I recall crying the night before my first day returning to work after my four-month maternity leave. I wasn’t ready and had even convinced myself that my son wasn’t ready either. I also recall a time I felt extremely sad because I was missing my friend’s graduation celebration on one of Detroit’s pedal pubs because I had just given birth a few weeks prior. Neither were isolated events. In fact, FOMO, the “fear of missing out,” was taking over. I was terrified of missing out in two very important areas of my life: my life as a mother and also my life as Artina.
Like many other working mothers, my career resulted in me missing various aspects of my son’s life, including some of the “firsts.” It was hard for me to be at work and receive a text or phone call saying, “Guess what (Baby A) did today?!” I spent a lot of time wondering and questioning if my teaching career was worth it. How could I impact the lives of other children when I’m missing so much of my own?
To combat my mom guilt, I spent almost all of my non-working hours with my son. I often jam-packed our schedules with mommy and me classes, mom groups, play dates, park trips, etc. As you can imagine, we would take hundreds of pictures; I had to make up for the lost time I had from him. I love my son and felt that spending time with him illustrated that.
However, there was a downside. I was, as a result, missing all of the non-kid-friendly activities my friends and partner were having. I grew envious of the “freedom” they had, especially my partner. And despite spending my non-work time with my son, I often found myself lonely and craving adult interaction. I was not my happiest. Not only was I teaching 40+ hours a week, but I then came home and was mommy to a small child who depended on me for everything. I couldn’t even take a poop alone. My friends were out having fun, and I was missing in every photo I’d see on social media…
As a result, I began to lash out at my partner and the small support system that I trusted to watch my son. This further isolated me. I wanted to be with my son, but I also wanted to have a life outside of being a mom, too. Is it not possible for me to do both? There just didn’t seem time for me to be anything other than a mother and teacher. I felt like I was losing myself. Feeling this way was not OK…I couldn’t go on living like this! I didn’t like how unhappy I was. Changes had to be made.
Fixing My Reality
The changes started with me making time for me. This time for me was whatever I wanted it to be: me going to the gym, me going to the salon, me getting a mani/pedi, me going out with friends, etc. I started making me-time one outing a month, which is now up to an outing whenever I need. Ultimately, I had come to the realization that I could not be the best mom for my son if I wasn’t feeling and being the best me.
I also had to start trusting others to take care of my son. This was big for me! I had a very short list of people I trusted to be around my son outside of my presence. My partner and family members (Baby A’s suga, mimi, aunt, and uncle) did a good job in my absence, but their free time to watch Baby A was limited. I had to be open to letting others love my son and care for my son, too.
Lastly, I had to prioritize. I asked myself what exactly am I, or might I, be missing out on? The first few years of life are truly essential for child development. My son was and is the main priority in my life. I certainly missed my share of good times with friends, but I didn’t have to be at every event just like I don’t have to hear my son speak each word he learns for the first time.
Those three solutions really made a difference. Now, not only do I get to spend quality time with my son, but I have also made time to do things that I did before I was a mother. At the end of the day, I am happy to have the memories that I have with my son. However, I feel better knowing that I am in a better mental space now, being both a great mother to my son, as well as still being Artina.