Bridget Sereday is an attorney-turned-stay-at-home parent with a passion for baking, on a quest to experience the moments that make up a life.
Accomplishment. From middle school through my twenties, that word defined my view of life's trajectory. High school then college; law school then career. I envisioned the age I would be when I was married, and when I would have children. I saw life as a linear journey, marked by the achievement of milestones and always progressing toward the next. It wasn't until I was a practicing attorney, married to the love of my life, and wading through a struggle with infertility that I began to realize that life isn't all that neatly packaged. I was no longer "progressing;" I was stuck, still, stagnant - and floundering. My set of circumstances confounded my, "if I want this, I will do that, and it will happen," mode of operating. The seed for a different life-view was planted, but I had yet to realize it.
Eventually, a light did shine through that bitterly dark time in my life; a glorious, blazing light: our son. That seed that was planted? You bet it sprouted. It took root.
I had planned what to do: stay home with our precious new baby for a certain number of weeks, then go back to work. The daycare deposit was made. The weeks were counted out. That was the next step. But my heart ached, and my nights were restless even when the baby wasn't. I reminded myself it was what I wanted, it was the next step. Successfully balancing being a working mom was the next accomplishment to pursue. That I WANTED to pursue. Right?
I realized I wasn't at all sure anymore that that was what I wanted, and that realization frightened me. I also felt I was supposed to want that. I had decided I wanted it, and I had spent a lot of money and hours pursuing a legal education and licensure. Wouldn't it be a mistake to turn off the planned path? In my mind, I would no longer be moving forward. I would be circling; wandering without the next "accomplishment."
"Not all those who wander are lost." A J.R.R. Tolkien line that has long been a favorite of mine. I was about to realize what it meant to me.
I talked with my husband about my feelings, and about my uncertainty over them. We crunched numbers. We each took a week to think on it. At the end of the week, we had reached the same conclusion: I should be our son's daytime caretaker. It was one of the very bravest choices of my life, even if it may not seem that way to all. It is also a choice that I don't believe I'd have had the courage to make had it not taken so much to get our son here. It has changed me in ways I am still discovering. My view of accomplishment is altogether different now. Polishing off his yogurt with a successfully-clutched spoon or hitching his toy wagon to his toy tractor by himself are our accomplishments: his in the doing; mine in the teaching. They don't come with degrees or pay raises, but there is no shortage of pride and fulfillment. Experiencing the wonder, the joy, the frustration in the moments that lead up to and encompass those accomplishments is where our lives are lived.
Of course, being a stay-at-home parent has led to thoughts about what to do when it comes time to return to the workforce. The timing and capacity in which I make that re-entry is still amorphous. Yet I have found that I am now more aware of myself - my desires rather than what I believe my desires SHOULD be - after reevaluating my initial thoughts on my career trajectory and deciding to turn aside from that path. As I wandered through my feelings on that initial career path during a conversation with my husband, I found that perhaps it is not one to which I will choose to return. I sincerely enjoy baking and creating consumables that feed the stomachs, souls, and even whimsy of those around me. I've repeatedly discounted that passtime as a potential way for me to earn income. Relatively recently, through a network of supportive family and friends, I have been able to occasionally bake to order for people that I know. Teaching myself to treat those opportunities as a cumulative beginning, I have begun to believe that perhaps, just perhaps, something more substantial may come in time.
Certainly, life is linear in the sense that there is a starting and an ending point to it here on Earth. But I have found that the path isn't solely comprised of a series of efforts and planned accomplishments. Rather than merely completing the present in order to reach a goal, I have found that experiencing it, however dark or sunlit it may be, has allowed me become much more aware of who I am and what I want to get out of this great journey from A to B.
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