There was a point in my life when I felt like I had nothing to share and contribute beyond my role as a fumbling mother. Because I was in constant “learn and adjust” mode, I could sum up most conversations with, “I don’t have the answers. I’m just trying to do my best, raise a good human, and keep my sanity.”
There was one thing I did know for sure though — that my energy (theoretically, not physically) was meant for the things beyond burp cloths.
When I had my first child more than seven years ago, I was only about a year out of college. Prior to sitting in the upstairs hallway floor of my parent’s home with a positive pregnancy test trembling in my hand, I had big dreams of living on the West Coast as a PR guru with a salary that would allow for a new wardrobe, an apartment complex with actual adults, and late nights at salsa clubs (or something swanky like that).
That was going to be life after college for me. I had known it for years.
It goes without saying (although I’m going to say it anyway) that my post-college fantasy was quickly trumped by post-partum depression, late-night nursing frustrations, crappy jobs to get me though my new life in limbo, and endless hours staring at my new little babe — contemplating our life together and how it was going to unravel.
As a twenty-something and new single mother, the uncertainty that naturally accompanies both those life phases hit me in a very big and scary way.
I had no idea who I was, a skewed idea of how I was going to get where I wanted to go and — all the while — living with a fierce anxiety that this was it for me.
I loved my baby, but I had no real outside passions to pull me out of myself. I just wanted to get through each day.
The other dimensions of me weren’t being tapped in a way that, as the complex human beings we all are, were going to make me feel alive and purposeful.
This went on for a good four years — being mostly concerned with just making it rather than making myself happy.
As I welcome my third decade of life, entering it as a newlywed and mother-to-be for the second time, my circumstances are drastically better, and I’ve picked up some lessons on juggling motherhood and maintaining an identity outside of it along the way.
Simply said, you must find out what makes you happy and pursue it. You must find a passion that won’t projectile vomit on you or talk back.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have a late-twenties life filled with people who have inspired me creatively and encouraged me to share a more authentic side of myself with others.
With the support and validation I needed to take my interests more seriously and put myself out there, I started discovering and practicing those passions I speak of during the small bits and pieces of time I get to myself.
About three years ago, I started a blog. Although I abandon it often, it’s there, and it’s mine. It’s the place I go when I can convey how I’m feeling coherently enough for others to understand. It’s a place for me to remind myself about what’s important and that it’s very OK to not have a perfect life or be a perfect mother.
It gives me a chance to craft and shape my words and tone in a way that gives me satisfaction and, hopefully, makes others smile, too. Since my dancing days are now limited (outside of the living room), it’s my place for rhythm and flow.
It makes me happy, and I’m able to take on the next day with a renewed since of who I am — and that, it turns out, has been great for my family as well.
Not too long ago, with more encouragement from my husband, I put together another blog, but this one was for some of my favorite photos.
I’ve always thought Instagram had a way of making the masses believe they’re professional photographers and, although I enjoyed capturing moments, I felt silly proclaiming an interest in doing anything more.
But, in the comfort of love and support, I went ahead and posted my blog on Facebook and, surprisingly, received a lot of positive feedback.
It was enough to make me feel like I needed to start investing more time into this thing that makes me happy — and invest in a camera.
I’m in no way an expert and in every way a beginner who’s just getting her feet wet, but I’m making the time to grow and get better through pockets of practice, classes and mentorship.
These things — writing and snapping photos — make me feel good about myself, and that’s made me a better mother.
I think we all need something to grasp that’s just ours outside of the little fingers constantly reaching for us. Pursuing something for yourself lights a spark and challenges you in a way that radiates into so many other facets of life.
And that is something worth holding on to.
About the Author
Growing up in a household with a reading teacher and a newspaper editor for parents, Elyssa Shapiro has a great appreciation for storytelling as well as a natural curiosity. Those attributes eventually guided her through the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and into her career as a communications professional.
Elyssa has worked with a diverse group of organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to nonprofits. She began her career at a small public affairs and public relations firm in Des Moines, Iowa, and then took over programming, media relations and eventually fundraising for a statewide nonprofit. She currently works in corporate communications and serves as a consultant for a local autism center as well as a freelance writer, editor and photographer.
Prior to calling Des Moines home, she lived in Vicenza, Italy working for various military programs that provided services for children and families.
She and her husband have a seven-year-old son and are expecting their second child this December. Together, they enjoy traveling and creating new memories.
Photography Page: http://elyssashapirophotography.tumblr.com