When I was growing up, I didn’t want kids.
In fact, I still remember a particular conversation in high school with my mother and grandmother discussing this very matter. I was going to college to get a degree and “be someone” and I didn’t see a future or reason for me to bring kids into the world.
This was the late 1980’s and there was still the frost of the Cold War in the air and so my mom thought it was altruistic of me to be considerate of not bringing children into a world with an uncertain future.
My grandmother, on the other hand, was skeptical and kept telling me: Once you get older, you’ll change your mind. And that idea – that I wasn’t allowed to savor my own opinion on a personal choice for even moment without being told I was wrong just made me mad.
That’s probably why the conversation became etched into my memories. That, and it turns out, my grandmother was right.
I moved out the moment I was allowed to start living on the campus at K-State so that I could move on with my life. Only 18 years old and barely an adult.
I was dating a boy who’d I’d met as a sophomore in high school and he too was uninterested in starting a family. We both had our self-centered ambitions to get college degrees, good jobs and when we graduated from school, be able to go anywhere we wanted. Even marriage was an afterthought.
We did, however, get married the June after our graduation. However, we more or less forced ourselves to do it because it seemed we “had to.” But we definitely lacked enthusiasm for it. In fact, I was unfaithful to him before we got married – a few times. As he was with me. But, no joke, I thought it would be more troubling and embarrassing to call the wedding off than to just go ahead, get married and figure it out later. We both barely invited anyone to the affair. We kept the entire wedding a low-key and low-cost as possible because we both were clearly un-invested in it as well as our future.
In lieu of a honeymoon, we packed up a moving truck and car trailer and drove to Seattle. It was the city chosen because without the burden of children or family, it was the point furthest on the map from where we were from. And in the mid 1990’s – it was the coolest city on the planet. We were clichés – Kansas kids heading to the Emerald City.
In two short years, however, the inevitable day arrived. My husband would be my “First Ex Husband” and be sent packing up his car and a few belongings for this return to trip to Kansas. I however, had no intentions of going back and so I stayed. And it was because my eyes had begun wandering again and I met someone else.
He was a guy who worked at the same engineering firm I was at. Not an engineer, but the IT guy. And we actually became good friends after he had attempted to date a summer roommate of mine. He was not the “typical” guy I dated or slept with. And by that, I mean the athletic, traditionally handsome and self-assured types. But what caught me off-guard was the way he was with kids.
At a number of company events and gatherings, the employees would bring their families and this guy had this ease about him with children. In fact, I think he felt more comfortable instigating a game of tag with the kids then he did talking with the adults. But here was someone I was watching from afar arousing these feelings in me of being a parent. I had this feeling it was something I could do, especially if I had someone who would do it with me as an equal partner. Someone like him.
He and I would date for a couple of years before we got married. And then be married a couple of years without a thought or comment directed at having children.
But then a switch went off inside my head in 2001 that caught us in an unsuspecting moment. I can’t explain to this day why I developed this devastating ache to become a mother all of a sudden. But, by October I was starting my master’s degree and I was pregnant. A friend of mine said that once I had decided to be a mom, I “willed” my son into existence.
When my son was born the following summer, I had left my engineering job so that I could be a full-time mom and work on completing my degree. And I loved it. Partly because the stress of unyielding clients was gone and I was in the throes of academia and learning – which I love. My mind was free to wander and create. And it would be during this time that I would develop an idea of how to create a recycled-building material from waste paper and cement during nap times.
When my husband came home, eager to talk to another adult, I would share with him my ideas but he took no interest in them. And so, the cracks slowly started to develop in our relationship. Nothing major or anything that couldn’t have been fixed if there were properly attended to. But as Squak Mountain Stone took shape in the little shed out back of our home, our “equal parenting” partnership began to feel less equal. He could work and come home to our son. But I couldn’t do the same – I was “full-time mom” and anything less was a burden to our family.
The power of my idea however would not be stopped and I pursued it as strongly as I willed myself into motherhood. And we would end up moving to a bigger home with a bigger garage so that I had the space to continue. Now, after having a son, I had wanted to have a second child and I had wanted them to be within a couple of years in age. But because I had picked up the torch of entrepreneurship, my husband didn’t think the “time was right” to have another child.
But, again, I would actualize another child into the world right on the schedule I was holding in my heart.
For the first couple of months of my pregnancy, my husband was uneasy and uptight because he hadn’t wanted a second child at this time. But I finally told him that I refused to continue to be pregnant while he chimed his animosity in my ears on a daily basis or we’d end up with a child that fits that condition. He finally lightened up and embraced it all, especially after we found it we were having a girl – the first one born in his family in over 5 generations.
