I had my kids young. I was 23 when I got pregnant the first time, but I may as well have been a child for how little I had figured out about life. I became a mom before I became a woman, before I had a career or any discernible path figured out. Those early days were slow and torturous, and so many times I wondered if I’d made the right choice. I wanted to travel more, I wanted to do more and try more, and I wanted to know myself so much better than I did. On the hardest days, I promised myself I’d make time for me once my daughter was self-sufficient. Instead, I got pregnant again.
I’m happy with my life right now but it took a long time to get to that place, and there are days when I still find myself daydreaming about those child-free 20s I never had. Regret is such a heavy burden to carry, especially because it comes with the added stress of knowing you’re not supposed to feel that way. You’re not supposed to think about life without your kids or your partner. You’re not supposed to wonder what it’d be like if it all went a different way.
A post on Yahoo Parenting caught my eye this week because it touched on this very subject. It was written by a mother of three whose own mother told her once that if she could do it all over again, she wasn’t sure if she’d have kids. The writer was 12 and felt startled by her mom’s words, but years later finally knows what she was talking about.
At 12, her words stung. I had no idea what she meant or why she said it. Did she really wish I hadn’t been born? It is only now, 20 years later, with three kids of my own, that I understand what she meant. It’s not that she didn’t love me. It’s not that she wished she didn’t have me. It’s that she knew becoming a mom meant her life would never again be entirely her own.
I will never tell my kids about the part of me that feels neglected and worried, unseen and uncertain, but it’s there. It will always be there. It doesn’t diminish my love for them and I’d trade nothing for the life I have with them, but freedom still calls to me at times. I won’t apologize for that.
The author of the Yahoo post talked to a psychologist who told her, “The important thing is to accept that all feelings are okay.” Obviously if your feelings are overwhelming or interfering with your ability to parent, you should talk to someone. But outside of that? It’s normal to wonder what-if. It’s normal to think about how you might have done it differently. It’s normal to acknowledge that you didn’t stop being you the second you became ‘mom’ to someone else.