The First Day of the Rest of my Life

By the time you read this, I will have woken up in the dark hours of the morning, not because one of my children needed me, but because my own alarm went off. I will have pumped, gotten dressed, kissed my baby boy lightly on the cheek, gently woken my daughter to say goodbye, packed my pump into the car that already had everything else in it, and driven off into the cold, foggy morning to go to work.

Today is truly the first day of the rest of my life.

I wrote something like that when I went back to work after my daughter was born.

I know I might seem melodramatic with all of this woe-is-me, returning to work = armageddon, but really, this feels like a very big, life altering transition for me. I feel like when I was TTC I was waiting (and waiting, and waiting) to get pregnant. And when I was pregnant I was waiting to have my baby. And when I was on maternity leave I was waiting to go back to work. And now I’m going back to work and this is it. This is the end of the road. There are no more transition periods, I have arrived at my destination. When I start back at work I will be officially starting my new life. My new life as a working mother.

In the over three years since I wrote that paragraph a lot has happened to this little family. We bought a house in the city we love (something I never thought we’d be able to do), we had another baby (something I also ended up assuming would never happen), Mi.Vida got a new job (another minor miracle in my eyes) and we (finally!) got married. Now, three years later, our little family seems to have arrived at our final destination. There are no more additions to look forward to, no more transitions to prepare for, no more major milestones to achieve.

We are here, where we wanted to be. Where we hope we will be for a long time to come.

Not long ago, Mel wrote a post about whether or not our culture was actually baby-obsessed. The post generated an interesting conversation about how we are possibly over-obsessed with the big milestones in life, the transition moments that we come to believe define us. Our family, in the past five years, has ticked off all the major transition moments. We may have done things a bit out of order but in the end, we got them all done. We got married, we bought our house, we welcomed our children. We shared all these moments with the ones we love, either with invitations to experience them with us, or announcements of one kind of another (social media, ahem).

So now we have arrived at our final destination. There are no more layovers, no more delayed flights. Tomorrow we land and we go about the tedium of disembarking, claiming our baggage and hauling ourselves out into the harsh air of our new world.

For the past five years we’ve had all these wonderful events to look forward to, all these incredible trips we have taken. Sure there were difficult moments along the way. Some of our flights had technical difficulties, one plane even had to make an emergency landing–which scared us senseless and left us mired in panic and grief. But after all the delays and almost missed connections, we finally made our way to our final destination. It might not be exactly what we expected, and our journey here may have been a lot more harrowing that we assumed it would be, but we have arrived. Our plane has landed, we have collected our things and we are finally, amazingly, home.

And it is so, so wonderful. But it’s also strange and we feel unsure. Life has been, up to this point, about arriving. We got used to the inbetwix-ness of it. We got used to being in transit, knowing that if we weren’t happy with where we were it was okay, because we wouldn’t be there for long. But now we are where we’re going to be.

There are no more trips planned. There is no more expectant anticipation. There is no more looking forward to change. There is no more sharing of big news with our friends and family. There is no more celebrating the new arrivals. And that is a bit hard to accept. Like the let down of returning home after an amazing vacation–you’re ultimately so happy to be back, but it’s not the amazing adventure you just enjoyed. There are fewer reasons to post photos and share stories with your friends. There are fewer occasions to celebrate.

And there is also no more if-this-isn’t-making-me-happy-I-can-just-wait-for-the-next-destination mentality. Now if we’re not happy where we are, we have to figure out a way to change things to make them better. If I don’t find this life I’ve built for myself fulfilling, if I feel like something is missing, I can’t wait until the next transition, hoping a new house, or another child, will complete me. There is no thing I am hoping to achieve–which is an incredible weight lifted, but also a surprisingly heavy burden. I no longer have to wonder if I’ll get all the things I wanted in life, but now I have to determine whether or not all those things make me as happy as I thought they would.

And what if they don’t? Or what if it’s way more complicated than I ever thought it would be? What if I’m just not sure?

