I don’t know if it was because of my unrealistic expectations on marriage or the hundreds of romantic comedies I’d watched in the quarter of a century I lived before marriage, but I wasn’t prepared to be a wife. I wasn’t prepared for marriage.
Not the romantic, annoying, yucky love stuff. I was pretty good at that, as evidenced by my social media. I’m still sorry for every obnoxious selfie Eric and I shared for the first two years of our marriage. I’m still just as obsessed with my husband and now we’ve added two babes to the mix who are squishy, sassy bundles of pure joy.
I love my family. I love my marriage. I love my life.
What was missing from the equation for quite a while was a love for myself.
Specifically, in my new role as a wife and later, a mother.
It was like being doused with a bucket of cold water the other day when I came across a friend’s Instagram post. Sonja was married a little under a year ago, and posted some raw thoughts on how she had felt so lost since being married. Of course she was happy, ridiculously so, but still, something was off.
I felt every word that she wrote so deeply. I too struggled with depression after getting married. Even more so when I was pregnant and after the birth of both of my babies.
It’s hard. Change in any form is hard.
I spent years, 25 to be exact, trying to figure out who the heck I was. I spent thousands of dollars on schooling. I invested countless hours in creating a social scene and a niche in that scene. I made friends who shaped my interests and personality. I spent 18 months serving a mission, carving out yet another piece of myself. I developed hobbies and passions, including my beloved blog.
Suddenly, all of that was put on hold for a minute and my sole focus was on this amazing man who had waltzed into my life. I’m not ashamed of my tunnel vision. I was in love. It happens.
While we were dating I was swept away in the fantasy of it all. It was a magical, nearly perfect time of life for me.
When the fairy dust settled after our wedding and honeymoon — spoiler alert — life kept happening. And suddenly, I had to try to make pieces of my old life, my old self, fit into this new life. It was awkward to say the least. My husband was amazing in every way. I just felt…off.
Eric worked two jobs, often late into the night. I was working as a writer for the Deseret News. I enjoyed my work. I loved seeing Eric when I could. We had lots of Harry Potter marathons and went out to eat often so I could avoid cooking us dinner at 11 pm.
I was happy, but…
There was always that big, fat, bootylicious BUT in the back of my mind.
I felt like I was out of place in my own life. It was awful. And no one prepared me for it.
I struggled like this for quite awhile. Hindsight has given me the words. But during the thick of it all, it just felt uncomfortable. Like I was lost, but didn’t know what I was really looking for.
I’ve learned since then; I was looking for myself. At least a familiar version of her.
Because you see, I had it all wrong.
I learned at an early age that you are responsible for your own happiness. Rather than placing a deadline on your happiness, like “I’ll be happy when I graduate,” or “I could be happy if I just had a boyfriend,” I always tried to be happy exactly as I was.
What that gave me was a lot of time to develop things I loved about myself.
I value my education deeply. I became a journalist after college and worked for a few different newspapers. I blogged, and wrote columns for a local news organization. I now teach journalism at BYU-Idaho.
I valued my mission. It taught me a love of people, a love of teaching and an unshakable faith in and love of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
School, friends, hobbies, mission, everything I had filled my life with before marriage and motherhood had made me who I was. I knew that God had directed me to all of those things before I married Eric and before Bellamy and Lincoln came along.
One day, during a total emotional breakdown about motherhood, the Spirit taught me a very important lesson.
If God had led me to all of these wonderful things, my education, my career, my blog, my hobbies, it was for a purpose. And that purpose didn’t suddenly evaporate once I became a wife and mother.
All of those things about me were a part of me, and still needed to be a part of me.
Rather than creating a new version of myself, this revelation allowed me to rise from the ashes of my single life, a better, more complete version of myself. It helped me to love myself.
Instead of dropping everything I loved outside of my family to support a husband and raise children, I could use everything that I had developed in myself FOR my family. I didn’t suddenly stop being me and loving the things I loved.
It helped me to understand God’s plan for my life a bit more. I knew that as a mother I could teach my children the importance of education by continuing my own. I could teach them the value of work by balancing a job along with my motherhood. I could teach them the truths of our faith as I strive to live them each day.
My past is what will make me a better wife, a better mother. My past is what has led me to my family now. I can’t simply abandon it.
Back to my friend Sonja. She gave some wise advice about redefining her life. She’s absolutely right. I find that I am still redefining my life as I cling gratefully to the best parts of my past that has given me such a wonderful present.
Now I know that everyone’s path is different. So please, don’t compare yours to mine. Instead, be you unapologetically. You are what your family needs. You are what your children need. Become the best version of yourself.
Because you deserve the best.
Check out Sonja’s blog, The Joubert Den, where she blogs about life, marriage, faith and fashion.