I have been a stay at home mom for more than a decade. For more than a decade my entire goal for each day was to serve the people who I loved most. It was the kind of mom I wanted to be…and it was the reason behind my husband’s favorite story to tell people: Alyssa didn’t even want kids!
I had spent my childhood babysitting and holding cousins, rocking other people’s babies and in constant awe of great parents. My favorite job ever was coaching the 8 and under swimmers and teaching the beginner swim lessons to the sweet little ones of Plainfield’s summer swim program. I loved watching those kiddos find confidence in the water. I loved playing and being silly, and I loved watching them learn new skills. And I started the checklist then of what I wanted to be like as a mom.
1)I want to be strong enough to lean over the edge of the pool, scoop up my kiddos and place them on their feet on the deck.
It sounds silly and random, but it is my first memory of really feeling “this is it. This is how I want being a mom to feel.”
When we went on family vacation the list grew.
2) I want to play in the ocean with my kids so they can feel the wonder and awe of God’s creation and the strength of nature and their place in it all.
I played sports and the list got longer.
3) I want my kids to see me in the bleachers, to know I support them, and for them to learn the importance of team and effort over wins and losses.
4) I want to encourage my kids to dream big and understand the steps that those dreams will require them to take. I want them to see the ways they have to go beyond what is expected if they want to do more than what is common.
Our 9-year-old has plans for a professional sports career. I can’t wait to see what those dreams push him to accomplish. And to see the way that drive allows him to accomplish other things along the way.
I wanted to be home with my kids. I wanted them to love to read. I wanted to take them on adventures. I wanted our home to feel like their sanctuary. I wanted to be a role model of daring greatly and walking in faith. I wanted…all of that. And yet when Nick first brought up the idea of “trying to have a baby” I wasn’t sure I was ready. Because I knew how HARD all of that was going to be. Because I knew that coaching was going to mean our life was going to be based on his career, and I knew we would live away from our families. And so I hesitated for a moment. Because I also wanted to be an athlete, and write a book, and run my own business, and travel to islands, and I just didn’t see how I was possibly going to be able to do all those things at once.
It didn’t take me long to be won over by the idea of starting our family young, when we had energy, when biology was on our side. So many of things on my list of the kind of mom I wanted to be would be easier in my 20s than in my 40s. And I knew that being ready didn’t mean that it would all work. My beautiful, strong grandmother had miscarried many times before adopting her children. I knew that saying “yes” to trying opened us up to the struggles and heart breaks that await so many. We were so fortunate that we were able to get pregnant with our first child when we were young and broke and could just lean on each other and figure out this parenting thing with the help of our family and friends who had done these stages already. Another important item on my list was that I wanted my kids to have siblings. I love my brothers so much it brings tears to my eyes as I think of them. They were my best friends and partners in childhood. I wanted my kids to have those people to do life with. And again we were blessed.
We had 5 kids in 8 years. I had forgotten what it was like to sleep through the night. I would tell stories and someone would ask “which baby were you pregnant with then?” Cause it was always somebody. Nick has had 5 jobs in the course of those years. I’ve just had this one. This beautiful all-encompassing 24/7 job that takes absolutely everything you have to give and pays NOTHING. My husband values what I do, and I’m parenting the way I always envisioned it…but then…what about those other dreams.
Our 11-year-old daughter is a feminist in every beautiful sense of the word, and she talks of what kind of scientist she wants to be and maybe writing poetry on th side and how she doesn’t want to just take someone else’s name because she was her own person first, and I hear my own self 25 years ago saying the SAME THINGS. She wants to start her own women’s football league. My parents literally have a paper I drew in elementary school where I wrote “I love football. And DON’T say I DON’T!” She’s 100% my daughter. And is was important for me to be the kind of mom I am so I could raise the kind of kids I’m raising. Kids who have big dreams and big plans in the worlds. But I also hope they have families. And big love. And I tell them it’s possible to have both. And I hear the words of Oprah Winfrey, my childhood idol, “You can have it all. Just not all at once.”