreamed of being a stay at home mom, but I freak out at the thought of people knowing me as "only a mom" when I've worked so hard to accomplish so much. Then I feel bad, because mom is the ultimate job I've always wanted, I value it very much and know the importance of those early years. I think I'm going to work part time as just a therapist after baby girl gets here which I'm hoping will allow me to be "true to my whole self." I'm trying to prepare for my world to be rocked, but I'm pretty sure nothing will prepare me for this kind of rocking!

Lindsay said...

You just posted EXACTLY what I have been feeling over the past few months -- and feeling guilty for feeling. My husband and I are about to start trying to have a baby, and while I'm excited, I'm also incredibly nervous about what the future holds.

When I was younger, I always thought I would want to be a stay-at-home mom, because that's what my mom was and I loved coming home and knowing that she was always there. And then I went to college and found out that I really was a talented writer and that I liked writing. And THEN I landed this amazing job at a company where I feel needed and wanted, and I know I'm making a big difference every day.

I know my feelings will change when I have a baby and want to take care of him/her, but I also know that I won't be content to stay at home and not work. This feeling has been tearing me apart, so I'm glad to know that other moms make work and home life come together!

Sorry for the ENORMOUS comment -- I just wanted you to know that you're totally not alone and that I've been thinking (and wanting to post something) for months.

Mia said...

This might be a dumb question.. but why don't you go back to work? Professors have a flexible schedule, and you can get day care for Hero. Being a stay-at-home mom isn't for everybody! I know lots and lots of my friends, their parents used day care/nannies and it didn't stunt their development or relationship with their parents! If you're feeling so unfulfilled, maybe it's time to shed the " I need to be a stay at home mom because it's expected of me (if that's your rational)" and become who you really are. Anywho, this is just a third party perspective. I obviously don't know all the details ;)

Stephanie said...

Obviously any decision you make will be personal, and only you and your spouse can know what is best for your family. But I've read your blog for a long time now, and I've watched you express feelings about missing work, and I wanted to say "IT'S OKAY TO GO BACK IF YOU WANT." Look, I don't know you. I know we only see snippets of your life on the blog. But from what I see, I know you love mothering, and I know you love working. If you want, you can feel fulfilled in your role as a wife and mother AND your role as a professional. It is really hard. The first year is challenging. But, it is so, so worth it.

I work part-time and have a little girl just a few months older than Hero. I went back to work after staying home for five months. Learning to balance work and parenting has made me a much more attentive and devoted parent. Best of all, I feel happy. I feel like my daughter is getting my very best self. Our relationship has gotten better because I feel so much more in tune with myself, and therefore much more in tune with my mothering instincts. Additionally, my relationship with my spouse improved. We had a great relationship before, but we became a better, more thoughtful team when we had to face the challenge of both of us working.

If you want to make working part of your life, you can do it. Hero will be blessed to see a mother who makes her professional life and her role as a mother coincide. She will be blessed to learn from your challenges.

That said, if you decide staying at home is still the best option, she will learn that you can find ways to feed your creative soul in other ways.

Either way, you will continue to be a great parent.

Obviously, this topic hits a nerve for me. I've had to justify my decision to work to lots of people. I just wanted to offer a voice of support (even if it is from a stranger who is different from you in many ways,) if you decide to work in some way. It really is a completely viable option.

Dana Staples said...

I'm in the same position with my one year old baby. The weirdest part for me is that I never thought I wanted to work until having my baby and then I realized I just really really need that drive and challenge and creative outlet to feel fulfilled. I want to be a writer and I've been finding ways and looking for ways to work from home/write from home/do creative projects and it makes me so much happier. If I ever start to feel resentful that I can't devote myself fulltime to these endeavors, I remember that for myself, I wouldn't be happy leaving my baby with another caregiver while I worked away at an office. We are women and so either choice will involve sacrifice and I have to be happy with what I've chosen and remember that no choice would be picture perfect. I'm impressed with your priorities and accomplishments. Thanks for sharing. I hope you continue doing so, because it's awesome to read things like this and know my feelings aren't just my own.

emma said...

i'm obviously not a mom yet, but i have a feeling i will be having the exact same feelings as you sam. it's so hard! i hope you can find the perfect balance soon between being a mom & a working gal.

