The Juggle is Real: Pursuing Dreams and Motherhood
Written by Jenobia Johnson
I’m not normal. I’ve been surrounded by women my entire life that have planned their dream weddings, named their children, or chosen the order of gender ever since they were little girls. None of that fascinated me.
Marriage scared me and, although for several years I always had someone’s child on my hip, I could not picture myself as a mom. All I wanted to do was write best-selling novels and turn them into screenplays for movies.
Yet somehow I went from dating, to engaged, to expecting my first child all within a years’ time. I remember while I was pregnant being introduced to the game Cash Flow; it’s like Monopoly, but the point is to get the players to become aware of financial stability. Before I could roll to obtain a career, before I could make the decision to enter school, I always rolled a baby. EVERY SINGLE TIME! The game was prophetic.
Welcome to Motherhood
Prior to finding out I was pregnant, I landed a job in a photography studio. I say it like it was a prestigious, high-end operation… It was Walmart, back when they had a portrait studio where you could get 100 wallets you would never give to anyone, for $19.99. But in my mind, this was the springing board for a career in graphic arts. My body had other plans. During my pregnancy, I developed Hyperemesis Gravidarium, which is morning sickness times 100. I lost 21 pounds in my first trimester and had to let go of my “high-powered” photography gig.
My first child, Tay, was a first-time mom’s dream. She rarely cried, and had a sweet deposition. Although I had no idea what I was doing, life was easy after I got the hang of breastfeeding. I started to write down a game plan for our little life. But what I needed immediately was a job.
My experience prior to photography was in Office Management; an industry easy for me to rejoin. I began turning in applications and making calls to previous employers, but nothing was working out. Several months passed and I still had no solid leads.
At that point, I figured it was a sign for me to return to school. I gathered all the information I needed to enroll and found out I was pregnant with my second child.
Thankfully that pregnancy was not as strenuous. Yet, Jordie made up for it once she got here. She was a tiny baby with the loudest cry I’ve ever heard, and no one could pacify here quite like me. It was exhausting having a one-year-old and a newborn who refused to go to anyone else, but we made it through.
Two Kids Under One
So… time to revamp the plan to include a second child. Now we had the obstacle of child care. Having someone watch Tay for a few hours while I was in class now turned into needing a job to cover two in a daycare. My husband and I added up the worst-case scenario of my potential income and discovered I would be working SOLELY to pay for their daycare.
I believe my own desires of going to school and bringing in extra income could have taken a backseat without much issue, had it not been for my considering the several outsiders in my ear. I felt like being at home made me “less than”. In our current society, a woman who relies on a man to take care of everything financial is taking our entire gender back to a docile 1950’s oppression.
I wish I could go back in time, slap my younger self and tell her, “Tell ‘them’ to mind their business and enjoy your intimate set up!” At that point, I was a reluctant stay-at-home mom; accepting the idea that once the girls were old enough for school, I would pursue some goals of my own. I think I’d watched Love and Basketball one too many times.
The fear of my daughters growing up and resenting me for not doing something with my life, while possibly resenting them for consuming mine, was in the back of my mind.
Third Times the Charm?
Fast forward three years to my husband and I making plans to relocate. I was working-from-home in customer service and he was planning to enroll at Florida State University. A few months into the plan…
I was pregnant.
I was just starting to have a form of freedom now that both girls were old enough to be taken to restaurants without having accidents, or to (semi-independently) enjoy fun activities that we all could engage in. Moving while pregnant is the worst. THE WORST! This pregnancy again had me consumed with Hyperemesis Gravidarium. My day-to-day was a see-saw of emotions.
“At least I’m in a new environment.”
“I’m essentially by myself with no support system.”
“The husband is pursuing his dreams, and we’re on an incline.”
“What are my dreams?”
By the time our son arrived, it felt like I was a first-time mom all over again. Boys are totally different and (unlike my time with Tay) I felt I had to figure everything out myself.
Should I Still Pursue My Dreams?
