Paralyzed by Possibility

Startled by the sound of the screen door and its unmistakable closing number, "buddumb, bump", I zig-zagged from one room to the other, looking for evidence of an intruder or an escapee. Armed with words of admonition for my three year old NOT to let the dog out without asking, I stepped into the mudroom and saw....

No one.

I peered outside. It was not the three year old boy. It was not the six year old dog.

It was my daughter, a few months past one year, barefoot in her polka dotted pajamas, standing seven wobbling steps into the front yard. She teetered in the same spot, as if engaging in a solitary game of freeze tag, grinning ear to ear.

The day was as much an infant as she was. The morning sun spilled highlights onto her wispy brown hair as she glanced at me, squinted down the driveway toward the splintered mail post, and looked back at me once more. Then, knowing not her next move, she plopped perplexedly down, smushing the stealthy weeds poking through the pavers.

She had fussed after that very freedom nearly every day, clambered incessantly for a chance at independent outdoor exploration. Now she finally had it, and she didn't know what to do with herself.

It can be paralyzing when the possibilities are endless.

Up until now, the choosing was easy. The path was narrow, and the forks in the road few. I stumbled into wet career cement in my early 20s and wasted no time becoming a corporate fixture.

The ladder I climbed too quickly for comfort was the bunk bed variety. With each leadership rung, I came closer to the claustrophobic top bunk and further from the carefree, arm-spreading space on the carpet. And there was nary a night when I didn't toss and turn in that teeny space between the ceiling and the sheet, feeling terribly afraid about where I was ending up. This isn't me, I would insist, equally fearful of falling to the floor as I was of staying at the top.

Then came motherhood. This was my chance to shimmy down the rungs without looking like the girl who had climbed her way to the high dive and then chickened out. I took it. I slowed down so fast I felt sick from the motionlessness. I was barely past the shock, still chipping away the cement from my shoes, when a part time consulting opportunity knocked. It was the best of both worlds, and I wouldn't say no. That was nearly three years ago.

Today I scheduled my last billable hour. In two weeks time, I will no longer toggle between career and family. I will officially be a full-time, stay-at-home Mom.

Suddenly I'm standing in the middle of the yard, sharing streaks of sunrise with the daffodils. I cried and clambered for this scene for years; but now that I am here, I am strangely desparate for someone to whisk me back inside to what I know, not because it is better, but because it is familiar.

I have been securely trapped in time constraints for as long as I remember. It seems I always had towering tall, career-oriented excuses to hide behind when the meal was barely edible, or the garden wasn't producing, when I didn't read much more than email or feel curiosity beyond my field.

As that veil of excuses is removed, I see my fears for what they are. I don't know where to start. I don't know how to choose. I'm afraid I'll settle for survival instead of improvement. I'm afraid I'll waste time in little starts and stops instead of finishing one thing strong. I'm afraid I'll get the same mediocre results on the domestic front, even after I step up my effort.

But most of all, I'm paralyzed by the endless possibilities. I've often wished for the privilege to be a stay-at-home mom. So why is it, now that I'm finally standing here in a wide open yard with the morning dew on my cement-free toes, I somehow don't feel ready for it?


I welcome your advice, encouragement, empathy, and success stories. Please comment or share a link, as I could use a little push to get me past the paralysis stage!

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