Amy said...

I've had similar thoughts lately.

I became pregnant with my son during my last semester of college. So I basically went from being a student, something I had done for 17 years, to a mom.
I wasn't used to being not a student. I didn't know what to do. With every new opportunity comes adjustment periods. And sometimes those adjustments periods are hard because even though you like what you're doing and know it's a good thing, you miss your old life. I felt this every time I returned to college after a break or when I started a new job.

For me, I have decided that even though I really want to go to grad school (I want to be an art therapist like you!), I can wait. I'm sometimes jealous of my husband for getting to interact with adults and my fellow grads who are having creative adventures. I'm definitely still having growing pains adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom, but this is what I want to be doing right now. My undergrad was fine art, and I'm still figuring out how to incorporate creating into my mom life.

Again, this was just what I decided was right for me. I have nothing against moms working! I agree with what Rachel Thurston said. I just thought I might offer what I learned as someone going through a similar situation.

Good luck figuring out what's best for you and your family!

Jennie said...

I've been thinking about this issue a lot lately, but moreso from a societal perspective. It annoys me that the two options that women seem to have are to either stay at home with their children, or go back to work and be separated from their children. I mean, if women want or need the time away from the child, that is one thing, but why do we have to have a culture where women are stripped of their ability to work as they naturally are - as mothers?

If you look at this image:, you can see more of what I would like to see in the world. Mothers being in the workplace with children. Why do children have to be separated out from life, kept from the "real world"?

To me, if feminism should fight for anything, it should be this, because equality is not doing the same things, it is realizing the differences and creating equitable, not just equal opportunities.

Alie said...

I am so glad you posted what I cannot seem to put into words. I was an art major in college, and then right after I graduated I became a mama. I am struggling to channel my inner artist amidst being a mother!

Jenna said...

My situation is a bit unique as I had my baby before I got my degree, so I felt my fate was sealed as far as careers go. Eventually I was forced to juggle motherhood and employment due to the financial needs of our family. I began writing as a freelancer from home from a reputable company. It brought in some much-needed income but it also did wonders for my self-esteem and validated my hard-earned degree. A few years later I began teaching private music lessons and running social media for a large organization. Now I have not one but two children and realize that you can be and do whatever you want. BUT! It has not come easy. Some days, after cleaning up accidents, doing loads of laundry, running the carpool and playing with my kids, the last thing I want to do is teach a bunch of piano lessons. But you know, it is fulfilling to utilize my talents and I'm also lucky to have a great husband who supports me in my jobs and also helps out a ton around the house.

I'm glad you wrote this post. The last thing a new mom needs is added guilt. You can find a balance and you will. Just don't be in a hurry to figure everything out. Enjoy your new little baby and this simple time in your life.

Rachael said...

I feel a lot of what you're feeling. I'm not a mom, but I do deal with feelings of not feeling content and wondering what to do about it.
I don't think being content is the be all and end all though. I mean, if you're content, does that mean there's nothing to strive for?
Although, being content is probably a relief as well, since you pretty much having everything in life you want.
So it's pretty difficult to figure out the right thing.
For me, I'm still searching to be content.
But I know some of what you're feeling. I'm a Nanny, and being one, I have to stay home with the kids I watch all the time, and I don't even have other moms to talk to, since I'm not one!
But it surprises me that you feel that way, just because reading blogs a lot, makes me think your life is just perfect, but I'm learning how that's not always the case.
Of course, I don't want you to have these problems, or any difficult things, but it just puts things into perspective.
But I hope you figure how the right balance between being a Mom, and also with your creative/work needs :)