By Ke’Ana Lampkins
Two years ago, I made the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. I was about six months pregnant, and I had to decide to leave the best job I ever had since graduating with my Master’s Degree. I had to decide to stay home to raise my unborn child. Or take maternity leave and come back and teach students I wouldn’t have met until the Spring semester (meaning they would have a substitute teacher for the entire fall semester).
Sure, I could have waited to make the final decision until after my son arrived and let them know at the last minute that I wanted to stay home or return to work. But I felt I owed my students more than that; my students deserved better. I knew from before my son’s conception; I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. As a latch key kid, I understood the importance of creating an unformidable bond with your child in their early years and being available to them as they grew into their adolescent and teen years. I also knew that many women worked and care for their children at the same time. But at the time, I firmly believed I wouldn’t be able to do both. That I wouldn’t be able to give my students 100% and give my son 100%, and I didn’t want to have to choose.
So, for a long time, I didn’t. I spoke with friends about what they did. How they worked or how they enjoyed saying home with their children. The thing was, I knew what I needed and wanted to do. But I was so afraid, with questions plaguing my mind: What if I didn’t like staying home? What if my son doesn’t like me? What if I’m bad at being a stay- at- home mom? I had so many fears. But, eventually, after encouragement from my husband, I decided to stay home. I chose to be authentic to my true self and needs at the time. Everyone had an opinion about what I should do, but in the end, I chose to be true to my self, even despite my fears around it.
Only recently, as I attempted to re-join the workforce, was I faced with the reality that my wants and needs had changed. When I decided to stay home, I had no real timeline of how long I would stay home; I had an idea to wait until my son was school-age. But along the way, I started to have more overwhelming moments and more frustration around staying home. I missed working, and I began to become worried about the growing gap in my work experience. More than anything, I felt that I had a larger purpose than just child-rearing.
It’s hard to even write and admit this amidst all the advice I receive daily about staying home and how there is no job more important than raising my son. Though these comments mean well, they created a lot of anxiety because of the growing dissonance with my current position of caretaking and what I wanted to be doing. I wanted to stay home and see my son grow and learn. But I also wanted to work outside the home and feel valued outside of being a mom.
This back story is important because a huge piece of my identity was my career. I loved my job, and I loved what I did. Even more, I loved my students. As I became a mother, it was easy to embrace my new identity as a mother. Sometimes it felt like my only identity. I was even overpowering my identity as a wife, friend, sister, and daughter.
There are two things I want to attest to here: One. It’s okay to change; Although, I decided to stay home to care for my child. I had to fight every day to remember who I was outside of motherhood’s demanding job. Your days easily merge into nights, and you’re so tired that all you can do is sleep and wait for the next day to do the same thing all over again. As they get older, it does get better, but no less demanding. It’s okay to change, and when you embrace the change, you are embracing your authentic self. When you force yourself to do something or be someone else based on the notion that you think it’s who you’re supposed to be. Not only is it hurting you, but it’s also creating an environment around you that may not be conducive to everyone around you.
Think about the mean boss, who hates their job. Or the person who seems indifferent in the relationship but doesn’t want to end it. These are examples of people who are unable (for whatever reason) to be real and authentic to who they are and the change they are experiencing within themselves. Somewhere along the way, their wants and needs changed. It can be scary but embrace the change.
Along with embracing yourself, it’s also essential to keep yourself alive. This brings me to my second point, don’t lose yourself. A massive struggle for moms is postpartum depression. Well, when you add the added layer of losing your identity in your spouse or your child, it can take depression to a whole new level. Not only did I experience this, but I did my best to stay active in my community by writing on this blog and volunteering for causes that matter to me. Whether you have a child, are in a relationship, or none of the above. Chose yourself and be true to your authentic identity. And as you change, embrace it. As your wants and passions change, take them on because it can only lead to a healthier, better you.
Ke’Ana Lampkins is a contributing writer for The Pedestal Project, LLC. Ke’Ana is a Christian, wife, and mother dedicated to empowering young girls and women through counseling, mentorship, and education. Connect with her on Instagram @Beautifully_Yanni