Last year I presented you with the idea of choosing a simple one-word mantra to represent your new year rather than a resolution. What I love about it is that you can give your new year a theme, something you choose to embrace, rather than focus on passing or failing some arbitrary goal. As I wrote, “Rather than define success as a goal, success would be my journey.”
In 2014, my word was “opportunity.” I had just had my second child and didn’t want motherhood to consume all of me. At the end of 2014, I decided my word for 2015 would be “roots.” I had focused so much on new opportunities, I didn’t want to forget to embrace my past.
With “roots,” I had intended to share more of my French Canadian heritage with my husband and children. I would start speaking French to them at home. We would travel back to my hometown, Montreal, so we could spend time with my extended family and visit Quebec’s countryside as I had as a child.
But it’s now the end of 2015 and I did none of those things.
Did I fail at following my mantra? No. I don’t think so. I failed at meeting the goals I had attached to my mantra, yes. One the other hand, I did learn exactly what “roots” could mean to me.
We had a very hard year: my husband and I both took on more responsibilities at work, everyone was always sick, oh and did I also mention all the sickness? It was never-ending to the point of becoming comical. My husband and I sacrificed more sleep than we ever thought possible just trying to meet our various commitments while managing sick kids out of daycare/school practically every other day.
2015 nearly broke us. Not as a couple, but as people.
It was when I snapped at the kids, “WILL YOU JUST BE QUIET! I CAN’T STAND YOUR CONSTANT NOISE ANYMORE!!!” because they were laughing in the back of the car that I realized something had to change. They weren’t doing anything wrong; in fact, they were doing everything right. They were entertaining themselves nicely and having fun together. I snapped because I was beyond exhausted. Exhausted because I had been sick for weeks without any chance of rest, because of the stress at work, because I was continuously taking care of sick kids who woke up ten times at night as sick kids do, all while still trying to grow a second career as a writer because it was the only thing keeping sane.
And once I figured out that something needed to change, I realized “roots” could mean something completely different. Maybe I wasn’t meant to connect with my past, though a noble goal. Maybe I had known all along that our family needed to connect with our present. We had wasted too many years struggling with exhaustion thinking “next year the kids will be older and things will be easier,” because, guess what, that has yet to happen for us. We were blessed with an immensely spirited first child, and so it’s time to accept that our lives as parents will most likely never get much easier.
So “roots” meant we needed a lifestyle change. We needed to let go of the stress and the crazy schedules. We needed to heal our own little family of four. We needed to take care of our own roots. No more constant exhaustion, no more constant yelling, no more take-out menus… No more simply coping with life until things got easier. We needed to stop wishing time away.
We decided to make things easier. Now.
And so, with the end of 2015, I handed my resignation at the place I have worked for nearly ten years. In a couple of months, I am to become a stay-at-home mom. My new work will be to mend and restore our roots.
I have always been a working mom and I have always been in the tech industry, so this decision came with no small amount of hesitation and self-doubt. Who will I become if those things I used to define me (working mom, software engineer) are no longer true? Once I realized I didn’t have to quit any of those things entirely but instead use them in a non-traditional way that works a lot better for me, my health, and my family, the decision became a lot easier. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I could be a part-time self-employed freelancer stay-at-home mom.
My word for 2016? Adventure.
I don’t know if we’ll be able to make it work financially on one salary alone. I don’t know if I’ll be happy without a steady job and awesome co-workers. I don’t know if the kids will drive me crazy more often than not. I don’t know if I’ll regret this lifestyle change. I don’t know if any of my new plans will work out.
For the first time in my life, I can’t tell you what my future holds, but I choose to embrace the adventure. It’s about damn time.