One Year Later
A lot can happen in a year. Hell, a lot can happen in a minute, so when you think of it like that, a year sounds like an infinite amount of time. For the last year, I’ve been a stay at home mom to my four kids – all boys. Yes, all boys. And no, we’re not trying for a girl. To say I’ve battled anxiety over the course of the last 365 days is a gross understatement of what the word anxious actually means. To be truthful, I’ve always battled my fair share of depression and anxiety. So even to make the decision to take a full year off from my high school teaching job was an extremely anxiety inducing process.
But over the course of the last week, as my son’s first birthday approaches, rapidly and seemingly without warning, I’ve felt an entirely new force of anxiety barreling through my life. If you ask any stay at home parent, you know that their day is anything but relaxing. You can read any online article or blog post to see what it’s really like to be a stay at home parent. And I knew taking a year off from teaching was not going to be a walk in the park. Since I was young – like thirteen – I’d always had a job. From babysitting, to being a cashier at CVS, to coaching and then teaching, there wasn’t a day in the last twenty-plus years that I hadn’t worked. Even recently, adding author and independent business owner (with Rodan and Fields) seems crazy to most. But it was just how my life was.
Back to the new form of anxiety. You ready for this one? I’m anxious because I feel like I’ve wasted my time – more specifically, I feel as if I’m running out of time. And I know my fellow teacher friends can commiserate with that August-long feeling of “running out of time.” It’s inevitable, really. But in the last week or so, I’ve had a running loop of Melissa’s Year in Review playing in my head. With one of the best anxiety beating tools in my pocket (list making, which leads to crossing off items on a list – ahh so satisfying), I figured I would try and make a list of what I’ve done with my time. Sometimes seeing it in black and white makes it that much easier to digest.
I’ve made 540 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (give or take, depending on the days they buy lunch). I’ve washed, dried, and folded approximately 365 loads of laundry and unloaded the dishwasher just about as many times. I’ve cleaned the cat litter box more times than I’d like to count. I’ve chauffeured the three older boys to summer camp, soccer, swimming, and now little league a few times a week during each season, all the while, lugging Owen with me. And even as I began thinking of these items during the week, I thought to myself, “These are the things I would do even if I was teaching.” And isn’t that the harsh truth. All the items I wrote on my daily to-do list were items on my Melissa as a Teacher list as well. They simply had to occur after the school day as opposed to when I wanted to get them done.
So then I thought about making a list of all the things I didn’t have to do this year – you know, since I was home from work. And all I could come up with was that I didn’t have to teach.
But even that isn’t true. I taught second grade math to the boys (and to myself on more than a few occasions). I taught Lucas how to write his letters and even how to begin reading. I tried (and failed miserably) at teaching seven year olds how to tie shoes. I taught three boys how to be big brothers all over again, with one doing it for the first time. I taught my family how to come together as a family of six instead of five. I taught myself to change a tiny diaper all over again.
So then I narrowed it down to what else I didn’t do this year – I didn’t learn (at least as far as being a teacher is concerned – no trainings, no technology updates, no professional development, etc).
But oh how I learned so, so much. I learned how to love my husband again in an entirely new way. I saw my older kids in a brand new light and I fell in love with them all over again. I learned how big my heart is and how infinite my capacity to love really is. I learned patience, and am still learning on that one. I learned how to deal with sadness and depression while three little boys watched me cry, not knowing how to help their mommy. I learned how to laugh despite the struggles of navigating my new normal. I learned just how damn strong I am – as a wife, as a mother, as a woman, as a friend, as Melissa.
So when I told my husband that I was anxious because I felt like I accomplished nothing in my year “off”, he simply laughed at me. He said, “Honey. You wrote and published a book. You built a pretty damn successful business. You got to be only a mom for a full year. You were present in their lives all day, every day (yes, even he had the good sense to laugh at that one). You raised a brand new baby. Babe, you kicked this year’s ass more than any other year before it.”
And tonight, as I sat here feeding Owen his bottle and cuddling with him, I scrolled through my TimeHop and a Facebook post from a year ago came up. It read, “I made it – not that I really had any control over it in the first place – but today is my last day of teaching for over a YEAR! So weird! Now, we wait til Wednesday.”
As my time off comes to a close, and we wait til Thursday for Owen to turn one, I won’t lie and say I’m not anxious. But I’ve added a new emotion to the mix.
I am so damn proud of myself for all I did and all I haven’t done this year. For all the love I’ve given and for all the tears I’ve cried. For all the early mornings and late nights. For all the kisses and cuddles. For the boo-boo kissing, and lesson teaching (even the lessons involving raising my voice more than just a little). For the times when I was oh-so present in every moment in their lives, and for all the moments I needed to check out.
I’d like to say I made it, that I survived, but I think the accomplishment I’m most proud of this year is realizing that this – my life, raising my kids, working my jobs, being a wife – it’s not something you get through.
It’s the blood flowing in your veins and the air filling your lungs. It’s not the thing you survive, but the thing that gives you life.
Or that you give life to.