This blog is a personal entry about a recent transition I have made. As you may have noticed, I have not posted anything for a few months now. That is because we have moved to St. Louis, Missouri and I have been neck deep in all that comes with moving. We are now settled in to our new location and find ourselves wondering, “Why didn’t we make this move a year ago?” Even though we have only been living here for a little over one month, in totality this move has made me reflect, dig deep within my soul, challenge me, and inspire growth in more ways than I had imagined. What I see and feel on the other side, even though it’s not completely over, is something I can look at with tremendous pride. Here is a little bit about my journey…
Someone looking at my life a mere year ago would think that I was the happiest creature I could be (minus winning the lottery of course!). I was able to start my dream job and open a private practice, which I have zero doubt is exactly what I am meant to do. Finally, I had landed professionally. All of life’s experiences led me to exactly where I was supposed to land and here I am still, thankfully. So dream job, check. Happy marriage, check. On most days anyway! My husband is a thoughtful, respectful, loyal and hard working human being and I am blessed to have his heart. We have the typical struggles that we work through but we are committed to giving all of our effort to getting through the hurdles many couples face. We have a great relationship mostly because we enjoy each other’s company and our favorite thing to do, after being together for over eight years, is to just be together. As cheesy as that sounds, it’s true! Without going on and on about how wonderful my life was (how boring!) I will get to the point. Healthy new baby boy, check. Beautiful home in a wonderful neighborhood, check. Living in the gorgeous Charleston, SC minutes from the beach, check. Financially comfortable, check. You get the point. I say all of this to paint the picture of what my life was like. Yet, there was this empty space in my heart. At first I thought, maybe this is what Postpartum Depression feels like. But I continued to take assessments and look at the Diagnostic Manual ending up with the same conclusion every time. No Postpartum because I didn’t meet the criteria. Every time I would go for a long walk to reflect or have discussions with my husband, my answer to what is missing would always be “family”.
I had always been a free spirit who was more drawn to adventure than comfort. I love connecting with my friends and family; however there has never been this yearning for them or this inability to be complete without them. I never “needed” them. Something changed in me when I gave birth to our son. The purpose of my life changed immensely in ways that can never possibly be articulated. To sum it up, my life was now about devoting my every resource to making sure my child feels safe, loved and has everything he needs to explore this beautiful world. Those are the missions of my days and the matter that makes up my brain now (matter that has pushed out everything else in there!). Feeling safe is a daily, minute-by-minute, challenge with a toddler. Providing a life for him to explore, grow and develop is an entire separate post, however at this point in time I feel confident in this area. The loved piece is where I continued to visit in my thoughts. My son, Vito, undoubtedly knows he is loved. He experiences undivided attention, constant affection, and is shown love in all that we do. But that is where it stopped for him and is what bothered me about being “loved”. Sure he had his cousins, Aunt and Uncle who lived about 5 hours away. We would visit each other a handful of times each year. There were a few friends who would dote on him when we saw each other once a month or so. And a couple neighbors who spent more planned time with him and showered him in love, but it was still irregular. This was all amazing and we probably wouldn’t have emotionally survived without these incredible people in our lives, however when we would visit home (St. Louis) there was no comparison.
St. Louis is where both my husband and I call home. A large portion of our families and close friends live in the area. The importance of family connection came to light for me most when we visited around his first birthday. The amount of time he spent with people holding him, giving him kisses, and making him laugh was to be celebrated. The wonder he had on his face while watching the other kids made me smile. I kept watching him, not only because I am obviously obsessed (!!!), but because it filled my heart seeing how happy he was. This is a type of happy that is different from the happy we as an immediate family provide him. My husband and I can only provide him immediate family happy. It is also important that he receives extended family happiness. What I have learned in my studies and work is that his development and security in love benefits by having a village. Learning that he is cherished and valued beyond Mom and Dad helps his self-esteem and willingness to take healthy risks. Knowing the importance of family is the reason moving home had always been a distant possibility; but watching Vito interact with family during this particular trip is what started the wheels spinning for me and wondering, “What if?” I sat with these thoughts with much more seriousness this time.
