Lately, I’ve noticed a subtle shift in my role as a mom. At first, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it—something just felt different. But then, as I looked more closely, I began to pinpoint the small changes I was noticing.
I noticed I was more present. Moments when Eimear, my one year old, would be taking a bath, instead of waiting for it to be over to move on to the next step, I was enjoying the moment. Breathing deeply as she splashed around, noting the way her growing hair looks when matted to her head with water, the way her fingers and toes were quickly wrinkled. Thinking to myself, I want to remember this moment so I have it to hold close to in the future when she’s less excited by the routine of it.
I noticed I was more patient. When struggling to get a curious baby to nap, instead of becoming frustrated by my inabilities to lull her to sleep, or annoyed that she is rubbing her eyes yet refusing to give in to slumber, I again returned to my breath, relaxed the muscles in my body, and waited for sleep to find her…it always does no matter what my attitude.
I noticed I was more playful. Sitting on the floor, reading My First 100 Words for the tenth time in an afternoon, trying to make every page new and exciting for both of us. Singing silly songs, making obnoxious faces…anything to keep that newly toothed grin from wiping off her face. My mind no longer searching, yearning for the moment when her attention would turn to something other than me so I could get a chance to sit and relax (zone out on my phone) on my own.
As I began to notice these changes, I then began to wonder what had caused them. I felt more confident in my parenting abilities, more secure in the life I was providing for my daughter, and it didn’t take me long to realize what had allowed it. I was content.
Before experiencing this shift, I had been living on the East Coast of the U.S. in New Hampshire with my husband and daughter. I was begging for change. From an outside perspective it may have seemed like I had a great life plan; I had a great yoga teaching gig, I was pursuing a master’s in education, I was following along the steps one normally takes when they are young and trying to grow their family and their career. But I just couldn’t let go of a nagging feeling that none of it was what I actually, genuinely wanted.
You know that gut feeling?
I’ve never been one who was keenly aware of it, or deeply in tune with my sense of self. But this feeling was too strong to ignore. I knew I needed a change, and I sensed that change needed to be a big move, but for some time fear, indecision, and opportunity held me back. As a parent, it really affected me, and it made me feel guilty as well. It’s hard to be present when you’re yearning for something different. It’s hard to be patient when you’re frustrated that you’re stuck in an environment you don’t completely want to be in. It’s hard to be playful when you’re not your happiest.
So, in an effort to listen to that gut feeling, I made the biggest decision of my life. I told my husband I wanted to quit my master’s program, sell all of our stuff and move our family from New Hampshire to Hawaii. I am lucky to have his unconditional love and support. He knew that I wasn’t just dreaming, that this was serious to me, and he went along with my plan. And that’s when I began coming back to myself in both comfortable and uncomfortable ways. I felt such fear as I contacted my university to let them know of my withdrawal. I felt such excitement planning our road trip across the country, and buying our plane tickets to Hawaii. I felt sadness about leaving my family and friends. But I felt strongly about all of these things for the first time in a while and that gut feeling kept pushing me forward.
After moving to Hawaii, my nagging feelings of being stuck and discontent were resolved. It wasn’t a sudden and magical transformation. Uprooting your family doesn’t automatically make everything in life better and easier. But knowing I was pursuing something that was important to me, that I was living in an environment I was warm and happy in, certainly helped immensely. I was no longer searching for the next best thing—I was living it. And even the trials and tribulations that came along with it were worth it, knowing I was pursuing something meaningful.
I’m not always present, patient, and playful—ask my husband! I haven’t figured out how to do that yet, and being a parent I wonder if it’s even possible. But those moments are so much more prominent compared to before we left New Hampshire. What it made me realize (I’m about to get up on my soapbox here) is that in order to be a decent parent, or at least enjoy it, you have to find what makes you tick—aside from your family. Don’t put aside that gut feeling that you need something more. Listen to it, and trust it. And most importantly, put aside the fear—it’s the strongest feeling you may encounter as you follow your gut, but you cannot let it deter you. It is the demon on your shoulder telling you what you’re doing is wrong, and ignoring it is of the greatest value to you.
Maybe my move was a little drastic; I’m not suggesting you need to uproot your family, although it worked for me. But maybe it could be something more subtle; what gives you energy? What gives you excitement? Find it…if you’re a parent, it will be the best thing you can do for your family.
Author: Justine McCrory
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Jennifer Lourie Photography