The Naked Truth
Sometimes, it’s hard to be vulnerable. To let others know the truth about how we’re feeling or what we’re going through. But lately, I’ve been having the same conversation with many of my friends – all of us holding the truth inside – and I know there are others feeling the same way. So I’m getting naked…
Is there a such thing as being a perfectly balanced career-mom or career-dad, or do we have to choose to do one – career vs. parent – really well? In my opinion, no matter which choice we make, we’ll feel cheated that we missed out on some of the other. At least that’s what I thought when I chose my kids.
20 years ago, I was 25 years old and full of excitement about my new fitness business. I had officially left corporate America the year before to start exercise training, and I was full of life, energy, and ideas. Right out the gate, I started appearing on local TV shows and NPR, and interviews with me started appearing in magazines and newspapers. Life was good.
When hubby and I had our first son, life was still good. I was able to balance my business with our baby’s schedule, and I still looked cute. I was young, fit and fine (with a ph), and I thought, “This parenting thing is a piece of cake. Let’s do it again!” Less than four years later, little brother showed up, but soon, real life started teaching grown-folk lessons. Schools in our city weren’t the best, so it was private school for our boys. And real talk? Private school prices in Maryland are equal to a mortgage. As our neighborhood started getting rougher, we realized we couldn’t afford to move to the nicer cities with good public schools. Expenses were adding up and things weren’t balancing out in our favor.
So, despite the success and growth of the business I’d worked to establish – my daily cable fitness show, my weekly appearance as a fitness reporter on the Saturday morning news, tv commercials, and multiple corporate clients – hubby and I decided to pack it all up and relocate to a more affordable and child-friendly city.
Starting over isn’t easy. It’s humbling and, quite frankly, a little depressing. I chose to be a stay-at-home mom. (Well, my version of a stay-at-home mom – running one business from home.) No more TV shows, radio spots, or commercials. No one in Atlanta knew who I was and obviously didn’t care. I felt like my choice to be a stay-at-home parent left me behind my B-School friends who were moving up the corporate ladder, making money and creating a name for themselves. Their businesses or careers were blowing up, while I was blowing up balloons for a child’s birthday party and wondering if this is what God put me on this Earth for. Me. Althea. The woman with a billion ideas and the talent and desire to do every last one. Keeping it real, I did run my own fitness studio and my corporate wellness business is still thriving, but I always had a constant itch to do more and expand my boundaries. Something new or a challenge I hadn’t tried before. But that requires focused attention and time to be done right, and parenting two very active children doesn’t usually allow for either one.
Now don’t get it twisted. I ADORE being a mom. Our house has always been the neighborhood house. All my sons’ friends are my sons too. We looked forward to planning the annual “MrsThompsonsBoysTrip” every year. In every family reunion picture, I have additional boys I didn’t physically give birth to with me. I relish the doorbell ringing and multiple young men being in the kitchen or the music room. In fact, now that the older one is several states away in college and the younger one is independently hanging out on his own, I miss the crowd and noise.
But stay-at-home parents don’t get fat paychecks or recognition, despite how difficult the job they do is. In fact, we’re kind of looked down on. And honestly, that’s not a good boost for our self esteem. We look with envy at “free” people’s social media pictures/posts at parties and social events we know we can’t go to because… (choose any one or more)
a) there’s a scheduling conflict with a child’s activity;
b) there’s a lack of funds to participate due to all our money going to a child’s activities;
c) we’re too damn tired to make the effort.
(Feel free to add your own item to this list.)
(Feel free to add your own item to this list.)
But now, years later, I clearly see the light of freedom. It may not sound like the nicest thing to say – freedom – but that’s what it is, and I’m keeping it real with this post. No one wants to admit to bouts of depression or feeling stuck as they post adorable pictures of their baby, kids and family on Facebook. But I’m getting naked and telling my truth. I felt left behind. I felt stifled. I felt like I couldn’t go-for-it as much as I wanted to, and I felt judged by those who could. 15 years later, I’m starting to feel… light.
Now that my boys are older and can get around without me, I feel light. Now that hubby and I have instilled the values we wanted for our sons to be strong men, I feel light. Now that one is in college and the other is in high school, I feel light. The freedom I feel allowed me to publish my novel, buy a turntable to start DJing, and spend ten days backpacking through the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest – all less than ten months ago. I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for about 15 years and suddenly I can breathe. But the best part is that I am sharing my new adventures with two fantastic men I helped to mold. And what I know now, that I didn’t know then, is… it was well worth the wait, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.