On motherhood and leaping, by Christine Woodcock
If money were no object, if fear were no object, if you could do anything in your life, live anywhere—Where would you live? What would you do? What would your life be like?
In order to answer these questions truthfully, takes a lot of courage. It requires one to simply leap. Back in 2006, as I sat in the living room of my lakeside home in Connecticut, I somehow mustered my nerve and finally responded:
"I would live right here in this house in CT. I love this house and the lake. I would go down to only teaching part-time, and I would like to become a stay-at-home mother for a while and do some writing. I've always wanted to be a writer and I don't have the nerve to do it. Moreover, I think I've always wanted to have a child, but it seems too huge to contemplate."
In my experience, once you say you are going to do something, you had better ante up. And I... didn't. I ran away instead. I ran away from what I really wanted, and I did something radically different instead. To this day, I'm not exactly sure why, although I do have my theories. For one, I was merely afraid. And second, I do think I wanted to get out there and experience other things in life-other cities and ways of living.
So, in a rather rash move, my husband and I were packing up not even a year later and moved to Baltimore in 2007. We bought and restored a historic brick row home in downtown Baltimore, just blocks away from serious crime. I supervised student teachers in inner-city schools. Was it rewarding? Sure. Did I enjoy myself? To some extent. To be completely honest, though—I was miserable. City life just didn't resonate with me. To top it all off, both of my parents became seriously ill the year we lived in Baltimore. So, I knew I needed and wanted to move north again.
Of course, at that point I had another opportunity to do what I really wanted to do, deep down, the way I had expressed a couple of years prior, but I ran again. So, just before the huge real estate bust, we somehow sold our house in Baltimore and moved to New Hampshire.
What happened? I can't say for sure, but again, the NH environment just didn't resonate with me. For a woman who sure does love to teach, I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning. The working conditions at my job were the worst I had ever experienced, and I've taught at a number of schools over the years. Oh, and of course, since I'm being honest, I wasn't doing what I truly wanted to do. That's really the key, isn't it?!
So a couple of years ago, I somehow gradually got back in touch with the courage of my original goals and re-discovered the truth of what I wanted to be doing. Over the course of a few months, the pieces fell back into place.
Believe it or not, our landlords from the lake house in CT called to tell us that their tenants were moving out and they were wondering if we would ever consider moving back in. Yes, we proclaimed. I resigned from my job at the conclusion of the school year, packed a U-Haul truck and moved back into the same house we had just moved out of two years prior. It was like reuniting with an old friend.
As I sit here typing this in 2010, I am once again in the CT lake house, but this time I am staring at my gorgeous 4 month-old daughter. Sure, the house is far more chaotic than it ever used to be. There are a dozen plastic bottle nipples all over my kitchen table, and my daughter is batting noisily at the toys hanging from her bouncy chair. My hair is a mess, I am wearing no make-up, and I am horribly sleep-deprived. I do indeed only teach part-time now, on an as-needed basis, and when I can muster the energy and focus, I do write. As strange and foreign as it all feels, it also feels completely natural.
I'm 35 years old and I've been married 11 years. I resisted becoming a mother for many years. It seemed like such a huge, life-altering endeavor, and it is.
Prior to my own pregnancy, whenever my loved ones announced a pregnancy or a birth, I wept, both out of joy for them, and there was also an unexplained sadness I felt in my heart. If I tried picturing myself with an infant, I felt anxious and physically ill. I wanted to retain my freedom—traveling constantly, or having late-night drinks, etc. I wondered why people always maintained those cliches about parenting being so magical. Parenting looked like a humongous sacrifice to me, and one I wasn't willing to take.
Then, my dear friend Larissa pushed me to ponder why I resisted motherhood so much.
As the brilliant Carl Jung reminds us, "What you resist persists." Well, who am I to argue with Jung? He's right! Thanks to Larissa, my advice to anyone would be to look deeply into whatever it is that you appear to passionately resist in your life. What makes you uncomfortable, yet intrigues you? Why do you get anxious or insanely weird around certain topics? Those are the precise points to explore in your life. That is how you simply leap.
In order to simply leap, you do have to explore what frightens you. You must stop resisting and go for it. There are no guarantees anything will work out. It just has to be somehow worth it to you.
Oh, and all of the cliches about parenting are true. It is magical. Every single time my daughter smiles at me with that toothless grin, or wraps her hand around my index finger, my heart melts. Sure, I miss my trips to Europe and my late-night cocktails, but she is SO much better—diapers and all!
I'll end with a quote from Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn. I think it explains a lot about how to leap, whether it's into parenthood, or any other large, scary endeavor in life.
Listen to the shift -- it's calling you, whether you're ready to hear it or not. You've got the courage to simply leap.
"When we become parents, whether intentionally or by happenstance, our whole life is immediately different, although it may take some time to realize just how much.
Being a parent compounds stress by orders of magnitude. It makes us vulnerable in ways we weren't before. It calls us to be responsible in ways we weren't before. It challenges us as never before, and takes our time and attention away from other things, including ourselves, as never before. It creates chaos and disorder, feelings of inadequacy, occasions for arguments, struggles, irritation, noise, seemingly never-ending obligations and errands, and plenty of opportunities for getting stuck, angry, resentful, hurt, and for feeling overwhelmed, old, and unimportant.
And this can go on not only when the children are little, but even when they are fully grown and on their own. Having children is asking for trouble. So why do it? Maybe Pete Seeger said it best: ‘We do it for the high wages...kisses.'
Children give us the opportunity to share in the vibrancy of life in ways we would not touch were they not part of our lives....they share ...[their] vital nature with us and call it out of us as well, if we can listen carefully to the calling."