I recently drove past my alma mater and experienced a flood of relief that I was done with that part of my life. I enjoyed school. In fact, I loved it so much I went “as far as you can” in school. When asked why I pursued a PhD when I planned all along to be a full-time mom, my answer generally went along these lines, "I love school and there is so much more to learn about child development. I want to be an expert, but mostly I just want to learn more." And I wanted to learn more because I loved learning. I loved the flexible schedule. I loved having time ‘off’ in between classes during the day. I loved so much of what I was doing both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student.
I was self-focused, independent - no one depended upon me and neither did I depend on anyone else. I was dating, engaged, and then married to the love of my life - so my love life was great, as it still is, but I strove only to accomplish my goals. I worked at the university doing research and teaching. I studied. I played. I did what I wanted to do.
Why then, was my initial reaction that of relief that those days were behind me? Because although I loved learning, and my college and graduate school experiences were really rather nice, the passion that I experience now as a mother can't even come close to compare to those days pre-children. I loved teaching – but not nearly as much as I love teaching my OWN children. And even though I didn’t know it at the time - I was missing out on so much of the joy that fills my life now. The joy that comes from service and putting others first.
Motherhood is full of frustrations, but it is also filled with pure bliss. Those hugs first thing in the morning. The laughter of my toddler when I play peek-a-boo. The gratitude from my son when I make a favorite food for dinner. Squeals of delight coming from the kid’s room as they play together. Hearing about my kids' highs and lows of the day. Feeling bone tired as I sit down ‘finally’ after a day of serving those I love – knowing I gave them 100% of myself – that is what defines me now. It is a joy that comes from striving to be less selfish and more selfless.
Perhaps someday in the future when I watch my grown daughters parent their little ones I will again say, “I am glad that chapter of my life is over”… but today I am just thankful that I can serve those I love with all my heart, and that I can love the very process of serving them.