I remember when I was growing up, I always had the impression that grown-ups knew what they were doing. Even in high school, I always believed that life had a linear trajectory. I thought that you graduate high school, go to college or technical school, choose a major or skill, and settle into a career. I truly never considered the fact that some adults still may not know what they want to be when they grow up. If your life trajectory was linear, that’s great for you! I love that for you. It’s just that it wasn’t mine.
And sometimes that makes me feel like a failure. Like I took a wrong turn somewhere. I’m a stay-at-home parent with a Masters degree in child counseling. So basically, I paid a gazillion and ten dollars to various academic institutions to raise my kids well. Realistically, I don’t even think I’m doing that well at the child-rearing some days. I intended to use my degree professionally-really, I did-but somehow after multiple moves and multiple kids, that just never materialized into a career path.
I was chatting with my husband the other day (ever the dreamer, he is) and he asked me where I saw myself in 5 years. After some quick calculations, I realized that in just over 5 years, I will be preparing to send my oldest child off to college. To say that I freaked out a little would be the understatement of the century. College?? That place that was going to prepare me for my lifetime career that I don’t have? I swear I was just there-my CHILD will be in college in 5 years?! Where in the actual world are my adult years GOING?
See, the thing is, it’s easy to lose yourself in motherhood. The harsh realities of child care expenses, the needs of your kids, and an infinite number of other factors may steer you right off of that path you thought you were on. You may not even remember why you were on that path to begin with. Recently, I hear the saying, “I’m living my best life” at least once a day. It’s cute and trendy, but sometimes I want to scream, “What does that even mean?!?” How do you KNOW that this is your best life? Does it have anything to do with yoga and avocado toast? And what if, by chance, you don’t feel that way? Have you done something wrong? Is it irreparable?
Whether you’re a working mama or not, there’s a good chance you know the feeling of failure. Whether you feel like you’re failing your boss, your clients, your family, or even yourself…the feeling of failure is not pleasant. If you are feeling that way today, I’m going to let you in on something I wish I had known years ago: grown-ups don’t always know what they’re doing either. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, and it is NOT just you. Even with years of education and life experience under our belts, there is no possible way to be prepared for everything life throws at us.
And you know what else? For whatever you have done wrong, I’m guessing there’s five things you’ve done right. When I stop to think about what “going off a career path” has given me, my breath catches. Had I stayed on my career path, I wouldn’t have been blessed with my daughter…who I adopted when I moved to Africa after graduate school. If I had never adopted my daughter, I would have never spent time in my hometown…near my family…where I met my now-husband.
It is totally okay to not know what you’re doing or where you’re going sometimes. Getting “lost” might bring you some of your greatest joys. Think about it. Talk about it with your older kids. I don’t want to send my daughter off to college under the illusion that someday soon, she will be “grown up” and magically have all the right answers. Maybe we can spare our children that sense of failure when they don’t.