In business, my husband is all about calculated risk. In our personal life we have never done anything “the way you’re supposed to.” What’s life without a few plot twists? We are high school sweethearts. We were still in college and I was working for a software company, when I found myself pregnant with our first daughter. I was 22 years old when she arrived.
We scrimped and saved and bought a home with a little yard. In 1996, two semi-broke, working college students could still buy a house in Sonoma County! (I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true!) In those early years, we took a calculator to the grocery store. I left school. I went to work before the sun was up and he worked swing shift so we didn’t have to put our baby in daycare. Along the way, we got married. Three of us became four and that same year we started a business. We decided that one of us at home was the best thing for our daughters. Then we partnered in a second business, unrelated to the first. There were ups and downs and for the most part, life was simple. I wouldn’t change any of it.
An acquaintance once told me that she had difficulty adjusting to becoming a mom (at 33) and she asked me what my back-up plan was? I never had a back-up plan before becoming a mom. I never gave it much thought. In high school and college I fouled off ideas like they were wiffle balls. Maybe I would be an attorney. Maybe a journalist, or a photographer. I loved the idea of being a flight attendant. The only thing I knew for certain was that at some point, I wanted to be a mom. Not just any mom. The best mom I was capable of being. My back-up plan was built in. We had two businesses. My husband would need help with those and then later there would be grandchildren. I was set.
That conversation was a light bulb moment and I ignored it. I realize now that she had more than a decade of adulthood under her belt before becoming a mother. Even if their focus shifts, older moms have building blocks that I would not establish until much later. At 33, I had been a mom nearly ALL my adult life and I really hadn’t established who I (me, myself, outside of my role as mom) was at all.
Someone could have flicked me on the ear, or at least mentioned it to me in passing. “Hey! HEY! Just a reminder that kids grow up fast! What if you and your husband aren’t on the same page? What are your plans after that? Do you want to be standing there, like a monkey in front of a mirror, just scratching your head? Why didn’t anyone tell me? (insert sarcastic chuckle here.)
Fast forward. I was on the precipice of 40 when our oldest daughter graduated from high school AND I realized my husband didn’t want my help. It was a triple whammy! What’s that old saying about just assuming? Yes, “judgement day” was coming, but between homework, shuttling kids among sports schedules, piles of laundry, cooking, errands, cleaning, etc. it always seemed so far off. Many times I said I would finish my degree before I turned 40, but I never felt like I had time to think about it. Truth? I never allowed myself to think about it. Part of me felt guilty thinking about myself. Of course, self-care isn’t selfish at all, but my identity was so wrapped up in being a mom and wife, I couldn’t see it at the time. Moms, take note! #selfcareisNOTselfish !!
In those final years, I built a bit of resentment and it took me awhile to sort through what I was feeling. Let’s be clear, my husband is a brilliant, hard-working man, who is also a wonderful husband, father, and best friend. I love him with my whole heart and every ounce of my being. I’m not exaggerating when I say he is brilliant. He is GOOD. AT. EVERYTHING. Do you know someone like that? I found myself torn between emotions. He goes to work everyday and is his own boss. He travels often, has client meetings, conference calls, barbecue nights, private track days, and dinners at nice restaurants. Sounds glamorous doesn’t it? It really isn’t. Most of me was “bragging rights proud” of his hard work and well deserved successes. A part of me was just the tiniest bit envious that his purpose was not in question and he still had it all figured out, and the other part of me was mad at myself for assuming I had a built in back up plan and not being able to step forward into my next phase.
I would bring up my feelings about becoming “irrelevant” and he would respond with “Well, you should…” He made it seem trivial, as though it was all just so simple. My blood would instantly boil (INCOMING!) and I would return fire with something really snarky like, “Well, when am I supposed to do that?” or “Wow! It must be nice to have time to figure out ALL the answers!” I know he was trying to help, but everything seemed impossible. Our busy season, according to the calendar, is from late February until late October; with miscellaneous events mixed into November, December and January. Our busy season, in reality, is all year long. So he was still traveling and I was still parenting (and cooking and cleaning and everything else.) He couldn’t possibly understand and I definitely did not want someone, whose identity was not in question, telling me what I should be doing. In those moments, I just wanted to be heard.
Pondering what life looked like beyond being a stay at home mom, I knew I had to figure out what my next act would be, but I had no idea what it was. Once I turned the “big 4-0” I felt like my timeline for decisions was limited and I no longer had time to waste. I wanted to go back to school, but I couldn’t decide on a direction. For the first time, I felt overwhelmed by the idea that I had done everything in my life backwards. It was suffocating. I was terrified of wasting time and yet, I was floundering like a trout on the dock, stuck in a cycle of thinking that I needed to have all the answers before I could begin.
One morning, over coffee, the tears welled up as I asked, “What if I choose wrong?” My husband very gently replied, “just take the first step” and finally a switch flipped. It’s a calculated risk. I don’t need to have all the answers right now, I just need to keep moving forward.
So for now I’m a mom, a wife, and more recently, I’m a student (again) and writer. We have never done anything the way “you’re supposed to.” It still seems to work just fine.