From the outside looking in, through the lens of social media, it seemed as though I lived the American Millennial’s Dream. I graduated from a top school with no student debt, a perfect family: one daughter, one son, cute dog, owned a modest home in a great location, we were in good health, and took spectacular vacations several times a year. My career was taking off, and my makeup was always on point. But behind the smiling Facebook photos, a battle was ensuing.
People would ask how I managed to work, keeping my house in order, and raising two small kids. “Lots of caffeine,” was my reply. Once, a co-worker asked me how high my Adderall dosage was, and I had to explain to her that I did not take Adderall, this is just how I am.
Ever since I was a child, I had a strong drive for high achievement. I would feel tremendous guilt if I didn’t do everything in my power to over prepare and over achieve, and I became very competitive with my peers.
The competitiveness spread like a disease to other areas of my life. In college and beyond, my relationships with other women were based on false confidence (binge drinking) and me constantly comparing myself to my friends in the most superficial sense.
Although my social life naturally disintegrated after I became a mother, there was a new outlet I used for my unhealthy comparison to other people’s lives – Social Media. This platform enabled me to show off how beautiful my babies were, and how great my life was, even when it wasn’t.
My marriage was falling apart, yet I continued booking family trips so I would have something to look forward to. On the outside, it looked like I had it all, but no one knew I was struggling with major depression. I was so unhappy with my life and my resentment towards my husband grew stronger every day.
My saving grace during this three year period was my job. Work was my chance to overachieve and shine. I found my happiness in recognition and felt validated that at least I could find happiness in my career if not at home. I was blessed to have such an understanding boss, who allowed me to work remotely almost whenever I wanted. This enabled me to pull myself together on the days I felt like giving up. This allowed me to cry and be myself in my home, and no one had to know what was really going on.
My breaking point came Memorial Day weekend 2017, and I consider that the last day of my marriage. On October 23, 2017, a judge granted me sole custody of my two children, ages 4 and 7. I became a single mother in every sense of the word: physically, mentally, financially. This judgment created immense pressure, but also a newfound sense of peace. I am now in complete control of how my children are raised, I have no one to answer to, but also no one else to blame if I screw it up.
At work, I was being pulled into another organization within the company. It was a promising opportunity, however, my new management made it clear that working from home would not be an option. My new manager said to me, “I have promoted (woman’s name) and many other women, but you have to make a choice – you can’t work from home and expect to be promoted.”
I went to the bathroom and cried. Of course, I wanted to excel in my career, why else would I have worked so hard over the last fifteen years towards getting degrees and experience? But I also wanted to be a mother who spent quality time with her children. I was, after all, the only parent they had.
Once my “pity party of one” commenced, I meditated and asked the universe for guidance. During the meditation, I realized that working from home had been my crutch during difficult times. In order to grow, I have to migrate from my comfort zone. I decided to accept the new job.
Mindfulness is the new tool I use to matriculate through my week. Whatever I am doing at the moment, I dedicate my entire being and take up space to be in that moment. When I am at work, I fully engage in my meeting or task at hand. When I am driving, I focus my attention on the road and sing my heart out to the playlist. When I am with my children, I am engaged in their conversation and fill myself with love towards them. I try not to look at my phone or email, but that, of course, takes practice.
Sometimes I slip up, and I am lucky that my older child will remind me to “put my phone down and pay attention.” The key is to be aware of what triggers you to slip out of the moment, and observe where your mind is going so you can (gently!) re-direct yourself. As humans, we will make mistakes, remember to be kind and patient with yourself and progress will follow.
During times of intense change and transformation, I would wake up feeling absolutely overwhelmed. Saying the words “Thank You” out loud as soon as I woke, invoked feelings of gratitude. Following up, I journal down the attributes of my life I am most grateful for within the first 15 minutes of waking up. I find it almost impossible to be overwhelmed and stressed when I am coming from a place of gratitude.
Journaling, meditation, and therapy are the main tools in my toolbox for getting through what I like to call my “transformative phase.” Being a single, working mother is a journey that will last for the next 10-12 years. I don’t want to look for the “light at the end of the tunnel” because, at the end of my journey as a single working mom, my children will be leaving the house to go to college. I want to enjoy every moment of their childhood. For me, the light isn’t at the end of the tunnel, rather, it is a spotlight on the present moment that I need to focus on, constantly.
Originally published at www.millennialsupermom.com