Monday, July 16, 2012

Who says I'm done growing?

My kids are always asking to measure themselves on our measuring wall.  Even if I just made a new pencil mark last week... they want to see if they're growing as fast as they think they are.  Often times they react with disbelief if they haven't shot up an inch in the past seven days.  But then they look at me (with pity) and say, "That's right.  You don't grow either."

Well, what they don't know won't hurt them, I guess...

In the past year I've grown more than my kids could ever imagined. I've transitioned from a stay at home mom to a part-time working mom to a full-time working mom, and what a transition!  My years as a full-time at home parent were so valuable -- but they couldn't have prepared me for the confidence I feel, the sense of growth in this new part of  my life. 

But with growth sometimes come growing pains.

At first, when I started working full time, I had a lot of guilt about not being 'there' for my kids.  And by not being there, I mean having a babysitter for my kids during the two hours of the day they weren't in school.  Trust me -- those two hours had me missing my crew like crazy.  The toughest part, though, was not being sure whether I could trust the care they were receiving, because let me tell you, the 'day care' experience was rough.  My kids encountered all the things I didn't want for them.

That's why I'd stayed at home for so long.  No one could care for my kids, could understand them like I could.  At the worst times, the (horrible) babysitter would refer to my children as "my kids".  I would correct her; No.  They're MY kids.

It was tough.  I had a friend who asked me over a casual lunch one day how I could live with myself, abandoning my kids.  Mom-judgment.  From someone I trusted.

Then there was the re-adjustment to professional life.  The learning that only comes from experience; learning that business is business and openness and friendship aren't always returned.  I'll admit, the ups and downs of the office involved a learning curve that was wholly unique.

But there have been bright spots.  I have become friends with people I never would have known otherwise.  I have learned to stretch myself, challenge myself, to be willing to take on more than I can handle comfortably, to try new things and build new skills.  I am working with people I respect, and who show me respect in return.

As I've helped my kids (and defended them) through the struggles of this year of transition, I have seen them become tougher, more resilient, more self-reliant and more cohesive as brothers and sisters.  Family has come to mean something -- a uniquely safe place that the pressures 'out there' can't touch.

My daughter has come to understand that her mom is strong.  Not just loving or understanding or fun.  And that even when I'm exhausted or stressed, I'm never too overwhelmed to love her more than anything else in my life.  I have seen her develop a strength of her own, and it amazes me.

Personally, I have found that my return to the workforce has given me something that motherhood alone was hard-pressed to provide.  Confidence. An intellectual challenge. An identity of my own. 

Maybe it's just a new life stage.  But it's one I like and love. 

So the next time one of my kiddos decides to sidle up to the measuring wall, maybe I'll consider taking a turn.  Who knows what I might find?

- Midwest Mom

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