The Big "What If"
This is a loaded question. Two tiny words, when asked, can bring on emotions like anxiety, guilt and shame all at once.
“What IF I had taken that job?”
“What IF I hadn’t called a cab last night after having so many drinks?”
“What IF I didn’t have kids?”
WHOA. Stop right there. How dare I question the delight of becoming a mother? Who am I to imagine an existence where I am childless and free and….ya, here is where the guilt comes in.
I have tried to live my life with one constant motto: Have No Regrets. Everything that I have done, good and bad, has led me to where I am now. So even when I have made poor decisions a lesson was learned (hopefully) and it steered me through life. So with that said, I do not regret having children, I just wonder sometimes…..”what IF”? Where would I be? What would I be doing?
Out of college I took an internship out in L.A. at Universal Studios working in a writer’s office. Cool right? It was. After my money ran out and missing home became too unbearable I moved back after 4 months. (Lame). I quickly got a job as a producer for the television show Christina’s Court. A daytime legal/courtroom program. I was able to work alongside friends, learn from Executive Producers who had been in the industry, all in my hometown. I didn’t have to travel to L.A. or New York. This was perfect! I worked long hours. I worked hard. I LOVED it.
Right when I was in my element, paying my dues and learning about an industry I wanted to be a part of I found out I was pregnant. I did not take the news to mean the end of the world by any means. My bosses were extremely supportive and I went back to work during the 2nd season no problem.
I realized very quickly though that raising a child while working 12 hour days was not the ideal scenario for me. (Did I mention I was a single parent at the time? Ya, so there’s that.) When the show went on break for 3 months, I struggled to find employment that would pay for daycare, pay my bills and tide me over until the show started production. I didn’t have insurance. I looked into local independent film companies, TV stations. They all required nights and weekends, and more long hours. There was no way I was going to move to another city, single, with a child. I needed to find another solution.
That’s when I decided perhaps the industry, in the town I lived in, was not for me. I went in search of a 9-5 job, joined the corporate world and left media and production behind. For the sake of my son, to provide a more stable life for us both, I put my dreams on the back burner.
Do I regret this decision? Not at all.
Over the years I found myself seeing posts on social media from old co-workers, in various stages of working their way up and through TV, film and media. I would be lying if I didn’t feel a tinge of jealousy with every post I saw. They were living the life I thought I wanted. Then guilt and shame would wash over me like a flood. In that brief moment I was forgetting about the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to me. My son. How could I be so selfish to want any other life that didn’t involve him? How could I ever imagine not being his mom? What kind of monster was I?
Then it would hit me. The people I was envious of didn’t have what I had. Did they see pictures of me and my son playing at the park and wish they had my life? When they watched videos of him singing his ABC’s for the first time did they wonder “what IF” they had chosen a different path? Turns out I was living my dream. I didn’t know it, but turns out “Mom” was my calling. I was the lucky one. I felt fulfilled with love, joy and purpose.
Becoming a mother became my new path. Everything led up to it. Leaving L.A. early and coming home at that moment in time led to the night of his conception! Being surrounded by an amazing support group of family, friends and colleagues kept me sane and hopeful for a new baby that was going to arrive. To be the best role model for him I quit my pursuit of a career that could have had the possibility of taking too much time away from him. I wouldn’t trade the life I have now for anything.
Now married, with a 2nd son in our lives, the number of times I ask myself the dreaded “what IF?” question has declined dramatically. When it does pop up I don’t feel the shame of it anymore. I embrace it as human nature. I’m allowed to be curious about the way my life could have turned out. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be as happy as I am now. If it is my job in life to raise 2 amazing, respectful, caring boys then I plan on being C.E.O of that endeavor. I will pursue that career path with vengeance and make it my b*!ch!
Making those early on decisions led me to my career, my church, my husband, my amazing life. I don’t have the time or energy to contemplate “what IF?” anymore. It’s a waste of resources!
Now, in no way is this meant to be a downer on pursuing your dreams. I know way too many moms who work tirelessly to follow their dreams. And they do it brilliantly. They make it work. Single moms. Moms with more than one kid. How can they do it and I can’t? That’s a question for another day and another blog post (therapy session) to consider. I applaud them. This is just how my story is being told. How my circumstances came together to lead me to where I am now.
Please follow your dreams. Don’t feel the guilt of putting yourself first to pursue something that will also make you an amazing role model for your children. But if your story is like mine and you put the brakes on your plans for your family, don’t let guilt take you over. Don’t wonder “what IF?” and feel like you are doing your children any kind of disservice. Remind yourself that your decisions led you to where you are now for a reason. Even when that reason drives you bonkers sometimes!
Love yourself for the decisions you have made. Love yourself for the bad decisions you have made. Just. Love. Yourself. Period.