cover image by ray hennessy
When my eldest was born she had a foot deformity. The top of her foot pressed back against her shin. I immediately fast-forwarded to five years later when she was trying to keep up with her friends only to be laughed at and teased because she would run with a limp, if she were able to run at all. My heart felt like it might burst with the pain and hurt feelings she would have to experience.
Like any new parent would, we told our pediatrician to send in the best Pediatric Orthopedist this tiny island state had to offer. Silence filled the room as my husband googled the specialist she recommended while I held my daughter and cried, promising her that we would get through this. I would be strong enough for us both. I would instill in her a sense of self-worth that went beyond her physical appearance.
The specialist arrived at 8pm and looked at her foot and said, “Oh, she’ll be fine. She just needs a splint for a couple of weeks. You can do some light stretching twice a day. I’ll send someone tomorrow to show you how to stretch and wrap her foot. Ok?”
I remember feeling stunned. Were we looking at the same foot? The top of her foot was pressed back against her shin! Sure I could pull it down, but once I let go it would flap back up. How could that be fixed with a simple splint?
Sure enough, day by day we began to see improvement and by the end of the second week her foot was fine. Despite the Pediatric Ortho’s assurances, I went back to visit him twice more. He finally laughed and said, “Look, I don’t want to just take your money. So why don’t you come back once she’s started walking if it’ll make you feel better.”
I can look back at that time and smile now, but if I think about it too much, my eyes fill with tears. My husband and I emerged from those two weeks realizing that as parents all we can do is our best and hope we get lucky along the way.
So much of my parenting journey has been about emerging. It’s been about riding the current and sometimes letting the undertow take me where it wants to go. For the past four and half years my life has been dictated by the needs and constant growth changes of my children, but now, as they get older and more independent, I am once again emerging.
Recently, I spoke with my husband about a growing unease I was having. I was beginning to feel unsatisfied and becoming more frustrated over the small things. He listened and suggested to me that now was the right time to pick up more clients or perhaps look at getting a regular full-time job with set hours.
He was right. It definitely made more sense to have a double income household with two college tuitions we wanted to pay for and the hopes of one day retiring. The cost of living is constantly rising, but salaries typically trail at a much slower pace.
But I was reluctant if I’m honest. I had placed my novel on hold for the last four years and instead focused on caring for our girls as a full-time stay-at-home-mom. This was a tough discussion for me because I wondered when would I be able to put my goals back at the front and center? These last four years have been great being able to stay with my girls and watch them change and grow each day. So many mothers don’t have that opportunity. I was in a very fortunate situation.
Intellectually I understood this, but emotionally it felt like time was finally emerging for me to achieve some of my goals (like finishing my novel). As a stay-at-home-mom it can sometimes feel very isolating and that your existence only matters to the extent that your children are happy and are meeting their milestones. You cling to the memories of the once-successful you while at the same time feel paralyzed by the guilt at the mere thought of wanting more than motherhood.
My girls were now in school and finally sleeping through the night, which meant I had a solid 3.5 hours Monday – Friday to write and a full 8 hours of sleep at night. The universe was finally coming together in my favor and I was finally emerging into the sunlight of… of well, me! And this new me finally had time to write!
A full-time job would mean a lot less time with the girls (was I ready for this?) and putting my novel on hold yet again. Luckily, a friend more valuable than any of the accolades I could bestow on her sat down with me one Friday morning and helped me outline my ideal job. Her youngest was the age of my eldest and therefore she had been through what I was going through: another emergence.
The last time I had a corporate job was 2008, and so I wasn’t hopeful that it would be an easy job search. Most recruiters are transactional and only work with the easy-to-place job seekers. But I stayed active with my own small business, writing and editing articles, and working with clients to help them with their communications needs. So my friend and I created a job description for a position which would combine my HR background, project management experience, and my communications work.
A few days later that ideal job became a reality as I was approached by a former colleague to work on a contract basis doing exactly what I wanted: engaging, intellectual work that utilizes my past and current experiences, still spend time with my girls in the afternoons, and dedicate an hour a day to my novel.
I’m surprised at how much my self-confidence has increased and the impact that has had on my attitude as a mother and wife. I have reconnected with the independent woman who started down this path all those years ago. It feels like breaking through to the surface, inhaling once again after a long-held breath, like a butterfly emerging from her cocoon.