After I had my first child and my 12 weeks of maternity leave were over, I was ready to go back to work. I ran to the stores and bought dresses in larger sizes, still not back to my original weight. I got my hair cut. I bought new shoes. I was ready. And then I went back. I was not ready. I would cry anytime someone would ask me about my daughter, I would rush to pick her up from daycare and I hated the idea of someone else caring for her. At the same time, I loved what I was doing at work. The more exciting I found my job, the guiltier I felt! It took me a full six months to marry being a mom with being a professional. I just could not straddle the two. I felt as if I was failing at being a mom, a wife and a marketer. In those six months, with a supportive boss and supportive co-workers, I waded through my emotions and learned to find strength through gaining news skills as a mom. And the more sleep I got, the better I was at my job and the less emotional I was – WHO KNEW?!
Just last year, I went back to work after my second child was born. Having the experience to know that I wasn’t going to get out of the gate running, I gave myself time. Time to get my body back, and to ease into pressure situations. I left work to nurse him twice a day for the first three months. It felt good. The context gave me power. I recently got a promotion and won an award for the work that I do. I’m proud to say I’m not perfect everyday and those occasional sleepless nights still get me sometimes. But because I can choose my family first my work is stronger. I can show up everyday and revel in switching gears from a mom to a professional. I learned not to let go of being a mom while I’m working, but to have pride in my children and my work at the same time.
My biggest challenge as a mother has been learning to understand and gain perspective for my daughter’s personality, which differs greatly from my own. I admire the way she sits back and observes and takes it all in before jumping into any situation. As a mom, I take solace in knowing she’s careful. As a woman I want her to be confident. Because I tend to be a risk-taker, a leader and a do-without-thinking type, there are times I took her careful behavior as weakness. I wanted her to be the first to crawl and show off the fact that she was walking sooner than most. I wasn’t able to do that, because she took her sweet time learning those skills. Now, at four years old, I can see the way she perceives the world is a strength. It allows her to be a very empathetic child because she’s so observant. She perfects skills because she has patience, and she all out astounds me with her level of understanding on so many things. It’s been a challenge to see the world through her eyes, but when I was able to let go of my own view and observe the way she does, I see a much more beautiful world. I take the time to slow down and watch and listen. That’s a true gift she’s given to me.
People say parenthood is the hardest thing you’ll ever do and the most joy you’ll ever experience. I’ve found that to be pretty spot on. Motherhood has shown me a different kind of strength in myself. From being able to bring two children into this world naturally, without drugs, to making hard decisions with my husband on family priorities. It’s made my marriage stronger. Not because being a mom is easy, far from it. I think we’re stronger for being challenged together and working through the challenges. We don’t always agree on the best way to raise our children. I think we’re open to listening to each other, and honestly, experimenting with different tactics. We have so much pride for our children. It’s beautiful to watch my husband be a dad, and I’ll never get tired of the way he looks at me during everyday moments. Saturday morning cooking pancakes, chasing our kids around the park, high-fiving after our daughter kicks a goal at soccer… That is what life is all about, the casual sweet moments.
Saralyn Ward is an award-winning writer, wellness advocate, and mountain mama. She is the founder of The Mama Sagas, writes for several publications and hosts a regular parenting TV segment on Colorado's Everyday Show. When she's not huddled over edits, you're likely to find Saralyn climbing peaks or skiing down them, and reminding herself that the two little girls that call her mom are not the boss of her.