I felt as though choosing motherhood meant I had no right to desire let alone attempt to achieve other wants. I thought that deciding to be a mother, twice, meant there wouldn’t be enough time or money to study something I’m passionate about or pursue a career. When my husband started his Masters, I was breastfeeding a newborn, our second, and it looked and felt to me like we had each chosen our path; he would work and study, not only to provide for his family but also to follow his passion both in his career and education, while I wasn’t ready to pass up the opportunity to be a mum again. The tapes in my head told me that I had no right to want to take more from our family, that wanting to go to university would be a drain on what little time we had available to us, not to mention on our single income. I thought that trying to get back into exercise outside the hours of my husbands work day would be selfish, expecting my husband to use whatever little alone time he might get, to stay home with the kids, the kids I chose as my path, while I enjoyed the benefits of social interaction and exercise. I felt like I didn’t deserve anything other than being a mum and that I wasn’t even fulfilling my full potential at that.
I carried these feelings with me daily – waves of resentment trying to drown me, selfishness and pity trying to consume me. Before I could open myself up to vulnerability, to talking to my husband about these challenges I wanted to add to our life, the tapes piped up on repeat, reminding me that I could disappoint. They sang old songs about an inconsistent and undeserving woman that given the chance will most likely fail and fall on excuses.
In my experience, these nasty, self-empowered, zealous tapes usually start playing when I’m on the verge of finally making a decision or possibly even succeeding. For example, if I decide to go for a run and I tell myself I want to run five kilometers, it is at the four kilometer mark that the self doubt kicks in; You can’t do it. Five k’s is too far. You’ve over reached. You’re too tired. Today’s not your day. You’re not fit enough. Just stop. Stop. STOP! The mind has an unfair advantage; it’s been training to disempower me since as far back as I can remember, and I assisted it like a slave, perhaps I even welcomed anxiety and depression, like tools to help carry the weight.
When I finally decided I wanted to enrol in University this year, only eight weeks after having my second child, the tapes told me it was too soon, that I wouldn’t be able to handle the workload, that my husband and children would suffer, I would fail and in the end have wasted time and money.
One day, I was reminded that time would inevitably continue to roll on despite what I did with it and so I could either repeat the time gone or spend it differently. That simple reminder was so profound, and with it came the confidence to admit that I wanted more in my life and I wanted it now. Over wine I confessed to my husband my hungers: I wanted to enrol in University and start running again. I listed all my concerns with both of those goals, the tapes taking over the conversation and pulling from the cons list but my husband, my saviour, a professional verbal tennis player returned every con with a pro and served up bursts of logic. To him there was no reason why I shouldn’t, only reasons why I should. I wish I could borrow his tapes, I wonder what person I might be, what else I might be able to achieve.
So it was done; I ran five k’s and I enrolled in my first university degree and it felt so good. I’ve no doubt that the tapes will continue to try and slow me down and inevitably there will be days where I can’t run or where I need to nurse my baby girl or tend to my little boy instead of study but my path did not end when I chose motherhood, it extended; adding to the journey of building me.