“So Lauren, what the hell have you been doing for the past 6 months?”
Valid question. I haven’t made any big announcement about this, with me not being online and all, but here it is. I’m pregnant. 26 weeks pregnant, to be exact. With a girl. And it seems like as soon as I saw that confirmation on a stick of plastic dripping with my own urine, everything changed. That’s around the time I started realizing that the work I was doing felt meaningless. That posting pictures of my coffee and writing about my favorite online branding tools and filtering and hashtagging and scrolling…it was all bullshit. I suddenly felt an enormous, much more meaningful job was placed in my hands and I needed the space to rise to the occasion.
The big realization came to me in one of my weekly therapy appointments. I am still in the throes of recovering from my depression symptoms, and talk therapy has been an enormous help. So, I was talking to her about how I’ve started losing interest in my work. And I didn’t know how to feel about that. I had spent so much time building this and working for it and all I wanted to do was let it go. And then I said it. The one sentence I would have never imagined I would ever say. “I just want to be a mom.”
What?! Wait…what?! Since when?
Luckily, I was sitting across from my therapist at the time and she was able to help me unpack this.
What it comes down to, in short, is this. All of my life, I have had a very clear vision for what my future would look like. I wasn’t meant to get married, stay home and raise kids. This wasn’t the 1950’s. I was meant for greatness. To go out and make something of myself. Get a great job, climb the ladder, prove myself. So that’s what I strived for. I took the classes to get the grades to pass the test to get into the right school to get into the right program to get the internship to join the clubs to climb and network and push and fight until finally I landed the job. I had arrived. Account executive at a creative ad agency. All of my hard work had paid off and I had finally gotten everything I had worked so hard for. At 22 years old.
Being 22 is a funny time. You really think you’ve got it all figured out, don’t you? Right out of college, the whole world at your fingertips. Until you stop to look around one day and realize…now what?
As long as I can remember, I have always had an answer to that question. I had a plan for the next step. I knew what I wanted and I did what I needed to do to get it. I wanted to be independent and self sufficient and successful on my own. I wanted to get mine, my way. I was never going to get married or have kids. People did that for all the wrong reasons and I wasn’t going to fall into that trap.
That was a really nice story, until it wasn’t. Until I found myself working at this job and having no idea what was next for me. For the first time in my life I didn’t have a plan or a goal. In the middle of reeling through that particular identity crisis, I met a guy. I fell in love. And quickly my life started down a path that I had nothing to do with. That is to say, I didn’t plan it. But I DID choose it. I didn’t know why at the time. I was just following instinct. It felt good and it felt right. Come to find out, its because this is who I was meant to be. Maybe we aren’t as in control as we think we are. We aren’t in control of who we are becoming. We just become it. And look back later and are able to put the pieces together for the map that got us here.
I decided I liked this guy enough to give this a try. I didn’t know what the future would look like. I couldn’t control the outcome. But for the first time, I accepted those universal truths rather than stubbornly deny them. Even more, I embraced them. I was very honest with him from the beginning. I let him know I was serious about him and that I think we could make this work, and if that ever changed I would make sure to tell him. And so, we embarked on the most profound chapter of either of our lives.
Over the course of 6 months, I quit my job, moved in with him and his two kids, we bought a house together and I became a step-mother. With what seemed like the snap of my fingers, I was suddenly a stay at home soccer mom real housewife of suburbia. I was suddenly domesticated. Cooking dinners, shuttling kids to soccer practice, scheduling playdates, cleaning the house, crafting school projects.
My first reaction was to reject all of this. This is not the life I was meant for. My husband (then boyfriend) used to ask me repeatedly to take over my bills. He runs a very successful business and he can afford to support me. Support me?! I don’t need a man to support me. I would fight him tooth and nail over every bill he tried to take from me. Take. As if he were someone stealing something from me. My independence? My freedom? Maybe. And I wouldn’t allow it.
Little by little, he started taking over my bills. I found myself for the first time as an adult in a position where I didn’t need to work to support myself. It was so jarring. I never considered this to even be an option. And yet, here I was. Financially supported, yet not working for a paycheck.
Of course, I was working. I was working my little butt off. Trying to prove that I deserved the support he was giving me. Trying to reciprocate it by raising his kids, keeping a clean home, making his life easier any way I could. But I still had that itch to be “working”. Like the work I was doing didn’t count.
So my husband, the successful business owner, encouraged me to start my own business. It’s what he knows best and he thought I’d be great at it. And for a time, I really was. With his support, I built a pretty solid online coaching business for myself. I had a solid brand presence, decent following, happy clients. I was really doing it.
That’s what I discovered in therapy that day. It seems like over the past few years, I had stumbled into my purpose without any effort of my own. I became the person I was supposed to be without even trying. I am meant to be a mom. And a homemaker. And a wife. These are things I would have never imagined in a million years I would be saying. I used to say marriage was an outdated institution that society pressures us into. I used to cringe at the sound of crying babies. I used to pity young mothers who had to give up their careers to stay home and care for their children. I used to roll my eyes at the rising divorce rate, as if to say “duh”.
But you know what makes me feel like my best self? You know what fills me with purpose? Drives me to be a better person? Lights a fire under my butt? Being a wife and mom.
And it wasn’t until I became pregnant with my own child that I was able to admit this. Because up until now, I was “only” a stepmom. And up until now, I’ve felt a void. Because as much as I am a mother to these 2 boys, as much as I do all that work and sacrifice myself and give everything I have and love them like they’re my own and teach them and nurture them. As much as all of that…they still have their real mom. They’ll always have her. And I’ll always be the step mom. Maybe one day they’ll grow up and appreciate what I’ve done, but that’s not even it. The thing is that they’ll never be able to give me all of their love, not like they give to their parents.
They love me, but its different. And I love them, but its different. Because it has to be. Because if I gave them my whole heart I would end up hurt and broken every week they go back to her. Every time they call her mom and me Lauren.
I’ll get into the trials and tribulations of stepmotherhood another day, but in short, it’s all the work of being a mom with half of the satisfaction. I can never give myself over fully to the boys. I can never rip myself open and love them without limits, because I will only end up hurt. Hurt, because they can never do that in return. They have a biological mom who they will always feel that way toward. It doesn’t matter if I’m the one who is with them the most, if I’m the one managing their schedules and doctors appointments and behavior and playdates and on and on and on. It’ll just always be different. We definitely love each other in a profound and extraordinary way, but we’ll always be holding a little something back, because that’s just the nature of our situation.
I’ve never really been able to wear that “mom badge” with pride. Strap it on and make it my identity, even though that’s exactly who I’ve been for the past 3 years.
As soon as I saw the word “pregnant” pop up on that stick, I felt a shift. All of these years of being a mom but never being able to really embrace the role fully. All of these years of sacrificing for the boys and giving to them and loving them. All of these years of being a closeted stay at home mom. I can finally come out! I AM A MOM. I am a really good mom and it is the best job in the world. It is also the most difficult and soul crushing at times. But the good outweighs the bad every time.