His fears that I could do the business and be pregnant were nullified. In fact, tell me I can’t do something and I’ll make sure you eat your words. I continued to develop the concept and moved from garage to a shop and started beta testing so that I could figure it all out further. And, with the help of my mother-in-law to help watch my son as well as good friends on weekends after my stomach got so big I couldn’t lift things, I willed this product into existence as well.
In fact – true story- on February 22, 2005, my husband had taken a few hours off from work to come down to my new shop in Woodinville to help load my very first order of Squak Mountain Stone countertops for the Environmental Home Center since I was too large to fit into the forklift anymore. I had pushed to make this order happen and wanted it to come to be before I gave birth, which could be at any moment at this time. And so I said to him once the inaugural order was loaded up on the flatbed truck “Now I can go into labor.” And at midnight that night, my water broke.
I gave birth to my daughter at 11am on February 23, 2005. My life at this moment was startling right on schedule.
Aside from the normal acrimony a married couple will experience, life was actually pretty good for several years. And I was balancing motherhood with entrepreneurship quite well and my little recycled-content countertop business was building steam. That is, until 2008 and the recession hit the country.
In the fall of that year, after a steady rise in sales, increased distribution around the country, the bottom fell out of the housing market almost instantly. One month I had a six-figure option to sell my company to my major distributor and then the next month, they were scrambling to stay in business.
My husband thought I should just give it all up and walk away. And I hated him for that.
Towards the end of the year, right before Thanksgiving, I would be contacted by another local company who had started their own competitive company but unfortunately never got a chance to bring the product to market before the collapse. They wanted to know if I was interested in partnership – figuring there was safety in numbers. I had the experience of bringing a product from vision to production and they had money. So we did it. And that changed everything for me.
I was still happily doing the work of balancing Mom with Boss. In fact, I would be profiled in a book called Mom Incorporated.
But in less than two years, the relatively stable life I had been living also collapsed under the intense strain of work. And it wasn’t the hurdles of the recession – it was the business partner and his abusiveness. I was broken daily and sent home in pieces. And at home, no one was there to pick them up.
And I found myself with a new aching feeling resonating inside of me… it said “Run!” And I did.
Most of you know the story of the next several years – move to a farm with a guy, be weekend mom for a few years, develop a successful wedding business, blah blah blah. And if you don’t know this, check out my Facebook page. It’s all there.
But then again, in 2016 – as my son was entering middle school, and after 5 years of them coming to my place and being at ease with me, I started to not only feel guilty for what I’d done but the maternal aching I felt in 2001 was growing again. I wanted my kids back. And unlike those days in 2009 when motherhood left me feeling resentful – much like I’d felt as a young woman who never wanted a family, I was ready to do it again.
So, as if on schedule again, in May of 2017, the kid’s dad had said he couldn’t do it anymore and either I took them or he’d figure something else out. And I said yes. It would take two more months before my boyfriend would finally admit that he didn’t want to have them live with us in our home and so my kids and I would all have to start over again together.
But, despite the “want” to have them, parts of it still felt foreign to me. When my daughter would come in to hug me, I’d bristle. Not because I didn’t love that girl with all my heart – but because that affectionate act didn’t feel “normal” to me. I found myself catering to my son’s every need but leaving my daughter to fend for herself. It wouldn’t be until December that my eyes would finally be opened to the mortifying truth.
I was, indeed, a broken woman – a broken mom. And if I didn’t fix it, I was going to leave my children with the same delusions and issues imprinted on their lives as I had. And despite my “Can Do” attitude and resiliency I developed in my life, I did not want them to have to struggle for their self-perception the way I had.
Being broken isn’t what you think it means. Who I really am wasn’t destroyed or mangled. What was broken was the scaffolding that had been built up around me through my childhood. It took overwhelming experiences – not once but twice - to initiate the seismic shifts necessary to free myself from all the roles I’d been asked to play as I grew up.
But more importantly, it took a state of awareness – a willingness to stare into the darkness for a very long time so that your eyes can adjust and you can finally see. I had to also see that over the last few years, away from my kids, instead getting rid of the scaffolding, I had been sub-consciously working to reinforce it - against my deepest desires.
But it also took fear. It has taken being afraid of what would happen if I didn’t make any changes. That primal, maternal fear that drives us to protect our offspring from all danger – even if it is ourselves.
Because the truth is this: The most powerful, awesome and dangerous person we will ever have in our lives is our mother. Period.
This is my first Mother’s Day with my kids as their new mom. And, someday, maybe they’ll understand the nuances and know the difference but it’s okay if they don’t either as long as they feel loved by me.
Happy Mother’s Day.
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