Around 8 months down the road, by happenstance (or maybe not), I ran into a woman who was trying to get an after-school program up and running. Initially, her interest was just to get the girls enrolled but, as we talked, she realized my skills and background. I ended up helping her with her paperwork and designing flyers and t-shirts. She informed me of programs available to me that would assist in childcare if I returned to school.
School was the furthest thing from my mind.
I was certain I needed to wait another three years for Quincy to start school before making any type of plans for myself. She was persistent, and I gave in. I started talking to different people and it seemed hopeful. As soon as I made a concrete decision to enroll, the obstacles came. Everything from our singular car breaking down, to financial aid questioning my eligibility. At the very last minute, everything came together and I was on my way to a degree.
Those two years didn’t come without their hiccups but, for the most part, things went well. I started to feel comfortable; maybe a little too comfortable. My husband and I were certain we didn’t want any more children. My body had been through so much with two of the three pregnancies, and Quincy had complications at birth (he had a hard time breathing). I knew I wasn’t interested in any invasive procedures, and clearly, birth control wasn’t working for us.
We’re Done Having Kids, Right?
September of 2015, the Mr. went in for a vasectomy. Something about that decision made me feel some sense of peace. Clearly, my body doesn’t like being pregnant, and I found myself calculating how old I would be when Quincy finally graduated. 51!!
All of us were out for Christmas break. It was the most fun we’d had in a while. I was excited to be entering my final semester at school. But something seemed off. A week into my last semester and I felt like I was forgetting something. But what?
I walked around our apartment looking. Not sure what I was looking for but something needed to be found. I checked my backpack. I looked at my calendar for any missed assignments. I reviewed the dates. Missing assignments? No. Missing…today’s the 10th. It can’t be the 10th. My cycle was supposed to start on the 9th which technically means it would have started on the 6th making it 28 days. That can’t be right. I go to my desk and pull out my other calendar. One two three four. This is impossible. But somehow it makes sense.
I call my husband who is out running errands to purchase a pregnancy test. I can hear the shock in his voice. You know how on TV and in movies a woman takes the test and has to wait an entire minute to see the results? That NEVER happens to me. That blue line always pops up IMMEDIATELY…
There it was, that extra blue line. When I emerged from the bathroom his face was covered with question marks. I told him we were having another baby, and we laughed. Maybe it was hysteria, but we laughed.
The Ultimate Test of Faith
This pregnancy tested everything in me physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. This little boy, who by scientific standards shouldn’t exist, put me through! I was sick and missing classes. I was being told there was no amniotic fluid surrounding him. I was given weekly appointments so the doctors could see when my pregnancy terminated itself (not if…WHEN). I prayed I cried, I pulled myself up by my bootstraps.
I trusted God, I questioned God, and I exhausted myself.
My old self would have quit everything and laid on the bed waiting along with the doctors for the end. But I continued to school every day, I mothered my other children, I cried myself to sleep on my husband’s chest, then got up the next day and did it all again.
Somehow I made it through to graduation. In fact, my husband and I graduated the same weekend. Of course, my plan to use my degree to work at a design firm, or intern somewhere was again postponed but at that point, I just wanted a healthy baby. And, in fact, I’m almost certain that taking my focus off “what am I going to do with another child” and putting it onto “let my baby be healthy” was for my benefit. There was no resentment of having another child, I was just elated he was okay. Jacob was born at 37 weeks gestation, weighing 3lbs 6oz, with fully functioning lungs (loud like his second sister), and alert.
When I first started school, I planned to work at an established design firm to build my confidence. Instead, I decided to figure out how to continue design and still be a stay-at-home mom. Opposite of my original plan, I now own my own business doing freelance work.
Through all the years of feeling uncertain, I thought life was full of roadblocks instead of detours. The piece of advice I received that stays with me daily, ironically obtained at a parenting class I took,
“You are equipped to live your life. You are equipped to parent your children. Everything you need to be you is in you.”
Also written by Jenobia School Daze: What Every Parent Should Know Before Enrollment
You may also be interested in Super Mom: Syndrome or Love Language