I’m the kind of person that enjoys the anticipation of a trip almost as much as the trip itself. I live for looking forward to something. It’s strange to have arrived at the place in my life where there aren’t any big changes to look forward to. And that makes me sound so ungrateful, because obviously I have SO MUCH to look forward to. But from now on my big moments will mostly be my children’s. The changes, as they grow, will dictate the landscape of my life. I will, for the most part, be marking the years (and what I’ve accomplished) through them.

All this to say, I go back to work today. And by the time I go to bed tonight, I will know what the majority of my days will be like. Sure things will change. My kids will get older and their needs will evolve, but for the most part, today will mirror so many other Mondays in so many ways.

A sobering thought to be sure.

13 responses

  1. It might seem as if you have no big transitionsmto look forward to, and that your life is now planned. And I can see why you feel this. But don’t underestimate the power of life to surprise, shock, delight and teach in ways you can’t imagine. You have so more things to loom forward to -you’re just taking the first steps. You’ve got your travelling companions with you now. Your destinations are still a long way off and you have an exciting journey ahead through unknown lands.

  2. Oh boy, I hadn’t thought about this. You are right, and it is sobering. I can’t even think of more to say, but wanted to say something.

    Hmmm…

    Good luck today.

    Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

  3. I sort of cringe when I think that my next “big things” will be my kids stuff…but, I settle down and think, I have things going on too. What about a job promotion? Raise in pay? I know these are ALL “what if’s” but honestly, these keep me going.

    The whole delicious journey of life is made up of “what ifs”…and sometimes life gets mundane and boring but it’s up to us to decide how we’re going to deal. I choose to think that, yes, while A LOT of MY big accomplishments are almost over, I still have a few kept in my pocket…and those are the ones that I’m anticipating.

  4. This is really insightful… “I can’t wait until the next transition will complete me.” I think my DH and I get caught in this trap a lot, why we’ve moved so often.

    • You know that part came about as I was writing and it really struck me. I thought I was just worried about not having any big changes to anticipate, but as I was writing I realized I was even more scared that I wouldn’t feel fulfilled with the life I already have, the one I thought I wanted and worked so hard to achieve.

  5. FWIW, I think I read this post while you were still sleeping. 🙂

    But it totally resonated with me, brought back all the feelings of returning to work last year and how cheated out of my maternity leave I felt (due to C’s hospital stay and my surgery). And this IS my life now: being a working mom, always balancing. My life hasn’t changed substantially in years, except for things related to my kids. For now, I’m okay focusing on the smaller changes and enjoying the way things are.

    Best of luck to you, though!! It gets easier! I usually sleep 7 hours a night now, with minimal interruption!

    • You and a lot of people Deborah! I forget, living on the west coast, that most people are at work before I even wake up!

      I’ve been thinking of you a lot this past week, remembering how you felt you’d finally fell into a good groove right before going to work and your were so bummed. I felt exactly the same way. These last few weeks were really awesome. It really sucked to go back right when things were falling into place.

  6. Yes yes yes, I write about this over and over. The finality of “reaching the destination” that I’ve been jumping hoops to get to for years and years…and realizing that—oh crap—I need to figure out how to be happy HERE because there is no next big step. And now that my youngest is no longer an infant, I can’t even cling to the “survival mode” mentality and magically believe things will get better once xyz milestone happens. One of the reasons I decided to dig deep and work on our marriage, and on straightening out my issues with procrastination at work, and all those things I figured would clear up on their own once this or that was over.
    Best of look to you for a smooth (ish) transition back to work. I’m rooting for you!!!

  7. i hope your day went as well as possible! I’m pretty new to you- I’ll be going back and reading your old secondary IF posts- it’s where I find myself right now. Happy that your second little blessing finally arrived- hopefully ours will at some point, too-

  8. What a great post. I find myself in the same situation. I’ve always looked forward to the big moments…graduation, new relationship, new house, marriage, hopefully a baby. Now that I have finally reached all of these milestones, what’s next? I’m reading the book The Power of Now, which is a little out there, but hopefully it will help me focus on the present. We shall see…

  9. I’m massively behind on my reading and am reading in the wrong direction so I know you are surviving work mightily so I hope you don’t think I am making light of the topic of this post by asking how in the world do you pump while driving?! My brain just does not wrap around this concept.

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