I remember the first time I heard the phrase “midlife crisis.” I was in high school and my parents’ friend had spent a fortune on a fancy new car within his first week of becoming an empty nester. “Well, that’s one way to deal with a midlife crisis,” I heard them say.
According to Wikipedia, “A midlife crisis is a transition of identity and self-confidence that can occur in middle-aged individuals, typically 45–64 years old.”
This transition of identity and self-confidence hit me way before mid-life. In fact, it has hit me twice now: once when I became a mother, and then again just last year when my youngest child went to school. I’m calling this transition “the quarter-life crisis.”
The Transition into Motherhood
Becoming a parent is one of the hardest life transitions. As a new mom you take on a new identity and your once go-and-do-anything-you-want-when-you-want self is now at the beck and call of a tiny human who needs all of you. It’s a time when I felt like there was a distinct “who I was pre-baby” versus “who I am post-baby” – a solid line drawn between the two. I would cry to my husband that I didn’t even know who I was anymore. It didn’t help that the majority of my friends weren’t even married yet, much less parents. I didn’t know where I fit in. My confidence and self-worth was at an all-time low.
“Who am I?” I questioned as I took on this new role. “What is my purpose?” I asked myself repeatedly as my degrees collected dust. “Is this all I’m supposed to do now?” as I wiped baby bottoms and sang along to Little Einsteins. I had put so much value into my success and achievements that when I quit to become a stay-at-home mom (a mutual decision between my husband and me), I had to learn to enjoy my new identity. I caught myself telling people, “I used to be _________ but now I’m ‘just’ a stay-at-home mom.” Ouch. I had to teach myself how to value motherhood as the most beautiful, selfless, and life-giving role. It didn’t come right away.
I remember the early years spending so much time yearning to wake up to an alarm, shower, put on professional clothing and makeup, hop in my car to drive to my fancy-schmancy office and kick butt breaking glass ceilings. At least, that’s what I told myself I’d be doing. I was jealous of my husband for all of the exhilarating adult conversations he was getting to have that were bound to be more entertaining than arguing with a toddler over the blue versus purple cup. Turns out he was probably only analyzing schematics and spreadsheets of water purification systems.
I was at home counting down the minutes until nap time, the hours until bed time, and the years until the school years.
And now I’m here. I’m in the place that I spent years wishing would hurry up and get here so I can find myself again.
The Transition into the School-Aged Years
My daughter brushed her hair before school this morning. She can do it by herself. When did she learn to brush her hair by herself? My middle son was dressed and ready for school before I even got out of bed. When did he stop announcing to the world that he was awake? My oldest fixed breakfast for his brother, sister and himself. When did he become so independent? I spent years waiting for this day.
But now that it’s here…
I’m questioning, “Who am I now?” I drop my kids off at school and ask myself, “What is my purpose?” I look at the piles of laundry and dishes and think, “Is this all I’m supposed to do now?” The quarter-life crisis. A transformation of identity and self-confidence. After all of those years of wanting a minute to myself, I didn’t expect this transition to be as hard as it has been.
I had come to fully embrace my role as a stay-at-home mom. I loved snuggling and kissing bobos. I loved walks and playdates and bubbles and sing alongs. I loved watching Elsa and Lightning McQueen on repeat. I loved playing dress up with them in old prom dresses, butterfly wings and too-small tutus. I loved attempting to braid fine baby hairs and when they would attempt to braid mine. I loved being the mom of babies and toddlers. It is beautiful and messy and life-giving and exhausting and it made me a better me!
And I’m learning to embrace this new phase as well. I love when my tweenager asks me about my day and squeezes his strong arms around me in a warm embrace. I love when my middle son cracks a sarcastic remark and roars with his belly laugh that has only gotten louder and harder. I love when my daughter tells me about her day and radiates with joy at every little detail. They are big kids: strong, independent, smart, helpful and kind. I did that.
Here is what I have learned about myself throughout the years: I am a child of God. He has carried me, equipped me and sustained me in the trials. With every step I have taken on this journey, He has never left my side. He sees me and knows me better than I know myself. Degrees and titles have never held merit in my relationships with God, my husband or my children.
When I have asked God “What do I do now?” He has said, “Be there for your children. They will have good days and bad and you will be there to celebrate and comfort them. They still look up to you to lead and guide them. Let them grow as I have allowed you to grow. Catch them when they fall, but take a step back as they spread their wings and prepare to fly. You have a front row seat and it will be spectacular. Trust Me.
“And as for these long hours during the day while your kids are at school? I’ve been preparing you for such a time as this. Get ready … “