It just so happened that during this time, my husband had recently become unemployed. My husband, Nick, was beyond miserable in his job for several different reasons. His job was similar to being married to someone who was emotionally abusive, had a dual diagnosis of bi-polar and borderline personality disorders, never appreciated anything but always criticized and pointed out what he did wrong. Yep, I’d say he would agree with that summary. Due to him looking for another job we were in a position where we could realistically consider moving back home. This employment situation coupled with the most recent trip to St. Louis, moving there became more of a reality each day. I am a big believer that the universe does for you what you won’t do for yourself. My husband leaving his job provided us with an option of moving to St. Louis that likely would have never became an honest consideration if he remained unhappily employed. This happening was one of those moments where my belief about the universe was strengthened.
At this point, there was one thing holding me back from saying “yes” and diving in headfirst. There was an internal struggle I was facing with the thought of moving. Up until recently, life for me was about living somewhere I was proud of, being able to drive to the mountains for the weekend or head down the road to the beach for a last minute breath of sea salt air. Walking the beach on Thanksgiving, sand in my toes, mild winters and palm trees meant that life was good for me. Moving to St. Louis was the polar opposite of what I thought life was about. But I kept asking myself, “Are mountains and the beach what is honestly going to make Vito most happy?” “Are the mild winters something that will give him the greatest childhood?” The answer became obvious that what will be most beneficial for our son is not where he lives but who he lives around, the people who live in his village. We can continue to show Vito mountains and the beach infrequently and he still doesn’t lose out, but with infrequent family connection he does lose out. For Vito to be showered in love on a consistent basis, have sleepovers with his cousins, understanding what that special bond with his grandparents is really like, to experience the true meaning of extended family, and to be celebrated by many during birthdays and big accomplishments; are just a few things that come to mind and take priority for us when considering what is most valuable to his childhood. And let’s not forget for his parents/us to be supported in raising him, including having more time to give to self-care and nourishing our marriage. That is a big bonus that also benefits Vito in many ways. Throughout my processing, I undoubtedly knew what was best for Vito, but there was still this pit in my stomach that was keeping me from leaping.
I still wanted the adventure for me and wasn’t able to fully come to terms with these conflicting desires until it became clear during a counseling session we had where our therapist described it as two different parts of me. There is this independent explorer part of me who thrives in adventure. Then there is this selfless mother who wants the very best for my son. In thinking about these two parts, I had to figure out several things. What is best for my son? Can these two parts simultaneously be satisfied? And if not, which one is more important right now? As we were discussing it became obvious that there was no way to have both parts be completely satisfied. I tried convincing my family in St. Louis to move to Charleston but begrudgingly gave that up after two years of rejection! That would be the ideal situation but it was apparent that was not an option for me. At best, I could partially fulfill one and fully fulfill the other. It was already known for me that partially fulfilled warmer climate and beach was much better for Vito than partially fulfilled family connection. Then the last question was really easy to answer. The selfless mother who wants the best for my son is the part that is most important to give to right now. The adventure piece of me can be satisfied through vacations. It’s much more important to me to give to the selfless mother part. There will be a time in my life where I won’t have to give up as much of my other parts to be a mother, but now is a time where that is needed in order to give my son the best life. I am more than happy to sacrifice my adventurous side for my son to have family connection. This is a decision I can be proud of when I look back several years from now.
That was it, the decision was made. Nick and I were in agreement and we started moving in the direction of the Midwest. We have never looked back. To be honest, I miss the beach some from time to time but it is easily replaced with trips to the lake and river with my immediate and extended family! Plus, we can get in the water without being worried about a shark. Every decision has its ups and downs. I’m okay with the downs being missing the beach a bit. We can always plan a vacation. Along with ups and downs of every decision, there are messages received, both throughout my decision process and even afterwards; they are simple guides to the decision that is best. I receive these messages often and they serve as reminders confirming we made the best decision for our family. Barbara Bush’s Wellesley Commencement Speech is one of them. This video was brought to me a few weeks ago. In this clip, from about minute six to nine, she beautifully articulates the priority of family over a job and all other things. A few things she says that stood out to me are: “Cherish human connections, relationships with family and friends”; “Human connections…. are the most important investment you will ever make”; and “Children must come first”. But overall, the best message I have received is the constant family connection my son experiences which puts longer smiles on his face and a laugh that is irreplaceable.