I think everyone has at least one person they believe they were "supposed to be." Somewhere along the way in your life, you started going down a path (sometimes inadvertently), and then you got a sense that people around you were expecting you to just keep going down that path. And then you realized you actually didn't want to go that direction and you hopped over to a different path, but you still feel a little guilty that you never finished the first one. Like you're some kind of quitter.
Like I said, I think this is true for everyone, but I think maybe moms struggle with it the most.
There are lots of things moms can do in addition to motherhood, but once you have a kid, it's kind of like your motherhood becomes an addendum to everything else you do. "I'm an entrepreneur" says to people, "I own a thriving small business where I think creatively to solve the problems I see in the world." On the other hand, "I'm an entrepreneur who's also a mom" signals "I sell homemade pencil pouches on Etsy while my kids are napping."
(I'm totally not trying to knock moms who sell stuff on Etsy. Etsy is a magical place where dreams live and I adore it. But like most Internet stuff, it doesn't really get the respect it deserves out in the world.)
Once you're a mom, people will always and forever see you first and foremost as a mom. Personally, I don't think that's a bad thing, but it does mean I have no choice but to let go of some of my supposed-to-be's.
The one supposed-to-be I'm struggling with the most right now is the one I left behind when I graduated from college.
I was an English major, and I met lots of wonderful people who had read all the classics and always had intelligent things to say and had already published several thoughtful pieces in literary journals. They were involved in clubs. They had internships in the exact niche they were passionate about. (And they might even say, "about which they were passionate.") They knew exactly where they were going and how they were going to change the entire literary world.
I always felt I was going to be one of them. I wanted to be one of them. I thought I was destined.
But on my last few days of college, instead of going off to New York to work on an artsy magazine, I was in the hospital having a baby.
When I think about it intellectually, I wouldn't change a single thing about my experience. I love being a mom. In truth, it's what I always wanted--many years before I ever considered working for some artsy magazine. I was overjoyed to be having a baby instead of running off to write articles for someone else.
And I'm still overjoyed. While I think it's wonderful that many of my fellow students found professional success, I have to admit I kind of roll my eyes when I remember how they casually shared all the things they were involved in and everything they'd done. Good for you. I'm glad you're stuffing your life full of worthless things while I sit here with the most beautiful child ever to grace the planet, HA HA ON YOU.
Just kidding. I would never rub my successful family life in their faces. Of course.
So why does it feel like they're rubbing their successful professional lives in my face?
Even though I love the life I have, there's still a tiny part of me that feels like a quitter. Now, instead of reading Charles Dickens, I'm reading board books. Instead of writing intellectual essays about literature, I'm writing a goofy blog about motherhood. I love it, but there's a little voice that asks, What's wrong with me? Why couldn't I be that instead of this?
The truth is that the only supposed-to-be I ever truly wanted was to be a wife and mother. And I have it.
So why can't I stop looking back?