Are you living your own unique life or merely the opposite of someone else’s?

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“You know what this is about?” she said.

“I have no idea,” I replied.

“This is about individuation,” she said.

What? I had no idea what Barbara Stanny, one of my dear friends and mentors, was talking about.

We were on a coaching call, and I was talking to her about the struggle I was having with distributing my attention and time between working and being a mom. (Turns out creating the freedom to make your own money and your own schedule doesn’t solve this one as I naively thought before having a baby.)

I’d shared that we were putting Penelope in daycare, and I was excited but also feeling guilty.

It was no longer working having a nanny with P at our house while Mike and I were trying to work. We were distracted, irritated, and totally unproductive.

I was navigating the relief I was feeling about this decision and feeling bad that I was feeling relieved.

“What do you mean ‘this is about individuation’?” I asked.

She went on to explain that I was designing my work, childcare, and mothering life from the truth of who I am, instead of in opposition to what I experienced as a child with my mom.

Here’s the great thing about people who’ve know you for a while like Stanny has known me: you don’t have to explain everything.

She knew that I suffered terrible separation anxiety as a child (well beyond the age that it’s normal) and would throw myself at my mother’s feet, begging her not to leave.

I’d had this desire for as long as I could remember to create financial freedom so I would be able to spend as much time with my kids as I wanted. And I’d created that reality.

But what I realized talking to Stanny was that I was putting pressure on myself to spend all but 10 hours a week when I had childcare (during which I was still often taking breaks to nurse her) with Penelope.

And the truth was that I wanted to work more than that.

I was unconsciously living out my life so as not to be my mother, instead of living out my life to be me.

My mom worked and travelled a lot when I was growing up, and it was painful for me. So when I became a mother, I let the pendulum swing all the way in the other direction and thought I should be with Penelope every moment of every day.

I was doing a 1 or a 10, all-or-nothing, approach to motherhood. I felt my mom had worked too much, so I was trying to heal that by working just a tiny bit. And when I was honest with myself, it didn’t feel good.

When I gave myself permission to design my journey as a working mother based on what actually works for me, instead of based on what it would look like to do it differently than my mother, there was tremendous relief. And I didn’t feel so guilty anymore. (The guilt isn’t totally gone. As my mom says, “Mother guilt is in the water.” But it’s less than before and that’s really something.)

So, I ask you, my dear: are you living your own unique life or merely the opposite of someone else’s? {Tweet it.}

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I found that I was spending so much time and energy trying to do motherhood differently than my mother (in the work area, at least, as she really rocked in other areas) that I forgot to ask myself what felt good to me.

Working only 10 hours a week from home (with Penelope and a nanny there, too) decidedly didn’t work for me. I felt anxious and stressed out nearly all the time.

Three and a half days a week of daycare so that I can work, exercise, and shower without worrying about what P is doing really works for me.

It’s not the way my mom did it. And it’s not the complete opposite of how she did it either.

It’s my own version of being a working mom. And that’s the best version for me.

 

OVER TO YOU:

Is there an area of your life where you’re trying so hard to be different than someone else that you’ve forgotten to tune in to the truth of what would work best for you? What comes up for you around parenting and working and the dance between the two? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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