Letters to myself: How milestones force us to take stock

Birthdays. The New Year. An anniversary. The end of summer. Groundhog Day. (Okay, maybe not Groundhog Day.) Has a year really gone by so quickly? Has ten?

In November every year, I celebrate turning the page. It’s my birthday and I never ignore it. It’s impossible for me not to consider what happened the previous 365 days, judge where I am in my life currently, and create some goals for next year. I have to examine whether or not I’ve worked hard to accomplish anything and explore my growth as a person. Some people prefer to open a present or two. I’d rather take stock. Like meditation, it’s an opportunity to stop, think and adjust.

When I was younger, mostly in my 20s, I tell people I pissed a lot of years away. I can’t get them back and I have yet to make peace with that. Until I do, I’ve made a promise to myself to not let birthdays go by without expressing gratitude for another year and looking in the mirror. What did I do well? Where is there room for change?

January 1st is also a day where many impose memories on the year past and create resolutions for the coming year. It can be unrealistic, but I partake anyway. My view of the world, while I’m watching the Rose Parade, is just that – global. The media offers their end of the year “best” lists of books, movies, television, sports. News outlets will often do a retrospective on what happened politically, environmentally and socially, and recap those who died. More than anything, it seems individuals feel hope on New Year’s Day, determined to write a happy and successfully story for themselves going forward. There’s nothing wrong with hope.

Anniversaries can be particularly profound. Every year on March 6, I stop and think of my father on the anniversary of his death. I’m sad but in the hustle and bustle of life, it seems okay to pause and allow that. Most of us now reflect on September 11th about where we were on that day in 2001 and how it changed our lives. Taking stock collectively, even for such a tragic event, feels right.

While some might consider milestones in strictly business terms, I think of them as opportunities to consider my life on life’s terms. It isn’t always easy, but it’s simple.

– Althea

The insecurities of a stay-at-home mom

We even have our own acronym: SAHM, though it hasn’t taken off as fast as WASP, YUPPIE, DINK, or NIMBY.  Still, it’s a distinction.  I wish it made me proud.

Before I had children, I enjoyed working in an office.  I liked the camaraderie, the challenge of solving problems, the routine, the paycheck.  It gave me purpose that was quantifiable.  This is what I do.  This is what I’ve done.

Circumstances with work and my husband’s job made it more practical for me to stay home when our first daughter was born.  After falling madly in love with her, I couldn’t imagine anything else.  Motherhood was all consuming and I didn’t want anyone but me to care for her.  She was a light I didn’t expect.  Shortly after she was born, I started working from home, which suited me just fine.

I continued working from home after my second daughter was born, but when I became pregnant with my third, it was just too much.  We couldn’t afford a nanny and decided to scrape by without my income.  I was now officially a stay-at-home mom.

I recall being at a music class with my children when one of the other mothers kissed her son and told him she’d see him later.  “Mommy has to go off to work.”  There was no drama.  He was apparently comfortable with this arrangement, fond of the nanny who took him from his mother, who to me appeared happier and more confident than I.  Was she?  Or was I just viewing her through my own insecure eyes?  And why was I insecure?  Because I thought at the end of her day, she could point to something specific and say look what I’ve accomplished.  At the end of my day, I had a diaper Genie that needed to be emptied.

I’ve realized over the years, especially as my children have gotten older, that it’s my responsibility to find peace in the choices I’ve made.  There are mothers who work and those who stay home.  I’ve compared my children to theirs to prove I’m made the wiser decision and always come up short.  There will always be children better and worse than mine.  The more I judge the parents, the more I will be judged, and then no one wins.  It’s then I realize motherhood was never a contest to begin with.

– Althea

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