There was a time, not so long ago, when I felt like I needed “something” to do to make me valuable and justify the space I took up on this planet. “Something” has taken various shapes and forms through the years, from on-the-ground orphan care in China to helping families adopt children. At times it was volunteering with refugees and in one season it was trying to maintain a near-perfect college GPA. For the last 6 years or so, it’s been founding and running a small social enterprise, Scarlet Threads. It’s been different and sometimes random, but there’s always been “something.” Something that gave me a sense of identity and worth.
Except one thing.
That was never “something” for me. From the moment I became a mother 4 years ago, I’ve loved being a mama and watching my girls grow and change. But if I’m honest, I never felt like it was enough to make my existence worthwhile.
Motherhood wasn’t something that gave me a sense of purpose, identity, and value. And I honestly don’t know why. My husband has only been encouraging and supportive. He’s never asked me “what I do all day.” I haven’t been told by anyone that caring for my children is a waste of time… the opposite actually. But I spent the better part of these last 4 years trying to make peace with the fact that I’d chosen not to do “something else” and frantically trying to stuff “something else” in the margins of my life as a full-time stay-at-home mama with very little outside help and very small children. If I really look hard at it, I think I developed some skewed perspectives on femininity and feminism that resulted in me striving to be anything but the “traditional wife and stay-at-home mom,” even though in my heart I wanted to be fully present for my husband and kids and had the luxury of making that choice.
But when Alea entered our world, and Motherhood 2.0 began for me, some things seismically shifted. Motherhood-through-adoption is a whole new experience for me… one of survival, really. It is really nothing like mothering the little one I birthed and sheltered and nurtured since the day she was conceived. Adopting a child who spent 17 months experiencing profound loss, abandonment, deprivation, and tragedy changes absolutely everything. And though every adoption is different, for us it shifted the foundations of our family unit. And instead of briskly trucking along with my two little ducks following closely behind me, I found myself in a battle for Alea’s heart. And the fight takes every bit of emotional, mental, and spiritual energy I have to give.
Now that I’ve been Alea’s mama for over a year, we are both in a much better place in every possible way (though we still have so far to go). I went on survival auto-pilot for most of the first year, but in recent months I’ve had the mental clarity to begin sorting through all my experiences, responses, and emotions of the last year. And I came to realize the intense need I have for margins in my life… those margins that I’d been stuffing full with all these other “good” activities. I wanted to put my To Do list to death and fiercely protect empty space in my life… space I needed to feel like I could breathe and do more than just rush from one thing to the next with my two little ducklings, one of whom was decidedly NOT following closely behind me. This realization led me to one of the scariest decisions of my adult life. I sold Scarlet Threads. It probably doesn’t sound like much… after all, it’s just a tiny little social enterprise operated out of Cora’s closet and our spare bedroom. But it was something that had been giving me an identity and purpose and self-worth for the entirety of my motherhood journey. It was really the last “something” remaining in this season of my life.
The transition to the new owners has been going on for about a month now and today it is official. (Check out the Scarlet Threads blog to read a bit about the new owners! My business partner/SIL, Eileen, and I are so thrilled to have found such a lovely family to take over!!) Rather than telling my girls to go play while I worked on the computer for a few minutes yesterday afternoon, I sat on the porch swing in my back yard. I laid down on it and watched the clouds and let Alea gently push me. I listened to them play and closed my eyes and answered questions about ants and butterflies and what floats in water and what doesn’t. I didn’t think about what time it was and I didn’t think about the To Do list. I just enjoyed the moment with my girls. Most importantly, I realized this was something.
There are definitely some more possible essay topics in here… namely, all the strange places we find our sense of worth and purpose. And perhaps digging a bit deeper into my skewed perspective on motherhood that was underneath all of this. In the coming weeks, I might delve into those a bit more here on the blog. But I may not. I’ve got two little “somethings” I need to pay attention to. 😉